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Old February 19th, 2010, 09:13 PM   #941
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Tseung Kwan O site may tap $3b
18 February 2010
The Standard

A plot of land in Tseung Kwan O could fetch as much as HK$3.4 billion for government coffers when it goes for auction on Monday, according to surveyors.

The 132,397-square-foot site in Area 66B Tseung Kwan O station will go under the hammer with the opening bid set at HK$2 billion. The market expects the final bid to range from HK$2.6 billion to HK$3.4 billion.

With a plot ratio of 5.5, the site's total gross floor area amounts to 728,185 sq ft and contains at most 880 homes.

Midland Surveyors director Alvin Lam Tsz-pun estimates the site to cost HK$3.4 billion, representing more than HK$4,600 per square foot in gross floor area.

``[Future property prices] depend on the market,'' Lam said. ``But judging from this site's particulars, it is expected to fetch more than HK$6,000 psf.''

He said the idle plots nearby _ currently reserved for residential and park uses _ may affect the site's views and hence the final bid, but the government has not yet decided when to launch them.

Lam believes developers with ongoing projects in the area may benefit from synergy. HSBC Securities said around 5,900 homes in Tsueng Kwan O will hit the market by 2012, of which Cheung Kong (Holdings) (0001) will account for 80 percent.

Sun Hung Kai Properties' (0016) comprehensive hotel and shopping complex atop Tseung Kwan O station in nearby Area 56 is a boon to the development, according to Lam.

Pang expects big developers to win Monday's auction.

The east side of the site has to make room for a 75-meter-wide breezeway.

The winning developer may build shops along it, which will give the maximum 66,199 sq ft non-residential GFA much potential, Lanbase Surveyors director Chan Cheong-kit told Sing Tao Daily, sister publication of The Standard.
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Old February 25th, 2010, 04:36 AM   #942
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Key moves to control rising property prices
25 February 2010
The Standard

Control of soaring property prices rests not just in increasing land supply but also in making flats more affordable by building them smaller, according to official sources.

What is done with two sites in Long Ping and To Kwa Wan will signal the government's determination to provide more such homes, the sources said. But experts see room for improvement in official measures.

John Tsang stressed in his budget the government ``will address the fundamental issue of flat supply.''

The government has put up several urban residential sites in the new application list.

And, following an official request, the MTR Corp (0066) and the Urban Renewal Authority will increase the supply of smaller homes.

Excluding these, Tsang expects 14,300 completed homes to hit the market this year and 53,000 in the next three to four years.

The Housing Authority will devise ways to revitalize the secondary market of Home Ownership Scheme flats, which now number more than 300,000.

The government will increase the stamp duty rate for homes valued at more than HK$20 million to 4.25 percent from April, from 3.75 percent, Tsang said.

Experts in the sector reacted differently to the enhanced application list system.

Henderson Land (0012) sales general manager Thomas Lam Tat-man favors the original system.

``If you neglect the demand and provide untriggered sites at some point, you are increasing supply when there is no demand,'' Lam said.

An associate professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Eddie Hui Chi-man, is worried about the government selling sites in this way because, in bad market conditions, the yield is lower.

He said developers may also cease to trigger sites if they are going to be sold anyway.

But he said it is good that the government has become more active, even if developers are sometimes reluctant to trigger sales.

Midland Realty chief analyst Buggle Lau Ka- fai finds the new list system ``much wiser'' than the fixed 85,000 annual home supply announced in 1997, as both governments are faced with similar asset price surges.

Lau, Lam and Hui all said the stamp duty increase will have little effect. While Hui said the government could have considered lowering the threshold to HK$15 million or adopting a progressive rate, Lau said the sales of luxury homes have cooled down.

An official source said it is easy to bring down the property market, but hard to rebuild it, so the government has been careful to strike a balance.

It has to consider young people who need to buy homes and the majority of families who already have their own homes.

The source said one-third of homes on the private market are below 400 square feet, while there are plenty of HOS homes for first-home buyers to choose from.
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Old February 25th, 2010, 08:40 AM   #943
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Pilot plan to provide cheaper homes
25 February 2010
The Standard

A site in Yuen Long will be sold as part of a pilot scheme to provide more affordable homes.

The 1.2-hectare site near Long Ping MTR station will be put up for open tender to boost flat supply, John Tsang said.

The government will specify in the land sale conditions the range of home size allowed. It will also set the minimum number of flats to be built.

The market should be able to see how strong the government's determination is, an official source said, adding that it will not limit prices.

Henderson Land (0012) sales general manager Thomas Lam Tat-man declined to comment on the Long Ping site, but he hopes the government will make use of statistics to support new supply.

``I hope there will be scientific surveys to back up [official] decisions,'' Lam said. ``Replenishing what certain regions lack is understandable, though.''

Hong Kong Polytechnic University associate professor Eddie Hui Chi-man said the government may have adopted positive policies to develop new towns.

Judging from the sale of apartments at Yoho Midtown and Monday's auction of a Tseung Kwan O plot, Hui believes there will be demand for the Long Ping site, but he does not completely support an increase in the supply of small homes.

``Most homes in Hong Kong are small in comparison to other places,'' Hui said. ``As a society gets rich, bigger homes should be built to go with the trend.''
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Old February 26th, 2010, 07:32 AM   #944
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Academy 'must be built now to beat costs'
15 January 2010
SCMP

The Hong Kong Football Association has called for work to start on the proposed Tseung Kwan O Soccer Academy as soon as possible as projected construction costs have soared to HK$400 million.

HKFA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said they wanted to use the academy to lift the standards of soccer after Hong Kong's stunning success at last month's East Asian Games, when they defeated a young Japanese side to clinch the gold medal.

"The building cost has gone up several times since we first agreed with the Jockey Club a sum of HK$103 million in 2005," Leung said. "The project has been postponed for many years and we have made an estimate of HK$400 million for the construction bill if we start it now with 10 football pitches, quarters for the players and other support services, such as a fitness training room, running trails, and a food hall.

"There is a great need for the academy as we have to strengthen our junior development programmes and provide training facilities for different levels of the national teams," Leung said. "The success at the East Asian Games has proved we can do well at a multi-sport games, but we must set up a long-term development programme so we can achieve more success on the international stage."

Leung believes the Jockey Club will not only provide the construction cost but also run the academy's operation, the way the club runs the Kau Sai Chau public golf course complex.

The Jockey Club approved funding for the academy in 2005 but the project has been on hold, mainly due to indecision about who would run it and how it would sustain itself financially.

"It will be too risky for our association to run the academy as we also need government subvention to run our programmes and can hardly manage such a big project," Leung said.

"The Jockey Club is financially healthy to run the academy. In fact, we will not be the only users of the academy. There are also many overseas teams who want to come to Hong Kong for winter training. That can generate additional revenue."

