Sesame Street today was brought to you by the word ‘decant’, in the sense of urban planning, ethnic-cleansing or forced migration – as in ‘the decanting of Yau Tsim Mong’. I recall the word being used a few weeks ago by the Our Hong Kong Foundation folks pushing the Lantau mega-reclamation proposal.
The way they put it, it makes sense to have a large-scale ‘decanting’ of residents of older neighbourhoods approaching the end of their useful life (the buildings’ useful lives, that is, not the residents’ – or then again maybe not, ha ha). Much better than itsy-bitsy one-block-at-a-time redevelopment, because you can scrub everything for miles around and create a lovely big holistically-designed futuristic urban paradise, with trees, open-air cafes, flying cars, etc.
The linked comment above reflects a suspicion that the developers want the HK$500 billion Lantau metropolis as a way to shovel the poorer residents out in order to convert old downtown districts into sprawling luxury apartments. The reason we haven’t heard more about this is that the rest of us just assume it’s the case and don’t bother with wishy-washy suspicions stuff.
That said, a 20-year strategy for the mega-gentrification of the older core urban areas would rest on some bold forecasts – essentially that the huge historic 1980s-2010s uplift in Hong Kong real-estate values will continue on a straight line for decades more. Yet the trends for China’s economic growth and demographics, and for Hong Kong’s distinctive advantages, if anything point the other way.
If our 92-year-old property tycoons are thinking this long-term about the high-margin ‘luxury’ apartment market, they might prefer a continued tight supply of new land to a situation where half of Kowloon is emptied and (horror!) they might have to compete to sell a commodity product. Of course, they also control much of the construction-supplies and sub-contracting cartels, so they have plenty of other reasons to welcome the Lantau mega-reclamation project.
To repeat: such a massive diversion of Hong Kong’s fiscal reserves comes down to Beijing. If the CCP has its own reasons to ‘decant’ Hong Kong’s wealth this way, the half-trillion-dollar pile of dirt will happen. Otherwise not.
The Decanting of Yau Tsim Mong – good title for an extremely gory horror movie.