Faced with chronic land shortage, Hong Kong looks underground

Cramped homes and soaring property prices are signs of the crisis that sees Hong Kong regularly named the world's least affordable city to buy a home.
Cramped homes and soaring property prices are signs of the crisis that sees Hong Kong regularly named the world's least affordable city to buy a home.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong may dig deep to reverse the city's chronic land shortage, adding underground caverns to the mix of options aimed at creating more housing in the world's most expensive property market.

It is an option, according to a government body tasked with coming up with more land for development. Facilities such as sewage plants and reservoirs could be relocated to caverns, freeing up land for housing, the Task Force on Land Supply said on its website on Thursday (April 26).

Hong Kong faces a looming shortfall of at least 1,200 hectares - or more than 60 times the size of the city's Victoria Park.

"Hong Kong's hilly terrain and strong rock formations make it highly suitable for developing rock caverns, particularly on the urban fringes," the task force said, seeking public submissions over the next five months on 18 options for boosting land supply.

Developing caverns was "probably the most expensive" choice and would take longer than some alternatives. Tapping developers' holdings of farmland, developing "brownfield" sites - former agricultural land - or building on land used for recreation were among swifter options, the task force said.

Cramped homes and soaring property prices are signs of the crisis that sees Hong Kong regularly named the world's least affordable city to buy a home. As the public argues the merits of converting land on the edges of country parks or redeveloping the golf course that is home to the historic Hong Kong Golf Club, one business leader had a different idea this week.

Mr Frederick Ma, the chairman of MTR Corp, which runs the city's subway system, told the South China Morning Post on Monday that one option was to build a "Hong Kong town" in China, linked by high-speed rail.