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Old June 2nd, 2009, 09:07 AM   #721
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BUY OR SELL-HK property: bottomed out or overinflated?

HONG KONG, June 1 (Reuters) - Hong Kong real estate has shown early signs of regaining its status as hot property, with a new development getting a warm reception. But, where some experts see recovery, others see just a speculative bubble.

Last week's launch by Lake Silver, a new joint venture residential project between Sino Land and MTR Corp , drew tens of thousands of prospective homebuyers despite a summer downpour -- a strong showing shortly after top lender HSBC slashed its savings rate to near-zero, boosting the attraction of the 4-5 percent average annual rental yield for property investments.

Hong Kong home sales between May 1-26 were close to 11,000 units, the highest since February 2008, and surprisingly strong for a traditionally slow month ahead of the school summer break.

The early signs of a potential rebound have lit a fire under major Hong Kong developer stocks. Since early March, shares of sector leaders Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Sun Hung Kai Properties have jumped more than 70 percent, while Sino Land has nearly tripled.

BUY

"The recent strength in the property sector was an adjustment to the earlier over-pessimism," said Wong Leung-sing, director of research for Centaline Property Agency Ltd.

Like others, Wong attributed the rebound in home sales to low interest rates and a volatile stock market which have driven investors to property in search of better returns. But he said the jury was still out on whether a recovery is really underway.

"If June figures track the strong numbers in May, it's quite safe to say a market recovery is on the way," he said.

Developers are playing it safe by pricing new projects well below their early 2008 peak, reflecting lower optimism on a rapid price recovery. Home prices are back at their pre-Lehman collapse level, after sliding 15 percent from their March 2008 peak.

TOO MUCH TOO FAST?

Others suggest it is still too early to call a recovery, and the recent run-up in property stocks could be too much too fast.

"I won't suggest investors chase after property stocks as the positive factors are pretty much reflected in the surge," said Patrick Yiu, a director with CASH Asset Management.

Sino Land, a proxy for the Hong Kong residential sector, now carries a net asset value (NAV) premium of close to 18 percent, according to Citigroup research, making it among the most expensive stock in the sector. Likewise, Sun Hung Kai carries a rich NAV premium close to 10 percent.

Cheung Kong, at a NAV discount of 16 percent, Hang Lung Properties and Kerry Properties , with their exposure to the Chinese property sector, are seen as safer bets.

Even after real estate price declines over the last year, Hong Kong properties still command significant premiums over major Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, according to Citigroup.

"Comparatively, Chinese property is a better bet as it seems to have more room on the upside after a plunge in mainland property prices last year," said Yiu.

With economic fundamentals still weak, heady property stock valuations suggest the market may have run ahead of itself.

"There are people who worry they will miss their chance to buy property if they don't move now, but this is a short term factor that will drive demand," said Nicholas Yeo, Hong Kong and China equities manager at Aberdeen Asset Management.

"In the long term, there is uncertainty over the magnitude of an economic recovery, if we have one."
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Old June 2nd, 2009, 01:28 PM   #722
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HK's manic property prices risk depression
1 June 2009
South China Morning Post

Hong Kong's property market has always had a manic-depressive sort of character, with wild and unpredictable swings of mood from boom to bust and back again to boom.

Right now, however, sentiment towards property prices seems more schizophrenic than anything else, with analysts in two minds, not knowing which way to turn.

In recent weeks, the mood has clearly been more up than down. Flats in Sino Land's monstrous new Lake Silver complex overlooking Tolo Harbour have been selling like hot cakes, with 1,000 units snapped up in just the past few days.

Across the city, the volume of property transactions has returned to levels last seen around the peak of the market last spring, and overall, residential property prices are up by about 10 per cent over the year to date.

At the same time, Hong Kong is an economy in recession. Output shrank 4.3 per cent in the first three months of the year compared with the last quarter of last year. The number of unemployed has shot up to 197,000 from just 112,000 early last year, and incomes - traditionally the most important influence on local property prices - have come under severe pressure.

As a result, observers are divided about the likely direction of the market prices. Analysts at Citigroup, for example, are predicting that prices will rise 15 per cent from present levels, while their opposite numbers at Credit Suisse expect a 15 per cent fall. Casual observers are bound to wonder which forecast is correct.

