The Hong Kong government takes a break from bemoaning the shortage of land for affordable housing and auctions off a plot at a price equivalent to apartments costing HK$32,000 a square foot.
I think there are people out there who point out the contradiction. Maybe a few of them see the link between government revenues and housing prices. Perhaps one or two even turn the numbers round and perceive the budget surpluses actually causing the homes to be unaffordable. But these lateral thinkers are on the fringes, and possibly in lunatic asylums.
We will have another opportunity to question the bureaucracy’s robotic determination to maximize land revenues regardless of any wider social or economic cost – the Central waterfront. It could be a world-class harbour site, or it could be an ugly and oversized pile of glass boxes. Which will it be?
They have identified some dilapidated residential blocks in Sai Ying Pun to redevelop. The practice is to buy owners out in line with current prices in the locality – in this case HK$24,000 psf. The subsequent redevelopment would apparently comprise apartments going for HK$30,000 psf. Not only does the URA create unaffordable housing, it hikes the benchmark prices for old or new properties throughout the neighbourhood.
As an analyst points out, the public might ask what the point is – and will blame the URA not only if the eventual redevelopment sells for megabucks prices, but if the market falls in the meantime and the whole project makes a loss.
Is it beyond the wit of the officials to think of a different way?
One obvious course of action for the URA would be to not bother. If, owing to forces beyond human control, the only alternative is to replace old neighbourhoods with unaffordable luxury mega-towers – just leave the rat-infested slums, which at least serve a social purpose.
Or… dream up a solution that isn’t total crap. Off the top of my head, they could demolish the 100 crumbling units and build a bigger complex of (say) 400 no-frills flats. The 100 original owners each get one of these new units, and the remaining 300 are sold/rented at a price that covers the project’s costs. Duh.
No doubt I am missing dozens of zoning/land-premium/lack-of-consensus/Town Planning Board/how-would-the-tycoons-eat? insurmountable barriers that would make this utterly impossible.