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Old April 17th, 2010, 07:33 PM   #961
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Mortgage rates `rising'
The Standard
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mortgage rates look set to pick up next month as fierce competition in the market has weighed on banks' margins.

Citibank (Hong Kong) chief executive Weber Lo Wai-pak said its current rate of Hong Kong interbank offered rate plus 0.65 percent represents the low-water mark. He revealed the lender intends to raise its rate for new customers to HIBOR plus 0.7 percent in May, on par with the reference level suggested by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

With one-month and three-month HIBOR at 0.08 percent and 0.13 percent, respectively, yesterday, Citibank's rates equal 0.73 percent and 0.78 percent.

Both Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and DBS Bank (Hong Kong) said similar mortgage promotions based on HIBOR will end in April.

They will launch new plans in May pending further details, their spokesmen said.

Some lenders noted in a Hong Kong Association of Banks meeting that HIBOR- based mortgages are priced too cheaply and brings scant profits, Lo said.

While there is as yet no industry consensus on these mortgages, Citibank hopes banks can raise rates at the same time so that it will not become less competitive, Lo said. The bank will keep its cash rebate unchanged.

Hang Seng Bank (0011) vice chairwoman Margaret Leung Ko May-yee said the bank has as yet no intention to increase HIBOR-based mortgage rates, but will monitor market conditions closely.

HSBC introduced in February a HIBOR plus 0.65 percent plan, which was widely believed to have fueled market competition. This led the HKMA to introduce in March the "reference levels" of HIBOR plus 0.7 percent and prime minus 3.1 percent.

While mortgages based on prime rate - currently 5.25 percent - minus 2.75 percent to 2.85 percent also very low, they still bring reasonable profits, Lo said.

Asked about a remark that banks have raised commissions to real estate agents to fight for businesses, Lo noted neither Citibank nor any counterpart he knows of has done so.
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Old April 24th, 2010, 05:30 PM   #962
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Property picks rattled by new rules
The Standard
Friday, April 23, 2010

Local property stocks took a pounding yesterday after the government outlined new steps to curb speculation and soaring prices.

New World Development (0017) slumped 3.44 percent while Sino Land (0083) retreated 2.97 percent.

The Hong Kong measures, plus a tighter mainland multi-home purchase policy, sent the Hang Seng Index 0.3 percent lower to close at 21,454.94 points.

UOB Kay Hian analyst Sylvia Wong downgraded Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016) and Sino Land from "buy" to "hold" while Royal Bank of Scotland researchers recommended a switch from SHKP to Cheung Kong Holdings (0001).

"Developers with higher exposure to the residential market will be more severely hit," Wong said.

But she said even if the launches of SHKP's Larvotto in Ap Lei Chau and Sino's The Hermitage in Tai Kok Tsui are delayed, the impact will be limited.

Wong said the increase in Hong Kong's land supply has led the public to believe that property prices will not rise sharply in the long term. There will be four land auctions in the next three months.

CCBI executive director Adrian Ngan said the sector's near-term outlook is opaque but developers are likely to be restrained.

Ngan said the provision of sales brochures and price lists in advance will dampen transactions and sales atmosphere. "The longer a person thinks, the less likely he will want to buy a home."

Though interest rates are low and the economy is good, luxury unit prices may drop 3-5 percent this year, Ngan said.

Given higher land supply, Wong expects home prices to drop by an average of 10 percent, with the luxury sector facing a stronger correction.

RBS analysts see a potential minor price correction before an eventual 5 percent annual growth.

But Citibank economists believe that with the mainland's tighter property policies and yuan revaluation expectations, "risks of a housing price bubble [in Hong Kong] will likely continue to form."
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Old April 28th, 2010, 10:45 AM   #963
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How representative are URA's district advisory committees?
12 April 2010
South China Morning Post

The Development Bureau has said that advisory boards "may be set up in old communities to involve residents in drawing up redevelopment proposals" ("Advisory boards mooted to involve public in renewal plans", April 2).

Strangely, no mention was made of the fact that there are already six district advisory committees in place, as can be seen from the Urban Renewal Authority's annual report.

These cover Wan Chai, Central and Western, Sham Shui Po, Yau Tsim Mong, Kwun Tong and Kowloon City.