Leung said the government had also given him the impression it was keen to start the project as soon as possible.

It is believed the government has drafted the academy into its football consultancy to be revealed in March and can expand the proposed 171,800 square metre site on a Tseung Kwan O landfill if necessary. The Jockey Club is awaiting the report before deciding its next step.

"If they [the Jockey Club] decide to take up the entire project, including its operations, they will make it a world-class facility," said a source close to the project.

Meanwhile, Leung said the Hong Kong team should shoot for a third-place finish at next month's East Asian Championship in Tokyo. South Korea, China and the hosts are the other teams in the tournament.

"They are the three best teams in the region, but everything is possible after our East Asia Games title," said Leung.
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Old February 27th, 2010, 04:31 PM   #945
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URA goes it alone for To Kwa Wan project
25 February 2010
The Standard

The Urban Renewal Authority will go ahead with a To Kwa Wan redevelopment project despite expected losses of some HK$700 million.

The decision comes nearly a month after a deadly tenement collapse in the area.

It will be the authority's first ever project without the support of any private developer.

Chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen said the authority decided to go it alone as the project is expected to run a deficit and they want to roll it out fast.

John Tsang said yesterday he supports the the authority's decision, as he hopes ``to improve the living environment of the hundreds of households there, and relieve their fears and worries.''

The decision comes after a 54-year-old block at 45J Ma Tau Wai Road collapsed in seconds on January 29, killing four people and injuring two others.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday said two adjacent blocks at 45G and 45H will be razed for safety reasons.

The redevelopment area will include 33 blocks of four to six stories, built between 1955 and 1957.

The site will cover an area of about 3,370 square meters in Ma Tau Wai Road, Hok Yuen Street and Chun Tin Street. Some 540 households and 35 shops are likely to be affected, involving about 159 property owners, Cheung said.

He said the acquisition and rehousing cost is estimated at around HK$1.45 billion.

URA executive director Iris Tam Siu-ying said the site will house two 30-story buildings with about 420 flats, with an average flat size of less than 50 square meters each.

About 1,000 sq m of the site will be set aside for government, institutions and community facilities. Another 500 sq m will be kept as open space or for amenity areas.

About 130 URA workers started a survey yesterday to check the actual number of households and the occupancy status.

The URA said that if no one opposes the project, the authority will make acquisition offers to flat or shop owners by the end of May at the earliest.

Cheung said owners who want to sell their flats to the URA immediately will be paid a deposit equivalent to 30 percent of the estimated market value. The rest will be paid after acquisition offers are made formally. Construction work can start in May next year at the earliest. A flat owner surnamed Ling who has lived in Chun Tin Street for about 20 years said: ``I have wanted [the URA] to buy my flat for a long time. The concrete spalling problem has long troubled me.''

A tenant in the block at 43D Ma Tau Wai Road, surnamed Chan, said she welcomes the decision and wants to move into a public housing flat.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 12:09 PM   #946
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Owners want rules relaxed to revamp old industrial buildings
22 February 2010
SCMP

Owners of old industrial buildings, who can convert them to other uses without paying a land premium, want the rules eased so they can also modify the buildings - including adding extra height and floor area.

Under a policy to boost revitalisation of old areas and provide low-cost space for new "pillar" industries, the Development Bureau said in October that from April such buildings could be converted without paying the charge - sometimes amounting to millions of dollars - that is usually imposed for a change of use.

There was initially an enthusiastic response from owners, but many have put their plans on hold because they cannot increase building height, bulk or gross floor area. They say this rules out rooftop facilities like gardens, golf ranges or restaurants.

They also want to know whether they can add extra floor area in return for widening the narrow streets on which many of the buildings stand.

"We are not asking for a significant increase in height and floor areas but there should be flexibility to enhance the vibrancy and outlook of the industrial areas," Andy Leung Kit-man, chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects' task force on the issue, said.

"For a building turned into a sports club, a golf practice area on the rooftop will require a taller fence. A garden designed on the top floor will also result in an increase in floor area as the rooftop was left abandoned in the past."

Leung said adding lifts - which many buildings lack - to provide disabled access to the upper floors would also require extra height.

About 1,000 of the 1,467 industrial blocks in Hong Kong are in nonindustrial zones, concentrated in Kwun Tong, Kowloon Bay, Kwai Chung, Tsuen Wan and Wong Chuk Hang. These are increasingly being used as rooms for musicians, studios for artists and for wholesale businesses, prompting fears that the mix of uses with industrial activities poses a safety threat.

Leung said buildings on the former flight path to the old Kai Tak airport had their height restricted by land lease conditions that would probably require payment of a land premium to change.

Eddy Li Sau-hung, president of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Association, urged the government to clear up the confusion.

"We'd like to widen the roads for pedestrians and plant some trees outside the converted buildings but this would reduce the amount of floor area. Can we add some floor area in the building to compensate for the loss?" he said.

Li owns two industrial blocks in Aberdeen, which he said could be turned into a one-stop facility for overseas traders. "They would live, eat, buy and sell products in the converted block. They can be traders of furniture, fashion or books," he said.

Kenneth Gaw, managing director of Pioneer Global Group, said he was considering turning his industrial block in Kwun Tong into an office for designers and brand outlets. Another option would be to turn it into a hotel serving tourists arriving at the planned Kai Tak cruise terminal.

"Our site has a sea view over Kai Tak and there could be a monorail link between Kai Tak and Kwun Tong in the next 10 years," Gaw said.

"But I'm facing a dilemma. I want my building to look great and competitive but the designs may reduce the existing floor area."

Gaw said his companies had experience in building conversions in the United States, on the mainland and in Hong Kong.

He hopes the government will allow flexibility in transferring floor area within the conversion site as long as the gross area does not exceed the original amount.

Midland Realty sales director Dobe Lee Lai-sheung said the value of some industrial blocks had doubled since the policy was announced last year.

But most owners were awaiting the government's clarification on policy details, she said.

Twelve industrial blocks had been sold since October, including two in Kwai Chung at HK$48.5 million and HK$57.5 million.

The company said the number of industrial block sales in East Kowloon had increased by 8 per cent and their price by 5 per cent since the policy announcement.

Development Opportunities Office chief Laurie Lo Chi-hong said the Lands Department would issue a set of guidelines for architects and owners, stating which design features could be exempted from height and floor area calculations.

"The guiding principle is no significant increase in floor area after conversion. This is clear.

"Waiving the premium is already a huge advantage to the owners, Lo said.
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 07:16 PM   #947
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Development threat to Hong Kong bird haven
AFP
Thu Feb 25, 7:40 am ET

HONG KONG (AFP) – Tens of thousands of birds, including rare and endangered species, flock each year to an unlikely haven sandwiched between high-rise Hong Kong and Shenzhen, the towering frontier of mainland China.

