Why Doesn't the Hong Kong Government Sell More Public Land?

Working Paper Number: 
WP 15-11

Why doesn't the Hong Kong government sell more of its enormous land holding to lower the city's high housing price and increase the residents' small living space? We answer the question in an overlapping generations framework. We show that while a rapid and complete privatization of government land is efficient in the absence of externalities; it is made politically difficult by a compensation gap, when the losses of current property owners are greater than the government revenue from land sales. We argue that the cross-country diversity of government land ownership owes to historical incidents in some countries (such as the U.S. in the 19th century) that allowed disposal of government land without filling the compensation gap and the absence of such incidents in others (such as Hong Kong).

JEL Codes: 
H00, R14

Francis K Cheung