In all probability, they both are.

The reason prices are up so strongly this year is simple. Hong Kong is afloat on a sea of liquidity. According to Morgan Stanley, more than HK$500 billion in surplus liquidity is slopping around the financial system. A good deal of that money has gone into the stock market, pushing shares up 70 per cent from last October's low.

And a lot has flowed into property. With mortgage rates as low as 2 per cent and faith in financial assets badly shaken by the Lehman Brothers minibond scandal, investors are going back to bricks and mortar, and pumping money into property. That's why Citigroup expects prices to increase a further 15 per cent.

Whether the rally is sustainable in the longer run, however, is doubtful. Credit Suisse's analysts believe much of the liquidity that has flowed into the Hong Kong property market is an indirect spillover from the massive increase in bank lending on the mainland over the past few months.

In the first quarter of this year, mainland banks extended a massive 4.6 trillion yuan (HK$5.22 trillion) in new loans.

And as the first chart below shows, a sharp increase in mainland lending is usually followed a few months later by a steep rise in Hong Kong property prices, largely because of a liquidity-induced wealth effect channelled through the stock market.

That's troubling, because recent signs indicate the mainland authorities are beginning to tighten up on lending out of fear for banks' asset quality. As they do, liquidity could start to drain out of the Hong Kong property market.

If that happens, fundamental economic factors will begin to reassert their influence over property prices, and the fundamentals hardly look supportive.

As the second chart below illustrates, in the past, Hong Kong property prices have shown a strong negative correlation with the unemployment rate. As job losses mount, property prices tend to fall.

That relationship appears to have broken down recently. But with the unemployment rate widely expected to climb towards 7 per cent over the second half of the year, property analysts warn the boom in residential prices is looking dangerously fragile.

Some are now predicting a pending bust, which is why Credit Suisse is forecasting a 15 per cent slump from current prices.

Even the bulls at Citigroup agree, warning that although the immediate outlook is for further gains, the longer-term prospect is bleak.

Perhaps the market isn't schizophrenic after all; just gearing up for a bout of depression.
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Old June 3rd, 2009, 08:44 AM   #723
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西港島線 接通港大新校園
2 June 2009
香港經濟日報

港鐵西港島線大學站將有兩個出入口接通香港大學,其中寶翠園出入口接通港大新建的百周年校園,市民可由車站直接前往對外開放的百周年花園,及3幢活化歷史建築;至於接駁港大黃克競樓的出入口,亦會24小時接通薄扶林道,方便師生出入。

工程費逾30億元的港大百周年校園計劃2012年落成,而造價達154億元的西港島線料於2014年通車。西港島線全長3公里及有3個車站,包括西營盤、大學及堅尼地城。

往百周年校園 僅2分鐘

港鐵項目統籌經理鄧伯洪表示,大學站共有5個出入口,其中兩個接通黃克競樓及百周年校園,全以升降機來回車站與地面,乘搭時間約20秒,並以行人天橋接通港大。

鄧又稱,黃克競樓出入口共有8部升降機,車站往校園內只須約3分鐘;而寶翠園出入口通往百周年校園有4部升降機,站內往地面約為2分鐘。

西港島線以融入社區概念興建,港大物業處高級助理處長譚景良表示,師生及市民可經車站來往大學與社區,最遠可由大學往較近海邊的卑路乍街。

譚透露,百周年校園將興建面積逾4萬平方呎的百周年花園,而新校園內3幢歷史建築,會與水務署商討把屬三級歷史建築的西區濾水廠,變身為水務博物館。

譚又指,其餘兩幢為二及三級歷史建築的舊員工宿舍,亦會活化及對外開放。港大發言人補充,正研究該兩幢建築的活化,如變為書店、康樂或展覽用途的場地。

另一方面,運輸及房屋局局長鄭汝樺昨於立法會鐵路事宜小組委員會,解釋西港島線造價由89億元升至154億元,以及政府注資由60億元增加至127億元的問題。

有議員形容,154億元是天價,質疑政府注資大增逾倍是偏袒港鐵,因港鐵投入資金反減2億元,要求當局提交財務報告。鄭表示,補助金加入退還機制,若工程費有剩餘,港鐵需在鐵路通車兩年後,連利息退還餘額,並指補助金額會於票價中反映。
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Old June 3rd, 2009, 08:00 PM   #724
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油麻地收舊樓 每戶逾110萬
2009年06月03日(三)