Up to 100,000 birds fly in from as far as Arctic Siberia and Central Asia to winter in marshes squeezed between the two urban giants, or to rest and fatten-up on their annual migration as far south as Australia and New Zealand.

But conservationists say this haven on the "East Asian-Australasian flyway" -- one of the world's main migratory routes -- is in danger of breaking up, as government and construction companies eye valuable land for development.

The birds descend on a 3,000 hectare (7,400 acre) strip of inter-tidal mudflats, mangrove swamps and traditional shrimp and fish ponds that stretch along the Hong Kong side of the Shenzhen river.

About half of the total area falls within the Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay nature reserve that is protected under an international treaty called the Ramsar convention.

The other half lies outside the reserve boundary.

"The area forms a continuous habitat. If any of the parts are lost, the whole system will be fragmented and isolated," says Hong Kong university ecology professor Billy Hau.

At least 10 species of globally endangered birds use this wetland zone, according to conservation group Birdlife International.

They include the striking black-faced spoonbill, huge dalmatian pelicans and top predators such as imperial eagles that follow waterbirds for thousands of kilometres on their migration, preying on individuals along the way.

The unprotected section is in part of the Frontier Closed Area, established in the 1950s by the British former rulers of the territory, not for conservation purposes but as a buffer against mainland illegal immigrants.

The security measure kept the area isolated, effectively freezing development, and that was good for birds.

Now, more than a decade since Hong Kong's handover to China, while the border still remains the government is ready to open large swathes of the closed area as calls to develop the land get louder.

Among those hoping to profit are local landowners who have waited years to cash-in on their property, says Hau, as well as big construction firms poised to swoop on lucrative real-estate deals.

The government is conducting a joint study with global engineering giants ARUP with a view to creating a "combined conservation, eco-tourism and cross-boundary development zone" in the wetlands, according to Hong Kong's planning department.

"Low-density private residential or passive recreational development, in exchange for committed long-term conservation and management of the fish ponds or wetland may be permitted," Kenny Lau of the Planning Department told AFP.

This area "forms an integral part of the ecological system of Deep Bay and is worth preserving," he said.

The department says a balance will be achieved through a "public-private partnership," but conservationist Hau believes that the only way to protect the foraging grounds of endangered birds would be for the government to buy-out private landowners in the ecological corridor.

He isn't optimistic.

"Government will put NGOs and local landowners on a stage and allow them to fight it out so they can sit there and do nothing. They always do this," he told AFP.

In another part of the zone, separate from the Closed Area study, a 100-hectare wasteland called the Lok Ma Chau loop that almost bisects the marshes is slated for development.

Spoonbills, herons and raptors regularly fly across the patch, once a dumping ground for toxic mud dredged from the Shenzhen river, to reach fish ponds at the northern end of the wetlands.

Here the government, again with the help of ARUP, is studying plans to build a higher education and high-tech development zone, to be administered jointly with mainland authorities in a project hailed as a step towards Hong Kong's economic integration with mainland China.

"The loop is going to sever the north of the wetland from the south," Bena Smith, director of the WWF office that runs the Ramsar site told AFP.

Smith says the survival of all of Hong Kong's wetlands has become of international importance in the past decade because of rampant development elsewhere in Asia, including the destruction of thousands of hectares of bird habitats in mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea.

"Mai Po is one of the key spots on a regional network of wetlands that link to form the East Asian-Australasian flyway," he said.

ARUP declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

Access roads will cut the slim sliver of wetland that would remain on the southern edge of the loop, Mike Kilburn, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong bird watching society told AFP, adding that otters, leopard cats, civets, turtles and terrapins would also lose habitat.

Kilburn says that ecological realities are being lost in the hot air surrounding the development studies.

"A large bird, such a pelican, needs up to 500 metres to itself to feel secure," he told AFP.

"But you're just progressively shrinking the area and it's death by a thousand cuts. You do a cut here, a cut there, and suddenly you realise there's nothing left to protect."
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Old March 5th, 2010, 06:18 PM   #948
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Home prices boosted by record low completions
The Standard
Friday, March 05, 2010

A record low number of homes completed last year - just 7,160 - helped boost prices in the fourth quarter by 23 percent.

The completion of homes smaller than 1,000 square feet fell 38 percent to the low-water mark of 4,740, said Deputy Commissioner of Rating and Valuation Tang Ping-kwong.

"Thanks to low property completions and people's fear of not being able to buy homes, there were fluctuations in property prices."

Midland Realty (1200) chief analyst Buggle Lau Ka-fai shared Tang's view that the completion of some homes was deferred to the beginning of this year, but he said low interest rates and abundant liquidity were the main reasons prices surged last year.

Eddie Hui Chi-man, an associate professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, blamed the economic recovery for the sharp rise, but said speculators, spotting a low at the start of 2009, stepped up their investments.

"In the next two to five years, there'll be at least 53,000 homes available," Tang said.

About 14,260 units - double last year's number - will be completed this year and 10,960 next year. Most will be in the New Territories, with Yuen Long delivering 27 percent of total homes.

Tseung Kwan O - the main area for new homes in recent years - will contribute 22 percent.

Hui said a higher supply will stabilize the market, but he does not think the number of homes to be finished this year is high.

Lau agreed, noting that many of the homes - including flats at Le Prestige built by Cheung Kong (0001) - had already been sold as uncompleted units last year.

He said selling more land will not help to moderate prices in the near term.

Lau expects prices to rise between 10 and 15 percent this year.

As vacancies fell surprisingly to 4.3 percent - and that of homes smaller than 1,000 square feet to 3.8 percent - rentals will find strong support and rise by up to 20 percent, Lau said.

The rental index in the fourth quarter crept up 2 percent from a year ago, according to the Rating and Valuation Department.

Following good market response for the remaining sandwich-class homes in Tseung Kwan O, the Housing Authority is prepared to discuss with the government the sale of the 4,000 Home Ownership Scheme homes. The authority will accept applications in July and August at the earliest. There are 1,293 such HOS homes in Tin Shui Wai and 1,110 in Yau Tong.

Hui said it is reasonable to relaunch these homes to meet the housing needs of the less well-off.

He believes HOS homes may help stabilize private property prices. He also favors an increase in land supply to build more homes under the scheme.
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Old March 9th, 2010, 02:40 PM   #949
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Lawmakers call for sparing use of lower building-sale threshold
9 March 2010
South China Morning Post

A new rule that makes it easier for developers to acquire old buildings should be used only at the development chief's discretion, lawmakers say.

