COMMENTARY

Hong Kong 2030+

Under the vision-driven and capacity-creation approach of Hong Kong 2030+—a conceptual spatial framework that focuses development in one metropolitan business core—two strategic growth areas (SGAs) and three development axes are proposed. This framework is essential to satisfy our projected and foreseeable land requirements for housing, economic and other social needs.

Future space solutions
With decreasing persons per flat and displacement of residents from old buildings due to redevelopment, the existing housing stock and planned new supply can only accommodate about 8 million people. Against the Census and Statistics Department’s projected peak population of 8.22 million in 2043 under the baseline projections*, there will still be a significant shortfall that needs to be met. Hence, the proposed SGAs should not be regarded only as buffers but essential solution spaces to meet our future demand for housing and other uses.

Should all the committed and planned developments and two SGAs be fully implemented, the maximum housing capacity that could be generated under the proposed conceptual spatial framework is about 9 million in terms of population. We would like to reiterate that it is not our population target, but the maximum housing capacity that could be generated under the proposed framework based on a number of assumptions. 

More importantly, this could give a 10 percent buffer for the said projected peak population of 8.22 million by 2043, noting that the buffer could be translated into manoeuvring spaces, not only for improving our quality of life (such as larger housing space, more public amenities and more community facilities), but also allowing us to cope with unforeseeable circumstances (including changes in the projection assumptions).

Besides, Hong Kong has a large quantity of rapidly ageing building stock, posing challenges for urban regeneration. The bulk of Hong Kong’s existing building stock was erected in the 1970s to ’80s. Based on the current age profile and assuming no housing units are demolished, it is estimated that there will be about 326,000 private housing units aged 70 years or above by 2046, up from about 1,100 units at present (that is, an increase of nearly 300 times).

In other words, our building stock will age rapidly over the coming decades, at a rate that is comparable to, if not more acute than, our ageing population. Given the magnitude of ageing building stock, and the current modest scale of urban regeneration, there would be a need for the community to step up its efforts to rejuvenate the extensive older areas to arrest urban decay and improve the living environment. The two SGAs will provide the necessary decanting land/space to cater for the anticipated housing need arising from the substantial scale of urban regeneration and redevelopment.

The SGAs are not purely dormitory towns. Both the proposed East Lantau Metropolis (ELM) and New Territories North (NTN) are positioned with different economic activities to sustain the economic growth of Hong Kong. The ELM, commanding a strategic location midway between Hong Kong Island West and Lantau Island, is contemplated with a third core business district (CBD) to meet the projected shortfall of Grade A offices.

Capitalising on the boundary location with the presence of six existing boundary crossings, plus the additional Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai boundary crossing under construction, and the proximity to Shenzhen, which is strong in technology, research and development (R&D), the NTN is well placed to meet the land demand for warehousing, R&D, modern logistics and emerging industries. The maximum 9 million population capacity is a planning scenario at the strategic level. Considering the long lead time from planning to realisation of major developments, it is prudent to build in flexibility in long range strategic planning. It does not imply that the government would have to invest substantially in surplus land or infrastructure to be left idle. The approach is intended to ensure that sufficient land and infrastructure with necessary contingency could be planned upfront, while the implementation of individual projects would continue to be assessed and evaluated in accordance with the established mechanisms, taking into account relevant considerations such as cost-effectiveness and resource priority.

Complementary Core Business Districts
The Metropolitan Business Core covers the traditional CBD, the CBD2 in Kowloon East, and, subject to new strategic transport links to the main urban areas and other parts of the territory, the CBD3 in the ELM, as an extended urban core in the long term. Being only about 4 kilometres away from Hong Kong Island West, the ELM could be efficiently connected to the traditional CBD, reinforcing the existing business core around the Victoria Harbour and creating a new metro front in the territory.

The Planning Department has engaged external consultants to estimate the land requirements for CBD Grade A offices, among other market-driven economic uses, based on an econometric model. It is estimated that there is a long-term shortfall of about 1 million square metres in gross floor area (GFA) of CBD Grade A offices, even after taking into account the potential office supply in the traditional CBD and CBD2, not to mention other facilities, such as business hotels or food and beverage outlets, needed to support the business districts. Hence, the CBD3 is required to meet the anticipated long-term demand.

Functionally, the three CBDs could complement one another. The traditional CBD could focus on high value-added financial services and advanced producer services. The CBD2 may provide options for businesses and enterprises at a new business area under transformation. The proposed CBD3 at ELM may offer modern, innovative and quality premises, creating a new financial and producer services hub strongly tied to the Hong Kong International Airport and Hong Kong’s connector function in the region, capitalising on the new economic infrastructure and gateway function of Lantau.

Reviving the Ageing
Hong Kong 2030+ identifies the ageing building stock as a huge challenge for Hong Kong. It proposes that the government should step up the urban regeneration efforts and policies to address and rejuvenate the urban fabric, in addition to the continual reliance on private initiatives. Moreover, Hong Kong 2030+ proposes boosting building management and maintenance initiatives to extend the life span of buildings. Given the magnitude and complexity of the issue, the above strategic directions warrant further deliberation and study within and outside the government.

We note that the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has already taken a step forward and will conduct a district planning study on a pilot basis in Q2 2017. The study aims to explore the feasibility of using innovative measures to enhance land use efficiency and redevelopment potential of Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok, which have a high concentration of old buildings. The study findings would also serve as the basis for the URA to map out new strategies for the regeneration of other older urban areas of Hong Kong. At the same time, the URA will also conduct a study on building rehabilitation strategies to formulate appropriate and sustainable measures to prolong the life span of the ageing building stock.

Tapping Brownfields
Under its multi-pronged approach to land development, the government has been conducting comprehensive studies in respect of a number of New Territories (NT) areas with a higher concentration of brownfield sites, with the aim of identifying development potential and formulating plans for such areas through comprehensive planning and infrastructure upgrading, thereby releasing land for new town development and improving the spoilt environment in the NT. It is estimated that a total of about 340 hectares of brownfield sites are located in the Kwu Tung North and Fanling North New Development Areas (NDAs), Hung Shui Kiu NDA, and Yuen Long South development. Besides, the potential development lots in the NT North are anticipated to cover another 200 hectares of brownfield sites.

The Development Bureau aims to formulate a policy framework to tackle brownfield sites in a more holistic manner, in collaboration with relevant government bureaux and departments, with the objectives of optimising land utilisation, rationalising rural land uses, supporting industrial development and improving the rural environment. Separately, the Civil Engineering and Development Department is undertaking two feasibility studies to explore the consolidation of brownfield operations into multi-storey buildings. Meanwhile, the Planning Department will commence the study on existing profile and operations of brownfield sites in the New Territories in 2017, which will provide useful inputs to the formulation of appropriate policy and measures for tackling
brownfield sites.

* Under the high population projection, the population will reach 9 million by 2046 and continue to grow to 9.12 million by 2064.


PLANNING DEPARTMENT
The Planning Department of the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was established in 1990 with a mission to make Hong Kong a better place to live and work in, by striving to build Hong Kong into a liveable, competitive and sustainable ‘Asia World City’.

It is responsible for the preparation of various types of town plans to guide the proper use and development of land. These plans range from development strategies for the entire territory to detailed layout plans for individual districts, as well as cross-boundary planning and development matters. 

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