市區具重建價值舊樓,成財團購併目標。消息人士透露,油麻地德昌里16至22A號一列舊樓,已有逾90%業主同意出售單位,日內將分批與提出收購財團簽訂出售協議;據悉,住宅部分獲財團出價每方呎約3,300元收購,單位每戶收購價介乎逾110萬至約140萬元。
逾90%業主同意售樓

消息人士透露,德昌里16至22A號一列舊樓,樓高約8層,住宅單位共45伙,另地舖及天台戶各佔4伙,物業合共提供53個單位,現有樓面約2.5萬方呎。據悉,上址近期獲財團出價收購,已有逾90%業主同意出售單位,預計日內會分批落實簽署買賣合約,其中住宅部分收購呎價約3,300元,以上址單位面積 335至398方呎計算,收購價由逾110萬元起。

資料顯示,現時同區樓齡十餘年的單幢式物業,一個面積約400至500方呎單位,售價約150萬元,是次收購價貼近同區二手物業水平。

至於上址地舖及天台戶,據悉,收購財團仍與業主就收購價磋商中,而以整個項目地盤面積約5,580方呎,可發展商住地積比率九倍計算,估計可重建樓面逾5萬方呎。

另外,大鴻輝持有的逾92%業權的旺角亞皆老街110號A及B段,以及梭椏道10至14號前後座一列舊樓,亦已向土地審裁處提出強制拍賣申請。
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Old June 4th, 2009, 08:40 AM   #725
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Tai Koo hotel project by bextra from skyscrapers.cn :



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Old June 4th, 2009, 06:00 PM   #726
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銀湖頂層戶賣1700萬
2009年06月04日(四)








新盤熱銷氣氛有增無減。信置開售僅約一周的烏溪沙站上蓋銀湖.天峰,累售1,700伙,佔項目約80%,平均呎價約5,500元。發展商透露,該盤一直預留的頂層連天台Lake Sky特色戶,現接受洽購,意向呎價料逾1萬元。入場費料逾1,700萬元,另該盤25個向內園景的低層連平台迎湖花園大宅,售價約500萬元起。
平台花園戶500萬起

信置營業及市場部總經理劉貴玉稱,銀湖.天峰剛加價2至5%,累售1,700伙,頂層複式連天台Lake Sky特色戶昨起接受洽購,該類單位面積1,685至2,582方呎,共有14伙,意向呎價逾1萬元。

她指出,該盤低層連平台花園戶Lake Garden的銷情亦續理想,至今已售出10伙,其中向內園的平台戶佔6伙,呎價約7,500至8,000元,由於該類向內園景單位均享泳池及平台花園景,故命名為迎湖花園大宅,售價料近500萬元起。
YOHO Town2期今命名

另發展商加速推盤。新地今公布下半年重頭項目之一的元朗YOHO Town2期名稱,該盤提供約1,890伙,並設大型購物商場。代理透露,年底前元朗區新盤市況勢熱鬧,恒地提供60伙的傲.茵料最快月內率先登場,長實的洪水橋項目料第四季開售。

代理稱,同屬新地等的紅磡海濱南岸第3座料下月開售,意向呎價至少7,000元,另北角形品今展開路演攻勢。

消息指出,新地剛以約1.08億元售出九龍站凱旋門摩天閣60樓以上A室,呎價約3.1萬元,市傳買家為中資人士。中原林龍南稱,一名居於北角半山的印尼華僑斥資約3,800萬元購入北角港濤軒4個高層1,039方呎D室收租,呎價9,143元,租金回報率料4厘。

香港置業指出,上月土地註冊處錄2,364宗一手登記,按月升近65%,創十八個月新高,登記總值104.8億元,為金融海嘯後首次破百億元。
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Old June 6th, 2009, 10:14 AM   #727
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銅鑼灣中央樓獲26億收購
2009年06月06日(六)