Some legislators are also calling for a mediation system to be set up before the rule takes effect.

Lawmakers met yesterday to discuss the Development Bureau's proposal to lower the threshold for the compulsory auction of buildings that are 50 years or older. The change will take effect next month, unless lawmakers block it. Under the amended law, developers will be able to seek a compulsory sale after acquiring 80 per cent of an old building, down from 90 per cent now.

Pan-democratic lawmakers said yesterday that the lower threshold should not apply to all buildings 50 years and above. They called on the secretary for development to decide which buildings could be redeveloped under the new rule.

"We trust that the secretary will only allow dilapidated [buildings] to be subjected to a lower threshold," Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said. "We have to ensure that the redevelopment of such buildings will be in the public interest and property rights of the minority are protected."

Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee proposed the same condition, citing the Ma Tau Wai Road project recently started by the Urban Renewal Authority as an example. The redevelopment of those blocks, including one that collapsed in January and killed four people, was endorsed by Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

To also proposed postponing the effective date of the amended law to April next year to ensure a mediation mechanism is ready when the threshold is lowered.

He said mediation would offer homeowners more options apart from accepting the price of compulsory sale. For example, owners could be offered a shop or a flat of the same value, he said.

Artists who have been renting cheaply in industrial buildings are worried by the new rule. Ah-kok Wong, a guitar player who petitioned outside the Legislative Council yesterday, said speeding up redevelopment of industrial buildings would force them out. "Industrial blocks are our last shelter," he said.
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Old March 11th, 2010, 05:00 PM   #950
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A never-ending struggle called urban renewal
10 March 2010
South China Morning Post

If all goes according to plan, a blueprint for Hong Kong's urban renewal could be presented to the government in a few months' time. But will such a document really be accepted as the last word on the subject?

An "urban renewal strategy" review initiated by the Development Bureau, guided by a Steering Committee and chaired by the Secretary for Development, was launched in July 2008. The process was slated to take two years and should therefore be nearing completion.

One may wonder, however, with urban renewal being such a huge and complicated problem that affects the quality of life of millions of citizens and requires balancing their immediate needs with long-term planning and the economic position of the city, whether the review will finally "sort out" the problem.

The reality is we never will, because by the time the present set of target buildings are sorted out, the next batch will reach their state of exhaustion, dilapidation and obsolescence.

So the battle will go on forever and as urban "renewalists", we can only concentrate on getting our current state of play right by understanding the meaning of the three words in the concept of "urban renewal strategy".

In terms of "urban", renewalists should focus on maintaining the social network of areas to be redeveloped as well as the living quality of inhabitants.

The government should have a macro policy on planning strategies for urban renewal, with careful and flexible consideration given to the future development needs of Hong Kong.

Urban renewalists face challenges in dealing with a high density and multi-faceted environment, with competing uses that require a fine balance.

In the formulation of this macro policy, the government should, in addition to land-related professionals such as architects, engineers and town planners, engage social experts who can help the decision-makers reach a better understanding of the social impact brought about by each urban renewal project in order to mitigate any conflicts, and balance the interests and needs of all stakeholders and sectors of the community.

Urban renewalists should adopt a holistic approach, taking into consideration both the tangible and intangible qualities of the urban fabric, rather than focusing only on the built elements. Satisfactory relocation of domestic, commercial and institutional residents should be a priority.

In terms of "Renewal", when buildings reach a certain age, it is inevitable that they will need to be renewed. The decision to rehabilitate or redevelop a certain building will depend on the age as well as the physical condition of each building and the standard of its facilities such as lifts, electricity supply and fire services system.

The buildings and their facilities must be capable of being maintained or upgraded to present or future standards, so that the living conditions of the occupants can be improved. Otherwise, redevelopment should be considered rather than rehabilitation.

Renewal also involves comprehensively revitalising older districts which many senior citizens call "home". In order to renew and improve the local citizens' living conditions, injection of new elements such as commercial and communal facilities into the old districts is important.

Historical elements of value may have to be preserved to sustain the built environment, allowing inhabitants to enjoy their heritage and culture, attracting tourists, while letting the younger generation move in with modern conveniences, and economic and environmental gains.

Due consideration must be given to the population of the affected districts, their needs and wants, and the impact of the renewal exercise on the existing transport network, communal facilities and economic efficiency.

There should be a careful balance of heritage preservation and urban renewal. Everyone must communicate openly to arrive at a consensus in terms of the core value of heritage preservation to guide the selection of buildings to preserve.

Heritage buildings should be living and functional structures that add value to our society, rather than mere historical artifacts to be displayed like a stage set.

In terms of "Strategy", urban renewal should be based on a three-dimensional, district-based urban regeneration strategy. The city environment can be compared to delicate pieces of urban fabric interwoven with each other.

The context and relations of areas do not actually have any physical boundaries. Therefore the inside and outside of each community area as well as the interfaces of one area to another must be addressed and taken into account in order to maintain an integrated cityscape.

Flexibility is always a part of a holistic approach to urban renewal. We must maintain the unique and special features of the districts in planning the infrastructure, community services and facilities, and ensure that they fit the local character of each district.

The Urban Renewal Strategy should be implemented by a central co-ordinating body alongside the Urban Renewal Authority which is empowered to facilitate and deal with all multidisciplinary and cross-government departmental matters including acquisition, compensation and clearance, planning and design, land lease and development requirements, infrastructure, and community services and facilities .

The public should be consulted before any strategy is adopted and should be involved in the decision-making process via a comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan. Where the private sector is involved, transparency and rules of their engagement should be well established.

Through this central body co-ordinating all components of urban renewal, efficiency and effectiveness will be enhanced by the removal of unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks and red tape during the process.

Kyran Sze is a vice-president of the Hong Kong Institute of Real Estate Administrators
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Old March 13th, 2010, 06:34 PM   #951
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Investors eye cheaper apartments
Local and mainland buyers are now looking for a good yield and turn their attention to the other end of the real estate sector for better returns, writes Alex Frew McMillan mass market

12 March 2010
South China Morning Post

When the going is good for Hong Kong real estate, it's very good for luxury property. But can Hong Kong's luxury market continue to outperform the mass market?

It doesn't make sense that price gains for high-end homes can constantly outstrip the market as a whole.

In percentage terms, they would eventually become exponentially more expensive. With luxury property prices up 44.5 per cent in a year, the likelihood of a trickle-down effect is encouraging some investors to shift their focus.

"Given the significant rise in luxury residential prices last year, a number of investors have shifted to the mass market - in particular major estates in the New Territories - to seek better return opportunities," Knight Frank stated in its report last month on Hong Kong residential property. One veteran investor bought 10 mass-residential units in central Sha Tin for HK$20 million, while another bought 12 flats in Tuen Mun, in several estates, for a similar amount.

