Legal and Political Basis
- Small House Policy was established in 1972 and provides male indigenous villagers aged 18 with a right to apply for a permission to build a small house in New Territories. This is a so-called ‘ding’ right.
- How do you define ‘indigenous villagers’? People who are descendants of residents of recognized villages in New Territories. These villages were recognized by the British government in1898. The indigenous villagers are verified by the village head, the clan or family tree, and the record of The Land Registry. It is usually verified by the village head who also estimates the village population.
- According to policy, a small house is allowed to be built on an area not larger than 700 square feet (sq. ft.) and up to 25 feet (ft.) high to allow a two-storey structure. This changed to a 2.5 storeys structure in 1974 and 3 storeys in1975.
- Small houses can be built in the environs of a recognized village (Village Environs or VE) or in a Village Expansion Area (VEA).
- Small houses to be built in “Village Type Development” zones within the VE only need approval from the Districts Lands Office approval. No oversight from the Town Planning Board.
- Government provides two types of grants for villagers: A building licence to build on your own land or other land in exchange; and a private treaty grant to build on government land.
- After the issue of the Certificates of Compliance (CCs) is issued, most villagers sell their small houses. Villagers can apply for removal of restrictions on alienation and sell their small houses to non-indigenous villagers or developers by paying land premium to the government at a concessionary rate. Lands Department is unable to take action against selling small houses as they could not reject applications which were submitted in accordance with the terms of restriction on alienation.
- There is unlawful trading of the ‘ding’ right. The unlawful ‘ding’ right trading is usually operated by experienced local agents who facilitate the deals with extensive legal tools including power of attorneys.
- Government departments are responsible different aspects of the small house policy. They include the Lands Department (administration of the small house policy), Home Affairs Department (facilitate communication and provide some minor public works), Planning Department (sets out the v-zone boundaries in outline zoning plans and processes applications for development outside v-zones), Fire Services Department (provides advice and comments), Buildings Department (issues the compliance certificate), Water Supplies Department (provide water suppliers and comments), Drainage Services Department (monitors septic tanks), Environmental Protection Department (prevent water pollution), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (provide comments) and Antiquities and Monuments Office(provide comments). Despite all their involvement, small house developments remain highly destructive.