田生集團與韋堅信測量師行為加快銅鑼灣中央樓出售事宜,宣布聯手收購該物業,收購價訂為約26億元,平均呎價逾1.1萬元,而昨舉行的業主大會內,據悉部分小業主已即場簽署臨時買賣合約。田生集團主席區永華透露,有4、5個發展商、基金及海外財團表示對項目有興趣。

區氏表示,昨日約有240名業主代表出席大會,希望本月底前能統一上址85%業權,屆時即向業主派發臨時訂金,冀望明年可取得逾90%業權。項目收購價26億元,以重建商廈樓面計,每方呎約11,377元,料項目總發展成本達33億元。
新法書院地申改建住宅

政府勾地表內九龍塘延文禮士道住宅地的出售計劃再受阻,城規會認為建築物高度訂為約13層,與鄰近高約8層的學校等不協調,決定押後審議,並發還規劃署再作景觀影響評估,研究能否再減高度,市場人士料地皮或會再減值,以及延後出售。

另外,薄扶林道Jessville大宅,獲准於毗鄰建兩幢18層及22層高住宅,大宅原址保留,另文福道新法書院剛申請改劃為住宅用途,重建1幢21層高住宅。
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Old June 6th, 2009, 11:18 AM   #728
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長實兩盤買家逾半上會
2009年06月06日(六)


近期多個新盤陸續入伙上會。長實指出,旗下料於月內開始交樓的將軍澳日出康城1期首都及何文田半山壹號1期,兩盤分別已有逾三分二及約一半買家上會。

另外,市場人士指出,泛海的香港仔南灣御園獲用家以逾2,000萬元購入頂層B室及C室,呎價約1.2萬元,創項目新高。
領都或貼市價推售

長實地產投資董事黃思聰接受查詢時表示,首都及半山壹號1期料快將開始交樓,首都至今已錄逾三分二買家上會,料最終將近全數買家上會,而半山壹號1期已錄約一半買家上會。

他續稱,日出康城2期領都設於尖沙咀港景滙的示範單位及售樓處已完工,只要批出預售文件,最快月內開放示範單位及開售,估計將以貼市價錢開盤。
南灣御園10伙租轉賣

其他新盤方面,泛海執行董事關堡林稱,集團決定推出南灣御園10至15樓共10個A室及E室轉租為售,料平均呎價約6,000元。

至於荃灣縉庭山,發展商表示,項目已獲批預售,昨起展開路演,最快下周開售,並先推第1座。首批以貼市價發售,先推連平台戶「縉庭花園」,該類單位已有買家透過代理出價7,000至8,000元洽購。之後推出頂層特色戶「縉庭大宅」,目前有買家出價每方呎逾1萬元洽購。緊接推出標準戶,料平均意向呎價 6,000元,兩房戶入場費逾300萬元。
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Old June 6th, 2009, 11:30 AM   #729
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連續兩個月無新個案 創逾兩年低位 待批預售申請跌至6551伙
5 June 2009
星島日報

近月發展商減慢申請預售樓花同意書的步伐,地政總署公布,上月未錄新增預售樓花的私人住宅申請,累積錄得連續兩個月未錄得發展商提交新申請,令待批預售樓花同意書的住宅單位項目進一步下跌,至六千五百多伙,創○七年四月錄得四千九百多伙申請以來,二十六個月以來新低。

地政總署公布,上月批出一宗住宅預售樓花同意書,為興勝創建九龍塘One LaSalle。惟五月份並未錄得新住宅樓花申請,為連續兩個月零宗新申請。在待批項目逐一批出,但連月未有新增申請的情況下,現時待批預售樓花單位數目,已由四月份的六千五百六十五個,進一步銳減至六千五百五十一伙,創○七年四月錄得四千九百多伙申請以來,二十六個月以來新低。

One LaSalle擬月內推

興勝創建項目管理董事周嘉峰指出,One LaSalle可望在月內推售,現時示範單位正趕建中,可望在稍候時間開放予外界參觀,至於項目的標準單位,意向價逾五千萬元,而特色戶會以洽購情況推出。市場消息指,現時該盤已錄得約六宗預留。