Sun Hung Kai Properties also saw a successful launch of its 1,890-apartment Yoho Midtown project, a multi-tower development in Yuen Long. Despite being a long way from what most would consider midtown Hong Kong, the first batch of flats released for sale fetched an average of HK$5,400 per sqft.

That was much higher than the going rate in the area. Apartments in Yoho Town, the first phase of the development, are selling for about HK$4,300 on the secondary market. After selling 1,100 flats in Yoho Midtown's launch, the developer has since raised asking prices to an average of HK$6,000 per sqft.

Rental yields for mass-market apartments can hit 4 per cent or 5 per cent, double what a luxury property is likely to command. Luxury yields are averaging 2.6 per cent, and are still tightening since prices are rising faster than rents. Although luxury buyers are focusing on capital gains, and may not rent out their investments at all, the higher yields do provide an added attraction for mass-market housing.

Tim Murphy, founder and managing director of the Hong Kong-based real estate development and advisory company IP Global, believes investors should shift their focus this year because cheaper apartments appear to have more potential.

"Much of the news in 2009 was around Conduit Road and luxury properties," Murphy says. "Now you are seeing people moving to the mass-market properties, whether that be in Kowloon, the New Territories or Hong Kong Island. Buyers are now looking for a good yield or looking for owner-occupier properties with low interest rates."

Mainland buyers have been most interested in higher-end properties, particularly new ones. But that may be beginning to change. Research from Nomura International, studying the impact of mainland buyers in Hong Kong, shows that interest in apartments worth less than HK$5 million doubled as of the end of last year. For mainland corporations, their interest was actually strongest in that category of flat.

If mainland buyers switch their focus, or more middle-class buyers become active in Hong Kong, it could have a dramatic effect on mass market housing, according to Paul Louie, one of the analysts who compiled the report. "When the Chinese began travelling, the richer guys came first and then, afterwards, the middle class began to come to Hong Kong," Louie wrote in an e-mail. "So this initial wave of demand from China is rightly targeting the higher end, but as the middle class becomes more familiar with Hong Kong, they may follow and also buy a home. In which case, the cascade of demand to the mass market may be a huge theme for 2010 and 2011."

Aside from Yoho Midtown, though, the bulk of new developments coming on the market in the first quarter of this year are at the luxury end of the spectrum. Festival City Phase One, a development in Tai Wai from Cheung Kong Holdings and MTR Corp, is the nearest in price, expected to fetch HK$9,000 to HK$13,000 per sqft, according to Knight Frank. Sino Land's development, The Hermitage, in Tai Kok Tsui is anticipated to fetch HK$13,000 to HK$15,000 per sqft.

Two other new developments, Hongkong Land's Serenade and Hill Paramount in Tai Wai, could price at about HK$20,000 per sqft, while the Larvotto, a project by Sun Hung Kai Properties, Kerry Properties and Paliburg Holdings that has commanding sea views from Ap Lei Chau, may go on the market at HK$25,000 per sqft, or HK$60 million for apartments of 2,400 to 2,500 sqft.

Knight Frank is forecasting that luxury residential prices will climb a further 18 per cent this year, with mass-market housing almost keeping pace with gains of 15 per cent. The company notes that although luxury properties are faring better now, they fell further during the financial crisis.

"In the past two to three months there have been signs the mass market is picking up its pace," says Xavier Wong Kit-hung, the head of research at Knight Frank's Hong Kong branch. "They can keep pace with the luxury residential market now, but over the long term it is difficult."

The lack of supply at the high end of the market ensures price gains there. "For smaller units, people have many choices, but for luxury residential market the supply is too limited," he says.

Of course, that may change if developers continue to target the high end. And, like Yoho Town, new developments from Sun Hung Kai Properties, Swire and Kerry Properties will command an extra premium, whatever end of the spectrum they fall.

"As long as they are new and produced by good developers, they can always command good premiums," Wong says.
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Old March 16th, 2010, 03:30 PM   #952
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Why property prices won't go away as a talking point
16 March 2010
South China Morning Post

Often it seems as if there is only ever one topic of conversation in Hong Kong: the city's property market.

The angle of approach might change from time to time. One day all the talk might be about how dreadful it is that prices are rising so fast; the next, how awful it is that they have fallen so far. One month everyone might be disgusted that developers are making such fat profits; another, that lousy earnings prospects are hammering their share prices.

But although the exact complaint changes, the underlying topic is always the same.

Right now, the debate is about whether or not the government should resume building subsidised housing for sale to buyers eager to get a foothold on the first rung of the city's property ladder.

Backers of the idea argue that a falling supply of new flats has created a housing shortage, pushing prices sharply higher and shutting too many of the city's inhabitants out of the property market.

Opponents say a government home building programme would flood the market and trigger a property market crash.

Both arguments need examination.

Firstly, it's undeniable that home prices in Hong Kong are eye-wateringly expensive. According to government figures, average prices rose 28 per cent last year (see the first chart below).

Today, unremarkable shoebox-size flats in far-flung districts of the city regularly change hands at prices per square foot 50 per cent higher than apartments in the crushingly trendy central London borough of Islington.

But whether this run-up in prices can be attributed to a housing shortage is doubtful.

Those who believe it is typically point to the relatively low numbers of new flats that have been built by developers over recent years. Last year, developers completed just 7,160 private sector flats, which compares to more than 26,000 in 2004.

Yet although the number of new flats getting finished may have been relatively low over recent years, the number of those flats sold by developers has also been low.

As a result, at the end of last year 47,350 private sector flats were sitting empty in Hong Kong, enough to satisfy several years worth of demand (see the second chart below).

So, if there's a shortage of housing, it's an artificial shortage, with developers holding newly completed properties back from the market and buyers allowing flats to sit empty in the expectation that further price rises will generate fat profits when they do eventually sell.

This is hardly surprising. The deposit rate is currently lower than the inflation rate, which means anyone who keeps their savings in the bank is losing money. At the same time, the mortgage rate is scarcely higher than the inflation rate, which means mortgages are effectively free. As a result, lots of people have concluded that it makes sense to take their money out of the bank and put it into a new flat as a superior store of value.

This is a time-honoured tradition in Hong Kong, and the consequence is a steep increase in prices that makes buying their own home unaffordable for much of the population.

That sharpens the divisions in society, but despite the rhetoric, don't expect the government to do anything that actually changes the situation.

If it were to embark on a programme of building subsidised flats in a bid to boost home ownership, it would drastically alter people's expectations of future price gains. That could indeed trigger a crash and would certainly provoke howls of protest from existing home owners - and developers - afraid that their investments would lose value. That was the big mistake former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa made.