So what have these committees been doing? Nothing, from my experience with regard to the URA/New World Hanoi Road redevelopment, now called The Masterpiece/K11. They scream "rubber stamp".

Going back and looking at some old papers, I read that Section 20 of the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance (Chapter 563) required "the secretary for planning and lands to consult the public before finalising the urban renewal strategy". The secretary, in accordance with the ordinance, consulted the public on a draft urban renewal strategy from August 1 to September 30, 2001.

This strategy was issued to the URA and, when "preparing its draft corporate plan, the URA has to follow the guidelines set out in this document".

The URA was to establish a district advisory committee in nine target areas. They would advise the authority regarding its urban renewal projects.

These committees were to be appointed by the URA board and the members were supposed to be representative of the local community.

They would include "owners, tenants, district councils and local non-governmental organisations with an interest in urban renewal".

Now take a look at the composition of the existing committees.

Four of them do not have a single female member and, on the other two, Wan Chai and Kowloon City, men greatly outnumber women.

Well, the last time I looked around our streets, I saw a lot of women; in fact, in certain age groups, we outnumber men in the community. How many of the members are bona fide local residents?

We are now in 2010, 10 years since the URA was instructed to set up genuine district advisory committees.

The secretary [now responsible] for planning and lands appears to be asleep at the wheel. Section 21(3) of the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance requires the URA to follow any guidelines set out in the urban renewal strategy.

We must now have an announcement to the effect that the current boys' clubs will be disbanded and advisory committees be installed, as per the stated criteria, with representatives of both genders, different age groups and backgrounds, and a voice for minority residents.

Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui
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Old May 20th, 2010, 08:12 PM   #964
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10,000 flats fall behind schedule
6 May 2010
SCMP

More than 10,000 flats that were supposed to be on the market by 2013 are behind schedule, thanks to slow tendering by the MTR Corporation.

The flats, originally scheduled to have been completed from 2009, would have helped to alleviate pressure on the market by supplying it with more small and medium-sized homes.

An academic and lawmakers want explanations for the delay and have urged the government, as the biggest shareholder in the MTRC, to speed up implementation of the West Rail projects.

All 12 projects were transferred from the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation to the MTR Corp after the merger of their rail operations in December 2007. The MTR Corp does not own the sites but only acts as a government agent to implement the projects.

While the corporation shares lucrative profits with developers in other projects in core urban areas, such as Lohas Park at Tseung Kwan O station, Lake Silver at Wu Kai Sha and the newly tendered project at Austin station, it will get only 10 per cent of net profits accrued to West Rail subsidiaries after projects are awarded.

The corporation's records show only two of the 12 West Rail projects - Tsuen Wan West and Nam Cheong - have been tendered by the corporation since the merger, providing about 5,000 flats by 2013 and 2015. The Tuen Mun project was tendered by the KCRC in 2006. Schedules of other projects are under review, the corporation's annual report said.

But according to the original tendering and completion programme drawn up before the merger and obtained by the South China Morning Post, at least six projects - Tin Shui Wai, Long Ping South, Yuen Long, Kwai Fong and two other sites in Tsuen Wan West - were expected to be completed by 2013.

Given that an average of four years is required from tendering a project to its completion, the six projects, providing a total of 10,422 flats, will not be able to meet the original schedule even if they are tendered this year.

And even if the government tenders all the projects now, it will stifle the appetite of developers as such large projects, involving more than 1,500 flats, come with substantial land premiums.

Three projects - Long Ping North, Kam Sheung Road and Pat Heung Maintenance Centre - were expected to be completed by 2014 to 2016, under the original programme. They can still meet that target if the corporation tenders the projects shortly.

With the government under growing public pressure to supply cheaper flats and to reduce the risk of a property bubble, housing minister Eva Cheng said last month that 55,000 flats would be made available on the private market over the next three to four years.

That projection, having taken into account the two tendered West Rail projects Tuen Mun station and Tsuen Wan West station, means an annual supply of about 14,000 flats - way below the average annual demand of 20,000.

The West Rail projects will supply more than 29,000 flats but over 21,000 are still awaiting tenders.

Apart from easing the strain on the property market, flats along the West Rail are a big source of passengers for the railway, which has been suffering from a lack of patronage.