領都及大圍項目待批

現時待批當中較為大型的待批項目,包括將軍澳領都及沙田大圍項目等,均是發展商在去年時已提出的申請。香港置業行政總裁李志成表示,自海嘯以後,發展商推盤速度較之前謹慎,他預測隨着市況向好,樓市交情況持續熱烈,發展商推盤速度加快,將令到待批單位由低位逐步回升。

美聯物業首席分析師劉嘉輝則認為,儘管待批及批出數字同創新低,但目前市場有多個早已批出樓花同意書,加上部分尚未推出市場的新盤項目可隨時推出市場發售,相信待批及批出數字創新低未會影響發展商推盤步伐。
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Old June 6th, 2009, 11:41 AM   #730
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Old June 6th, 2009, 05:42 PM   #731
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Opinion : Should developers get extra floor space for adding green features?
6 June 2009
South China Morning Post

Should developers get extra floor space for adding green features?

Property developers who cut back on their developments to introduce green elements into their designs should be rewarded with extra floor space.

But those who use it as a trick to encroach into public areas by growing trees on footpaths do not deserve this reward. Planting trees on footpaths is the government's responsibility, and should not be negotiated with builders.

Planting greenery on rooftops and podiums and creating sky gardens should be the social responsibility of all developers and must be integrated into all their designs.

Developers should not use this as a bargaining chip to get more floor space from the government. In fact, the government must make it mandatory for developers to provide greenery in all their projects.

Nalini Daswani, Tsim Sha Tsui
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Old June 7th, 2009, 05:08 PM   #732
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Grand addition to the city's growing number of Harbour hotels
3 June 2009
South China Morning Post

Think there are enough hotels in this city named Harbour? Apparently, the Harbour Plaza Hotels and Resorts group doesn't think so. In addition to the Harbour Plaza North Point, the Harbour Plaza Metropolis (Hung Hom), Harbour Plaza Resort City (Tin Shui Wai) and the Harbour Plaza Hong Kong (which actually isn't in Hong Kong but also in Hung Hom), the group just added another property to its roster, which had a soft opening on Monday. To distinguish itself from its siblings, the new Fortress Hill inn is called Harbour Grand Hong Kong. What also differentiates the new waterfront hotel, with its 828 rooms and five restaurants, is its five-star ambitions, compared to the slightly lower grades of its sister accommodations.

"It's now the flagship of our resorts," marketing manager Wings Mok boasted. "We started operation on Monday and everything is open except for one of the five restaurants, the Japanese Nagomi. But what I think people should check out is the venue on the 41st floor. Le 188 restaurant & lounge is so called because it has a 188-degree harbour view."

It seems this won't be the only Harbour Grand in town though. The Harbour Plaza Hong Kong will in time be spruced up and have its moniker changed to the Harbour Grand Kowloon in the near future.
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Old June 8th, 2009, 05:40 PM   #733
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What you see is not what you get
8 June 2009
The Standard

A green group has called on property giants to be more honest when pushing sales of their latest developments.

Green Sense said sales brochures are often misleading, depicting a cluster of towers standing among green hills and a sparkling shore, such as the Lake Silver development in the New Territories by MTR Corp and Sino Land.

``The brochures give a false impression of the surrounding area,'' Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong said.

``The fact is the green belt shown circling a development may be replaced with a ring of taller developments or may lay barren,'' he said.

Tam slammed Sino Land sales tactics at the Lake Silver development, above Wu Kai Sha MTR station, and the railway company's joint development of the LOHAS park in Tseung Kwan O with Cheung Kong, claiming they have failed to mention that today's sea views would be blocked by future phases.

He said it is common practice for developers to start selling flats furthest away from the shoreline, telling buyers they would have a sea view.

``Citizens when buying flats, should really scrutinize the information, while the government should put restrictions on sales brochures for developments and developers should have tighter control on their selling procedures,'' said Tam, adding a sea view may cost an extra HK$370,000.

Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit said sales brochures should be written in a concise and simple manner in both English and Chinese, along with information on amenities within a 200-meter radius.

Leong also reiterated calls for the government to legislate against misrepresentations and omissions in sales literature.

``People who are making one of the biggest investments in their life should not be misled about the saleable area and neighboring facilities and should get what they are paying for.''