The government could be more inventive, perhaps by introducing a recurring tax on vacant properties. But that too would run into staunch opposition from developers mindful of their future profit margins.

As a result, the government is highly unlikely to do anything beyond largely cosmetic measures.

And that of course, suits the government, which relies heavily on high property prices to generate revenues from stamp duty, land premium payments, and developers' profit tax.

That means that home ownership will continue to remain unaffordable for a large chunk of the population.

And of course it means that Hong Kong people will never lack an endlessly fascinating topic of conversation.
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Old March 17th, 2010, 12:07 PM   #953
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LCQ15: Planning for open space and green belt in the community
Government Press Release
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Following is a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 10):

Question:

It has been learnt that in recent years quite a number of members of the public are very concerned about the planning for open space and green belt in the community. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective total areas which have been zoned as open space and green belt under the Outline Zoning Plans at present, broken down by District Council district, and among them, the respective areas of land which have still not been developed according to such land use, as well as the development timetable for such areas of land; if there is no timetable, of the reasons for that;

(b) according to the standards stipulated in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines, of the respective total shortfalls in the areas of open space and green belt in each District Council district at present; and

(c) of the total areas of private land which have been zoned as open space and green belt; whether the Government plans to recover such areas of land for development as open space and green belt; if so, of the timetables; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

The Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines (HKPSG) suggests that a minimum of 20 hectares (ha) of open space (including 10 ha of local open space and 10 ha of district open space) should be provided for every 100,000 persons. Green belt areas are the existing natural environment and are not formed through development. The purpose of designating appropriate natural environment in built-up areas/urban fringe areas as green belt is to protect the environment from encroachment by urban development. The HKPSG has not suggested the area of green belt that should be provided in Hong Kong. However, it is worth mentioning that out of the 1,100 square kilometres of area of Hong Kong, 46% of the land are country parks and special areas which are under protection and for the enjoyment of the public.

The reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a)&(c) Annex 1 lists out the total area zoned as open space on the Outline Zoning Plans by District Council district, and the area of private land thereof. The total area of land zoned as open space will be greater than the area suggested in accordance with the calculation under the HKPSG. The reason is that the former includes slope areas which may not be suitable for development, as well as open space required to be developed to cope with long-term population growth. The departments concerned will plan the timetable for implementing open space to cope with population growth in various districts, and will consider whether it is necessary to resume private land for such purpose.

In response to part (a) of the question on development timetable, taking the Central and Western District as an example (see Annex 2), the area of existing (developed) open space is 44 ha. The area of open space planned but awaiting development/currently under development is 13 ha, of which only 0.3 ha is private land. The relevant Government departments will implement open space on public land (including the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park under works) according to population growth and subject to the availability of public resources. The development timetable of the small area of open space on private land depends on the development of relevant private projects. The Government has no plan for the time being to develop this small area of open space through land resumption. Annex 1 also lists out the total area of green belt in various districts and the area of private land thereof.

(b) Annex 2 sets out information on open space that the HKPSG suggests to provide for various districts, as well as information on existing and planned open space. The figure on existing open space includes the "Open Space" on Outline Zoning Plans which have already been implemented according to the planned use, as asked about in part (a) of the question. As shown from the information, out of the 18 districts in the territory, currently only the Wan Chai and Central and Western Districts are short of open space which should have been provided. However, if we count in the open space to be built, the total area of open space of the two districts will exceed the area suggested under the HKPSG. In this regard, we have, based on the planned population of the Central and Western and Wan Chai Districts, planned and reserved sufficient land for open space in the two districts (including Central Reclamation Phase III, the waterfront open space in Wan Chai North, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Phase II and a park under the Hopewell Centre II Hotel Development project).

http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/2...1003100181.htm
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Old March 20th, 2010, 09:07 PM   #954
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Law makes it easier to redevelop old buildings, but also provides for mediation
18 March 2010
South China Morning Post

The Legislative Council has passed a controversial law to make it easier for private developers to acquire buildings. It will take effect next month and potentially affects residents in more than 4,000 buildings.

The law, which comes into effect on April 1, will allow developers to seek compulsory sale of a building after acquiring 80 per cent of the property interests in it, down from the present 90 per cent. It affects old buildings and those where developers own all but one unit.

The bill was passed last night after nine hours of debate, with all 14 amendments voted down because of opposition in the functional constituencies.

The amendments, proposed by the pan-democratic camp and independent legislator Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, sought to either repeal or water down the bill.

Human Rights Monitor expressed regret and said that the measure favoured developers.

After the bill was passed, a few property owners in the public gallery yelled in anger and were removed by security guards.

Victor Sin Ho-yuen, who is afraid he will lose his shop in Causeway Bay next month, said he expected the outcome and would try to seek mediation with the developer.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, persuading lawmakers to support the bill without amendment, said her bureau was preparing a pilot scheme for mediating disputes arising from the law.

"I promise we will take into account councillors' views in drawing up the mediation system," she said. "Apart from cash, we will see if we can make available more options, including 'flat for flat' and transfer of property shares for the minority owners.

"A mediator can also help them rent a shop in the same district of similar market value, for example."

The proposal means that in future the acquiring developer and minority owners can choose to resolve their dispute by resolution before going to the court. This is intended to help owners who do not agree on the acquisition price or who prefer to continue to live at the site after redevelopment. But mediation would not be mandatory, Lam said.

The measure, to be introduced under the existing Land (Compulsory Sale for Redevelopment) Ordinance, would in its present format be confined to three types of buildings: those with all units but one acquired; any blocks older than 50 years; and industrial blocks outside industrial zones that are older than 30 years.

There are about 4,000 buildings older than 50 years old in Hong Kong, and the number is estimated to increase by 500 every year.

Six lawmakers proposed 14 amendments, including repeal of the bill; limiting target buildings to those with a repair order or those in priority redevelopment areas to be designated by the government; and deferral of its effective date by one year so that mediation can be launched at the same time.

The pan-democratic camp argued that the existing ordinance, passed by the largely pro-government provisional Legco in 1998, was already flawed and resulted in controversies from property owners.

Among the 20 compulsory sale orders since 1998, the "flat for flat" option was only available in the case of Lai Sing Court in Tai Hang Road, where Hongkong Land let owners return to the redeveloped Serenade as the profit margin was large.

The lawmakers said the government should not facilitate private developers taking over properties if there was no important public interest involved.

James To Kun-sun, of the Democrats, said the law could also result in bulky, wall-like towers because a government review of the development intensity has not yet finished amending the plans of some old districts.
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Old March 21st, 2010, 07:41 PM   #955
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Crowne Plaza Hotel, Causeway Bay

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Old March 27th, 2010, 09:08 PM   #956
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Old industrial blocks may be used as columbariums
Buildings near cemeteries likely to be selected, says minister

25 March 2010
South China Morning Post

Old industrial buildings near cemeteries could be chosen as sites for new columbariums to meet the huge public demand, the health chief said yesterday.