There was an average of 200,000 daily passenger trips on West Rail in 2006 and 2007. The KCRC had estimated a figure in excess of 800,000 by 2011. A West Rail spokesman refused to disclose figures since the merger.

An MTR Corp spokesman declined to explain why the projects had been delayed. He said the corporation was an agent of the government and the West Rail companies would work on the tendering.

Although Cheng is a board member of the MTR Corp, her spokeswoman said she only looked at transport issues in that capacity. The bureau said the secretary for financial services and the treasury, Professor Chan Ka-keung, also a board member, decides on the direction of property projects.

The Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau and the Development Bureau, which controls land supply, failed to reply to inquiries by the Post.

A professor of real estate at the University of Hong Kong, Chau Kwong-wing, said the early release of the West Rail projects, mostly in suburban areas, would provide more small to medium-sized flats and slow down the rise in property prices.

"It's a trade-off. The government wants the MTRC to take over the projects to enhance efficiency. But now the corporation is a listed company, it cannot be forced to solely fulfil social needs," Chau said.

He said the corporation had little incentive to implement the West Rail projects as it only received small profits as an agent. "It has to consider the interests of small shareholders."

Lawmaker Lee Wing-tat of the Democratic Party said the government should explain the delay and speed up the projects.

"The government lacks a long-term housing strategy," he said. "The bureaus are evading their responsibilities. The Transport and Housing Bureau said the Development Bureau controls the land supply, while the Development Bureau said it is not given a clear housing target."

Chan Kam-lam of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong urged the government to release the projects as early as possible.
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Last edited by hkskyline; May 20th, 2010 at 08:19 PM.
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Old May 23rd, 2010, 06:02 PM   #965
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Lot in Tung Chung sold for $3.42 billion
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Government Press Release



The Lands Department this afternoon (May 11) held the first land auction of the 2010-2011 financial year. A government lot in Tung Chung was sold for $3.42 billion.

The lot, Tung Chung Town Lot No.37 at Tung Chung Area 55b, Lantau, was sold to First Harvest Development Limited at $3.42 billion. The opening bid was $2.876 billion. Tung Chung Town Lot No.37 has a site area of about 26,200 square metres and is designated for non-industrial (excluding godown, office, hotel and petrol filling station) purposes. A minimum gross floor area of 78,600 square metres for residential purposes must be completed. The maximum gross floor area is 133,620 square metres.

The auction was conducted at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, Wan Chai, by the Deputy Director of Lands, Mr Graham Ross, who was assisted by the Chief Estate Surveyor, Mr Tony Moyung.
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Old May 24th, 2010, 06:55 PM   #966
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Sales dip ahead of auction
The Standard
Monday, May 24, 2010



Secondary home sales in Fan Ling fell off this month partly as buyers took a wait-and-see attitude ahead of today's auction of a site in the area.

Home transactions total 40 so far this month. That is down 50 percent from the same period in April, said Midland assistant district manager William Chiang.

"Generally, [prices] have shrunk by 3-5 percent," Chiang said, noting the less-than-expected price at auction for a Tung Chung site earlier this month and the recent poor performance of the stock market.

"Many worried homeowners are willing to talk with prospective buyers," he added, and some had not waited to see out how today's auction turned out.

But home viewing has remained constant, Chan added, though most buyers appeared to be waiting to see what happened at the auction.

The 95,800-square-foot site is expected to boost the government's coffers by up to HK$1.45 billion.

A three-bedroom home measuring 878 square feet at Belair Monte - one of three residences next to the site for sale - was sold at a 5 percent discount for HK$2.38 million, said Centaline branch manager Ken Chan.

Belair Monte recorded only two deals this month, down from around 20 a month ago, Chan said.

Chiang noted that adjacent Grand Regentville and Regentville also saw a dramatic drop in transactions, while Chan said a two-bedroom unit at nearby Royal Green was recently sold for HK$1.76 million. This was after the asking price was cut by 2 percent.

Although transactions in the New Territories were limited because of price haggling, Midland said secondary transactions increased from 31 to 48 over the weekend as sellers lowered prices and quality homes became available.