He also said planning perimeters such as plot ratio, building height and site coverage need to be written into outline zoning plans and land grant conditions to eliminate gray areas which developers may exploit. ``Up to this date, developers have demonstrated self-regulation is ineffective.''
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Old June 9th, 2009, 05:16 PM   #734
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China Overseas to pay $151 mln premium for HK site

HONG KONG, June 8 (Reuters) - Top Chinese developer China Overseas Land said it has agreed to pay a HK$1.18 billion (US$151 million) land premium to the government for a low-density residential development in the New Territories.

Investment for the development would total HK$3 billion, including construction costs of HK$800 million, the developer said in a statement over the weekend.

The development, comprising 260 units, was scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2012, it added.

Shares of China Overseas Land rose 2.1 percent to HK$16.44 on Monday morning.

Recent strong flat sales in the territory have prompted developers to speed up promotion activity and raise sale prices moderately.

Analysts said the willingness of developers to pay a land premium was indicative of their outlook on the property market.

(US$1=HK$7.8)
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Old June 10th, 2009, 05:00 PM   #735
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Old June 11th, 2009, 07:56 AM   #736
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$1b boost sought for facelift scheme
Hong Kong Standard
Thursday, June 11, 2009

More than 1,500 old buildings have been earmarked for a facelift which will create 20,000 jobs, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters after seeking an additional HK$1 billion from the Legislative Council for Operation Building Bright, Lam said the original intention had been to help renovate 1,000 old buildings, 500 of which belonged to owner corporations.

However, more than 1,100 owner corporations applied for financial assistance under the scheme.

"We are faced with an economic crisis and unemployment, especially in the construction sector, is very high. So we want to create more jobs for the construction sector," Lam said. The funding for the scheme will be expanded from HK$1 billion to HK$2 billion if given Legco approval, and the number of jobs created will increase from 10,000 to 20,000.

About a quarter of applications were from the Yau Tsim Mong area. "I expect we will be able to meet each and every one of the 1,000-plus applications, provided that they meet the eligibility criteria," Lam said.

The Buildings Department has approved 226 old buildings not covered by owner corporations and the 18 district councils have nominated 501 others.

On June 19, there will be a lottery to decide which will be the first 500 buildings to be renovated.

Work on the remaining buildings should begin in the autumn, after Legco approves extra funding, Lam said.
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Old June 11th, 2009, 08:05 AM   #737
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Le Billionaire by 鄧麗欣之戀 from skyscrapers.cn :

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Old June 11th, 2009, 08:40 AM   #738
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High cost of green designs 'no scare tactic' Advisory body defends consultation document
11 June 2009
South China Morning Post

The head of the Council for Sustainable Development yesterday defended its public consultation document that details the costly trade-offs of providing more green buildings and that it should not be seen as a scare tactic.

Bernard Chan, who also said he would not be weak-kneed when he dealt with developers, made the comments in yesterday's press briefing for the document.

Green activists - including Roy Tam Hoi-pong, president of Green Sense, - have criticised the paper as a scare tactic to protect the interests of developers.

The council will start to gauge public views on June 20 over how to balance controlling the city's development density and encouraging more sustainable building designs.

"We have to ensure the questions posed to the public will not be biased, which developers have worries about," said Mr Chan. "For example, the public will definitely say, 'no', if you ask them if developers should be given extra floor space [in exchange] for green features."

The existing policy grants developers extra floor space for integrating green features, such as car parks and public space. This has been challenged in recent years, with green groups complaining that the increased bulk would reduce ventilation between buildings.

The document, which will be released to the public during consultation sessions on June 20, proposes setting up design guidelines under which developers will receive concessions to the floor area to minimise the project's impact.

While asking the public if incentives should be offered for energy-efficient buildings, the paper repeatedly warned of the costs of more green buildings without giving developers incentives - reducing the government's revenue in land premiums and also limiting housing supply.

A senior source from the Real Estate Developers Association also threatened last month to give up providing any green features in projects if they are given no exemptions on floor area, accusing the government of "going back on its word".

"Developers won't scare me away," Mr Chan said. "This is not only about developers. Owners of green buildings should be informed of the trade-off. The public should know it."

He said, for example, residents might have to pay higher maintenance fees for a green roof.