But what industrial buildings and in what districts will they be chosen are still being studied by the government under the principle that any such facilities have to be located far away from residences to avoid nuisance.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok yesterday hinted that buildings near cemeteries or burial grounds would stand a higher chance of being selected.

He declined to give further details but pledged that his bureau would work closely with the Planning and Lands departments in drawing up the plans.

"We will announce the findings once we make up our mind," Chow told lawmakers yesterday.

He said the bureau would issue a policy on columbariums in May or June to ease the shortage of public niches that has created a boom in private columbariums. Some of these private facilities are alleged to have breached land leases or planning regulations.

There are about 1,000 private industrial buildings which can be revitalised, according to the Development Bureau. While many are located in old industrial districts, some are on the fringe.

Kwai Chung is one such district. There are several industrial buildings and warehouses next to the Tsuen Wan Chinese Permanent Cemetery as well as a public crematorium and columbarium.

A person close to district planning projects yesterday said the Planning Department had yet to identify sites for new columbariums but rezoning industrial buildings for other uses would require approval from the Town Planning Board.

Yau Fuk-loi, a villager from Sheung Shui Tsui Keng Lo Wai, where some village houses are being converted into columbariums, said converting industrial buildings would not help address their problem. "Without a law to regulate private columbariums and stop them from operation, we villagers will never have peace," he said.

Yau was among 100 people who vented their anger outside the health bureau's office in the Murray Building in Central yesterday afternoon over the building of illegal columbariums.

The protesters were from Tsui Keng, Kam Shan, Chek Nai Ping as well as Tsuen Wan Lo Wai village. They were all frustrated with the government's failure to stop village houses from being converted into columbariums. They also staged protests at their respective villages in the morning.

The villagers were also joined by some residents from Hung Hom, where private urn storages have been thriving inside residential blocks.

The protest ended peacefully after the bureau agreed to arrange a meeting with them in two weeks.

Meanwhile, Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene Cheuk Wing-hing yesterday said more people had opted for sea burial, as about 140 applications had been received in the past two months. Reservations for the next five weeks are full.

The department can handle about 500 sea burials a year. Cheuk said it might increase the service if demand was high. "We are not trying to replace urns with sea burials. We are just offering another option," he said.
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Old March 28th, 2010, 08:44 PM   #957
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Veteran town planners step aside for young blood
27 March 2010
SCMP

There's been a changing of the guard at the watchdog that decides the shape of Hong Kong's built environment.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has replaced almost half the appointed members of the Town Planning Board. Most have served the maximum six years government appointment rules allow; one has served longer still.

While the changes are largely like for like - professionals and academics replacing others of the same stripe - the new appointees are younger, and the vice-chairman is a former chairman of the Hong Kong branch of Friends of the Earth.

The board is one of the city's most powerful statutory bodies. It approves changes in land uses and large-scale developments affecting the government's land revenue and the fortunes of developers.

Dr Ng Cho-nam, one of the 14 outgoing members, hopes the new board will be diligent.

"The board should not be a rubber stamp. I hope new members will be devoted and engaged in the board's discussions. Read papers before joining the meeting," he said.

Ng and the rest of those leaving the board attended their final meeting yesterday. The new board meets for the first time on Friday.

Among the outgoing members are experienced professionals and outspoken academics such as structural engineers Dr Greg Wong Chak-yan and Edmund Leung Kwong-ho; Ng, a geography professor; architecture professor Bernard Lim Wan-fung and professor of biology David Dudgeon.

Wong, a former president of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, had been a member since 2000 and vice-chairman since 2006.

Only one of the outgoing members, legislator Starry Lee Wai-king, is leaving after having served a single three-year term.

The government will maintain its influence on the town planning process - the permanent secretary in the Development Bureau will be the board's chairman. But the vice-chairman will no longer be Wong the engineer but a banker, Stanley Wong Yuen-fai. He is director and deputy general manager of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Asia) and a former chairman of Friends of the Earth (HK).

Among the younger members will be thirty-something barrister Laurence Li Lu-jen, a convenor of the 30S Group - a social and political forum for young professionals. Li also sits on the Antiquities Advisory Board.

Another is Clarence Leung Wang-ching, a director of Sun Hing Knitting Factory and a member of the committee of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce who is the son of businessman and legislator Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen. Clarence Leung launched the Hong Kong Spirit Ambassadors Programme with other tycoons' sons this month to promote Hong Kong's "fighting spirit".

Another of the outgoing board members, Bernard Lim Wan-fung, said that in the past six years, board members had witnessed reforms to the town planning process. In 2005, the board had been forced to open its hearings to the public.

Members of the public were also allowed to present their point of view at meetings.

"This is a significant change. The public has been increasingly aware of the city's planning and has taken action to ask for a lower-density environment," Lim said.

He said the controversial redevelopment of Wedding Card Street and the Mega Tower project, both in Wan Chai, had made history: design elements proposed by residents were incorporated into Urban Renewal Authority plans. Public pressure also forced Sir Gordon Wu Ying-sheung to attend a board meeting to explain the merits of the Mega Tower plan.

Who sits on the new Town Planning Board?

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai

Director and deputy general manager of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Asia) and former chairman of Friends of the Earth (HK)

Ho Puay-peng*

Professor of architecture at Chinese University

Hui Chi-man*

Professor of land and construction economics at Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Lau Chi-pang*

Assistant professor of history at Lingnan University

Julia Lau Man-kwan*

Architect and member of the council of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects

Joseph Lee Hun-wei*

Professor of civil engineering and pro-vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong

Clarence Leung Wang-ching*

Son of businessman and former legislator Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen. A member of the Small and Medium Enterprises Committee under the Trade and Industry Department

Laurence Li Lu-jen*

Barrister and convenor of the 30S Group, a forum for young professionals

Lo Wai-kwok*

Engineer and Sha Tin district councillor

Roger Luk Koon-hoo*

Former managing director of Hang Seng Bank. Member of the board of the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute

Anita Ma Wing-tseung*

Lawyer

Wong Sze-chun*

Professor of civil engineering at the University of Hong Kong and a member of the Transport Advisory Committee

Yau Lai-ping*

Deputy chief economist of the Trade Development Council

Yau Wing-kwong*

Chairman of Tai Po Environmental Association and Tai Po district councillor

Stephen Yip Moon-wah*

A surveyor and Housing Authority member

Chan Bing-woon

A solicitor and chairman of the Hong Kong Mediation Council

Edwin Chan Hon-wan

Professor, building and real estate department, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Walter Chan Kar-lok

