History of Land Registration and Small House Policies in the New Territories of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the People's Republic of China

  • Fung, Philip Sing-Sang ;
  • Lee, Almond Sze-Mun
  • Received : 2013.01.07
  • Accepted : 2013.01.29
  • Published : 2014.01.30


Hong Kong, a well-known metropolis characterized by skyscrapers on both sides of the Victoria Harbour, consists mainly of 3 parts, namely the Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon peninsula and the New Territories (N.T.) which is the land area north of Kowloon plus a number of outlying islands. Located in the N.T. are all the new towns, market towns; and in the plains and valleys lie scattered village houses of not more than 3 storeys within the confines of well-defined village. These village houses are governed by a rural housing policy that could be traced back to the very beginning of the former British administration in the N.T. By the Convention of Peking of 1898, the N.T., comprising the massive land area north of Kowloon up to Shenzhen River and 235 islands, was leased to Britain by China for 99 years from 1st July 1898. Soon after occupation, the colonial government conducted a survey of this uncharted territory from 1899 to 1903, and set up a land court to facilitate all land registration work and to resolve disputed claims. By 1905, the Block Crown Leases with Schedule of Lessees and details of the lots, each with a copy of the lot index plan (Demarcation Plan) were executed. Based on the above, Crown rent rolls were prepared for record and rent collection purposes. All grants of land thereafter are known as New Grant lots. After completion and execution of the Block Crown Lease in 1905, N.T. villagers had to purchase village house lots by means of Restricted Village Auctions; and Building Licences were issued to convert private agricultural land for building purposes but gradually replaced by Land Exchanges (i.e. to surrender agricultural land for the re-grant of building land) from the early 1960's until introduction of the current Small House Policy in October 1972. It was not until the current New Territories Small House Policy came into effect in December 1972 that the Land Authority can make direct grant of government land or approve the conversion of self-owned agricultural land to allow indigenous villagers to build houses within the village environs under concessionary terms. Such houses are currently restricted to 700 square feet in area and three storeys with a maximum height of 27 feet. An indigenous villager is a male descendent of a villager who was the resident of a recognized village already existing in 1898. Each villager is only allowed one concessionary grant in his lifetime. Upon return of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China on July 1st, 1997, the traditional rights of indigenous villagers are protected under Article 40 of the Basic Law (a mini-constitution of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region). Also all N.T. leases have been extended for 50 years up to 2047. Owing to the escalating demand and spiral landed property prices in recent years, abuse of the N.T. Small House Policy has been reported in some areas and is a concern in some quarters. The Hong Kong Institute of Land Administration attempts to study the history that leads to the current rural housing policy in the New Territories with particular emphasis on the small house policy, hoping that some light can be shed on the "way forward" for such a controversial policy.


Rural Housing;Small House Policy;Basic Law;Heung Yee Kuk


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