"We are not completely under the control of developers," he said, "If they don't provide green features without extra floor space, we can ask them to do it on a compulsory basis."

Mr Chan said a second consultation may be launched if a consensus was not reached in the first session.

The chairman of the council's support group, Bernard Lim Wan-fung, stressed the consultation would form a platform for public discussion. "Some green features such as balconies are really environmentally friendly and not all green features will form [so-called] walled buildings."
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Old June 11th, 2009, 09:27 AM   #739
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Developers need incentives to introduce green elements
10 June 2009
South China Morning Post

In a service-based economy such as Hong Kong, the construction and ongoing occupation and use of buildings account for as much as 70 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Since the real estate market - both property and construction - accounts for about a third of the city's gross domestic product, its disproportionate influence on the economy and environment therefore cannot be underestimated.

Green buildings provide a better quality of living for users and the community while minimising environmental impact at the local, regional, and global levels throughout their full life cycle. The greening of property therefore has a triple bottom-line effect.

There are barriers to green property development, however. One of the most notable being the initial green premium cost of providing a range of genuinely green features. To address cost and other barriers and jump-start green property development as a norm rather than an exception in Hong Kong, several conditions need to be in place:

Standards and certification schemes: To address barriers to greener real estate from a developer's point of view, a building certification scheme addressing building performance against a range of environmentally related criteria including energy, water, waste and pollution could be incorporated into local regulations and building practices.

Such a scheme or standard could serve to reference or qualify green buildings and optimise or economise property transactions cost. The standard would establish the rules of the game for green real estate.

New business model for developers: A speculative developer buys the land, develops it and then sells off individual floors or units, retaining no longer-term interest in the project.

For green real estate to become the established norm, buyers must either be willing to meet the costs of the green premium in full, or business models will need to be established which sustain the developer's stake in the operational phase of the property and so participate in the savings which green features generate.

The answer could lie in some form of "green lease", that would share the benefits of green features. This would require a fundamental change in the investment horizon of developers.

Initial market niche: Owing to the cost premium associated with most green property development projects, it is essential to target an initial market sector that can afford such green features. There are several candidates and the luxury sector, which is more concerned about quality of life and less about the price of a property, could serve as an initial entry point.

On the other hand, the public housing sector could also be a viable initial niche due to the fact that government can help to subsidise the extra cost associated with green features. Somewhat in between these extremes, a unique property ownership model which allows potential buyers to experience rental green living before making a commitment to purchase may serve as an excellent market introduction.

Technologies: Technologies of green real estate entail site-orientation aspects, materials, waste management, energy efficiency, water quality conservation and indoor environmental quality among others. The key to technology management in green buildings is integrated design from the outset rather than the traditional ad hoc model of product development.

The conception stage of a green building project represents a strategic "window of opportunity" for the deployment of disruptive technologies. In addition, knowledge transfer among different development projects and critical mass in terms of project size are key to driving down the cost-learning curve at project and technology level.

Life cycle analysis: As mentioned previously, developers need to find economic motivation for becoming involved in the delivery and operation of green buildings if purchasers are reluctant to pay more for savings that will only come over the lifetime of such developments.

One example is that green features in a building must derive future revenue streams from which developers can profit.

Government policies: It goes without saying that government plays an important role in resolving environmental problems since the economic benefits of any efforts to address such problems by private companies are hard to evaluate. These economic benefits are externalised.

Government could assist by subsidising procurement costs in the area of approved environmental products.

For example, in countries such as Japan and the United States, the government plays an aggressive role in subsidising solar photovoltaic installation costs (up to 50 per cent of the costs involved).

Government could also play an important role by providing training for the professionals who are necessary to support emerging green technologies and industries, including a green building industry. The Lands Department could assist with environmentally driven "conditions of sale" for land.

In conclusion, although there may be no single recipe for jump-starting a green residential property industry in Hong Kong, it would seem that without mandatory minimum requirements players will need incentives to persuade them to introduce green elements and practices into their development projects.

The choice of a strategic target market niche will also be important.

Kwok Shum is a visiting assistant professor in the Dual Degree Programme in Technology and Management at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
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Old June 11th, 2009, 10:12 AM   #740
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The Tai Koo hotel turned out okay.
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