Hong Kong's Carrie Lam outlines major housing plan, defends security law in policy speech

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Wednesday (Oct 6) outlined plans to develop the north of the city into a metropolitan area, with as many as 926,000 homes, to ease a housing crisis that has been a major source of unrest in the financial hub. 

The proposed northern metropolis will cover about 300 square kilometers of land along Hong Kong’s boundary with Shenzhen, and its development will deepen ties between the cities, Lam told the Legislative Council in the final policy address of her current term. The area will be developed into an international information and technology hub, she said.  

Beijing has exerted increasing control over the former British colony, pushing for its greater integration with nearby mainland cities, and has repeatedly demanded reforms to the world’s least-affordable housing market. 

Lam began the final policy speech of her current term with a broad defence of the national security law imposed by China, saying it had ended chaos and brought stability and better governance to the financial hub. 

Other highlights so far

– A proposed series of rail links connecting Hong Kong with Shenzhen. 
– Plans for the proposed northern metro area to have 905,000-926,000 residential units, including the existing 390,000 units in Yuen Long and North district. The residential units will accommodate a population of about 2.5 million. Lam projects the total number of jobs in the northern metropolitan area to eventually increase to about 650,000, including 150,000 IT-related jobs. 
– A government restructuring proposed that will include: Splitting up the Transport and Housing bureaus; setting up a Culture, Sports and Tourism bureau; and the creation of an expanded Innovation, Technology and Industry bureau. 
– Hong Kong will also consider allowing southbound trade of mainland stocks denominated in the yuan. 
– Plans to use about 350 hectares of land to build about 330,000 public housing units in the next 10 years .
– Seeking to secure about 170 hectares of land in the next decade to facilitate 100,000 private residential units through land sales or railway property developments for tender. 
– Plans to devote about HK$240 billion (S$41.9 billion) over the next 15 to 20 years to address climate change, with an interim target to cease using coal for daily electricity by 2035. 

Lam’s five-year term, which ends in June, has been marked by huge anti-government protests, widespread international criticism about the national security law, and the Covid-19 pandemic that worsened a recession and led to unprecedented border controls in the top Asian financial hub. 

Hong Kong “has got back on the right track of One Country, Two Systems,” and “governance has returned to normal under the protection of the national security law and the principle of patriots administering Hong Kong,” Lam said in her opening remarks. 

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