Accessibility cited in plan to convert industrial sites

HONG KONG: The government's plan to convert some of the city's industrial areas into much-needed flats should take into account whether transport and other amenities are available, according to property analysts.

They say the Siu Lek Yuen and Tai Wai industrial districts in Sha Tin are good candidates for conversion into residential areas because of their  accessibility.

The government plans to increase the supply of homes to cool the overheated property market. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah last month said 20 hectares of industrial land across the city would be converted into residential use.

The Planning Department has identified sites in Sha Tin, Yuen Long, Fanling and Tsuen Wan that could be converted into residences. The sites could provide a total gross floor area of 111 million square feet, equal to 18,000 flats with an average size of 600 sq ft.

Nicky Cheung, assistant sales director of industrial department at Centaline Property Agency, said the sites in Siu Lek Yuen and Tai Wai industrial districts had the best potential. "The Siu Lek Yuen industrial area is smaller than the other districts, making it easier to convert into a residential area," he said. The industrial district is also close to Ravana Garden and City One Shatin.

"All of the industrial buildings in the district are currently used as offices for trading companies so there is no pollution problem," Cheung said. "The living environment is therefore nice and the location is accessible as well."

Alvan Chan, a director of property agency Midland IC&I, said Fanling industrial district also had the potential to be transformed into a residential area.

"The vacancy rates in Fanling and Yuen Long industrial districts range from 10% to 20% and the buildings are mainly used for warehouses, which means no pollution problems," he said.

Kim Chan, a fellow at the Hong Kong Institute of Planners, said industrial districts close to public transportation hubs such as bus terminals should be considered first.

As residential and industrial buildings are not compatible, he said the government should convert the entirety of any earmarked industrial district for residential use.

"The industrial district may not have a pollution problem now, but if factories move in later, it will create pollution problems," he said.

Kim Chan also warned against converting too many industrial sites.

"In Singapore, about 20% of the gross domestic product still comes from the industrial sector," he said. "If the government converts too many industrial sites, Hong Kong's economy may become too reliant on the financial sector." — South China Morning Post
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