Non-executive director of the Urban Renewal Authority and a practising lawyer

Maggie Chan Man-ki

Lawyer and Wong Tai Sin district councillor

Raymond Chan Yuk-ming

Surveyor and spokesman for the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors

Cheng Yan-kee

Structural engineer

Felix Fong Wo

Lawyer

Anna Kwong Sum-yee

Architect and chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects

James Lau Chi-wang

Engineer

Leung Kong-yui

Member of the council of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport

Rock Chen Chung-nin

Son of Chen Yuan-chu, honorary chairman of the Textile Council of Hong Kong. Chairman of Pacific Falcon Investment Group and committee member of The Chinese General Chamber of Commerce

Paul Lam Kwan-sing

Chair professor of the department of biology and chemistry at the City University of Hong Kong

Maurice Lee Wai-man

Lawyer

Timothy Ma Kam-wah

Executive director of the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association

Winnie Tang Shuk-ming

Founder and chief executive officer of ESRI China (Hong Kong), a branch of a leading international producer of geographic information system software

Note: New members (*)

All members to serve for three years
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Old April 10th, 2010, 07:35 PM   #958
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Compulsory sale law no joke for flat owners
1 April 2010
South China Morning Post

It is perhaps appropriate that the new law on the compulsory sale of old buildings becomes effective today - on April Fool's Day. This is not to say the law is a joke. On the contrary, it is deadly serious. Any step that borders on interfering with people's property rights, a cornerstone of capitalism, must be serious.

The revamped law will allow developers to seek compulsory sale of a building after acquiring 80 per cent of property interests in the building, down from 90 per cent. It affects residential buildings older than 50 years and those where developers own all but one unit. Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said that the law will help ordinary flat owners, speed up urban renewal and provide a fairer deal for everyone. That reasoning seems more spurious than serious.

Already, there is anecdotal evidence that some developers are breaking off negotiations with flat owners on estates where they have amassed 80 per cent of interests.

The law has effectively undercut the remaining owners' positions. By significantly lowering the forced-sale threshold, it has weakened the bargaining power of ordinary property owners to fight for what they think is a market price for their flat. Without the resources needed to hire surveyors or lawyers, owners will probably have to settle for what developers offer.

Many developers will be salivating already over old buildings in high-value districts such as Mid-Levels and Pok Fu Lam, rather than those in old districts where urban renewal really is a priority.

Many of these old buildings are well maintained, spacious and beautiful. In the face of this new law, property owners from different districts have formed an alliance by pooling their resources. Lam promised when the bill was passed that the government would help mediate disputes; now that the law has taken effect, it's time that details of such mediation and other assistance for homeowners be unveiled.
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Old April 12th, 2010, 08:49 AM   #959
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Rescued dogs may be back on death row
Kennel closure makes homes search urgent

12 April 2010
South China Morning Post

Nearly 200 rescued dogs are facing the threat of being destroyed unless new homes can be found for them when an animal charity is evicted from its kennels in Pok Fu Lam at the end of the month.

Hong Kong Dog Rescue is being forced to move to make way for the site's redevelopment, and its hopes of moving to a new 42,000-square-foot green site near Tung Chung have been dashed by objections.

Swire, which owns the Pok Fu Lam site, has already extended the charity's stay five times on a month-by-month basis since the lease expired at the end of November but has told the charity the current deadline to move by the end of April is final.

The charity's founder, Sally Andersen, faces a race against time to find homes for 170 rescued dogs kept in the kennels as well as 50 more kept outside. She is launching a city-wide appeal for foster and adoptive parents for the dogs, but says that with less than three weeks to go the situation is desperate.

"It is a lot of homes to find," she said. "But there are seven million people in Hong Kong, so finding homes for 170 dogs shouldn't be impossible if enough people know about it. This is it for us now. We don't have anything else up our sleeves and we have nowhere to go. It is serious."

Andersen said her charity would do everything possible to avoid having the dogs put down but she added: "If it comes to it and we have nowhere for the dogs to go, there won't be an alternative."

Donors have so far raised about HK$1.5 million towards a new home for the charity, which was set up in 2002 and has found homes for thousands of stray and abandoned dogs that would otherwise have been destroyed. However, the only potential site identified beyond Tung Chung so far is a HK$6.7 million plot in the Sai Kung area.

The collapse of the plan to move to the Tung Chung site, which was offered by Swire, was a major blow for the charity, which was in the advanced planning stage for the move when the objections effectively blocked it.

"We were keen to create showpiece green kennels on that site, and the plans for it were fantastic," Andersen said. "We stopped looking for other sites and focused all our energies on building kennels which would be environmentally friendly."

However, the site turned out to be highly sensitive ecologically and situated next to a protected stream, bringing objections to the planning application from a number of government departments.

"Even if by some miracle we could overturn the objections, it would take a long time and Swire are insisting we move out by the end of this month. What we really need is a big sponsor or donor to help us buy land first, so we will have somewhere to move to and also so that we can build our new homing centre."
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Old April 13th, 2010, 05:49 PM   #960
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Show and tell
The Standard
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Property developers who give potential buyers false or misleading information have been warned to get their house in order.

Housing chief Eva Cheng Yu-wah yesterday revealed details of yet-to-be- announced guidelines developers will have to adhere to - or face the prospect of legislation to bring them into line.

Cheng will meet the developers' industry body later this week to discuss the issue. After visiting a fourth lot of show flats in three weeks yesterday, Cheng said that all developers have room for improvement.

"First, something can be done on show flats so that consumers don't have any misconceptions. For example, certain partitions or settings may make a room seem more spacious," she said.

Along with the Real Estate Developers Association, officials are also investigating the possibility that developers must include a completely empty show flat to give a true sense of space.

"We will require promotional materials to provide the correct region and address," said Cheng, adding that while sales brochures include comprehensive information, advertisements may tell readers nothing in this respect.

"Also, in response to market feedback, we want the information disclosed to include connected transactions involving senior executives."

K Wah International (0173) chairman Lui Che-woo welcomed official rules "as long as they are not too strict."

REDA vice chairman Stewart Leung Chi-kin earlier raised concerns over the definition of "senior executives" and said there are already disclosure criteria for connected transactions at listed developers.

Polytechnic University professor Eddie Hui Chi-man said: "Frankly, more could be done. The proposals concern what can be 'seen.'

"People know about the locations even though they are not clearly spelled out. They also know that the decor [at show flats] is not for real."

He believes transparency on prices may prove more important. While clearer floor plans have helped, how developers price different homes is not so clear.

Cheng said regulation through the REDA has brought progress, as reflected in the disclosure of saleable area and transactions within five days.

She said the government may revoke presale consent or further legislate if the rules prove insufficient.
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