The government of Hong Kong has released its revised plans for the Northeast New Territories New Development Areas (NDAs). Among the changes are:
- The number of housing units in Kwu Tong North and Fanling North will be increased from 47,300 to 60,700, accommodating a new total of 174,900 people. However, it is expected that only 37,700 jobs will be created.
- The ratio of subsidized housing in KTN and FLN will increase from less than half to 60 per cent.
- Private housing may be subject to “Hong Kong Land for Hong Kong People”
- The Government will re-plan Ping Che/Ta Kwu Ling and “consult” the public again.
While more housing for Hong Kong people is always good, there are concerns about the lack of jobs in the region under the new plans. The SCMP has express fears that the increased public rental housing and other subsidized housing, plus the loss of the planned Ping Che/Ta Kwu Ling “special industries zone”, will lead to a new “City of Sadness” along the likes of Tin Shui Wai.
The number of jobs has decreased from 52,000 in the three-town scheme to 37,700 in the two-town project.
Albert Lai Kwong-tak, of the Professional Commons, noted that the proportion of public housing in the two towns has been raised from 43 per cent to 60 per cent.
“The kind of employment that public housing residents look for is usually different from people in private housing, because their background and economic conditions differ,” he added. “The richer people can afford the travel expenses and commute.”
Tin Shui Wai, a new town completed in the 1990s, ended up with a large proportion of public housing and a lack of economic activities and community facilities. High rates of unemployment, suicide and domestic violence resulted.
(Seeing that Albert Lai is from the Professional Commons, he’s probably more concerned about the impact on the attractiveness of the remaining private homes, but the point remains: a grassroots citizen applying for public housing would probably not want to be assigned there.)
I’m not so sure about the jobs figures, at least in terms of the actual number of jobs. Surely a border town like the new NDAs will have plenty of business peddling goods to the visiting mainlanders. But they sure as hell won’t be very high-paying jobs. New City of Sadness, indeed.
Meanwhile, for the majority of NDA dwellers who are forced to commute, Sheung Shui station already looks mostly like this (apologies for reusing the same picture in two consecutive posts):
In other words, people living in the new NDAs will have to put up with this crap on a daily basis just to get to work, unless they’re lucky enough to get a job at the local Mannings peddling toilet paper and shampoo (and even now, milk powder) to these very people. This looks like a perfect setup for war to break out.
Furthermore, the current locals living and farming inside the NDA areas are peeved that their homes are to be destroyed while the nearby Hong Kong Golf Club is to remain. They have threatened to occupy the golf course if the redevelopment goes ahead. A villager was cited as saying “If they come, blood will be shed!” The NDAs have also been blamed for causing rifts between indigenous and non-indigenous villagers. The chairman of the Kwu Tung North NDA concern group said, “The government dares not touch the indigenous villages, of course they [the indigenous villagers] won’t give a damn if we non-indigenous villagers are forced out or not!” (Indigenous here means those villagers with ancestors living in the New Territories before the British took over in 1898 and thus eligible for “ding uk” under the Small House Policy of 1972.)
Development Secretary Paul Chan has offered the excuse that any proposal to redevelop the golf course would require years of fresh consultations, but did not explain why the site was not considered before.
Finally, the government is also planning to redevelop Hung Shui Kiu and Yuen Long South, but that will be a task for future governments to handle, even if CY lasts his term.