On the primary market front, Midland chief analyst Buggle Lau Ka-fai expects just three high-end projects in Sheung Shui, Fan Ling and Tai Po to hit the market this year.

Since they will only provide 570 units, Lau said the Fan Ling auction will not add to housing market pressure even if it proves disappointing.

Primary sales during the three-day holiday remained modest. Sun Hung Kai Properties' (0016) Yoho Midtown in Yuen Long turned in over 40 deals, said Centaline's Eric Chan.

A mainland investor bought two Yoho Midtown homes of around 573 square feet each for a total HK$5.93 million, or around HK$5,200 psf.

Cheung Kong Holdings (0001) sold two homes at Festival City in Tai Wai, said Ricacorp Properties sales director Johnny Yeung Ho-yin.

An apartment was sold for HK$6.6 million and another for around HK$10 million.

Henderson Land (0012) sold a house at The Beverly Hills in Tai Po for over HK$21 million, or HK$6,700 psf.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 09:03 PM   #967
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Home prices not expected to grow
Government measures and poor results at land auctions lead to revisions of forecasts

26 May 2010
South China Morning Post

The poor response from bidders to the last two land auctions has convinced analysts they were correct to change their forecasts for the outlook for home prices by the end of the year from positive to zero growth.

And although the market consensus is that prices will not end the year lower, short-term declines of 3 to 10 per cent could be unavoidable over the next two months before a recovery to present levels - where prices should remain until the end of the year.

The wave of revisions to forecasts began after the government introduced measures in April to curb price growth in the market. They continued after a residential site in Fanling was auctioned for HK$1.33 billion on Monday - at the low end of forecasts - a result that followed on the May 11 auction of a residential site in Tung Chung that attracted only two bidders and was eventually sold for HK$3.42 billion, or about 5 per cent below the bottom end of forecasts.

Alnwick Chan Chi-hing, the executive director at consultancy Knight Frank, revised his forecast for property prices from positive to flat this year. His decision was prompted by steps taken by the government to curb price growth but reinforced by the results of the auctions.

"The government is trying to cool the property market by increasing the land supply. They will definitely increase the supply of mass residential sites," Chan said. "The two disappointing land auctions this month reflected developers becoming pessimistic about the market outlook. Property prices will be flat this year."

Lau Chun-kong, international director and head of property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle's valuation advisory services, said market sentiment had changed. "We were previously forecasting that property prices will continue to rise. However, we now believe they will be flat."

Lau said the auction result suggested developers would no longer hold off releasing their new projects as it was clear that the government intended to increase land supply. He forecast residential supply would rebound to normal levels of about 15,000 units a year as a result.

"Property price movements depend on the economy and interest rates. But the upside potential in prices will be limited because residential supply will return to normal levels," he added.

The new mood of caution is evident even among property agents, who are traditionally the most bullish about the outlook for prices. "The price fetched by the Tung Chung site was far below expectations and this will make some buyers hesitant about entering the market," Buggle Lau Ka-fai, the chief analyst for agency Midland Realty, said.

At the end of the first quarter, Lau forecast prices would continue to rise in the second quarter, supported by a rise in home sales which he expected to rise to 30,000 deals from the 29,500 done in the first quarter. He changed this view after he saw home sales decline as a result of the government measures. He now expects property prices will drop this quarter and sales will decrease 20 per cent to 24,000 deals only.

Writing in a newspaper column, Shih Wing-ching, the chairman of agency Centaline, said that he expected property sales to drop 30 per cent this quarter from the first.

"End-users will postpone their plans to buy flats after the disappointing land auction. However, most flat owners would not cut their asking prices as the economy is improving. Property prices will drop 3 per cent only," he said.

Early this year, Credit Suisse analyst Cusson Leung forecast property prices would rise about 10 per cent in 2010. But he has turned cautious recently. "Prices will drop 5 to 7 per cent in the coming one to two months," he said. Leung says investment demand has fallen as a result of the measures taken by the central government to restrict lending for properties worth more than HK$20 million. The negative impact this had on the Hong Kong market was greater than expected, he said.

"A few months ago, many analysts thought the mainland buyers would continue to come into our property market. But in fact their [mainland buyers'] money is as smart as everyone else's. They were focused on a chance of making profit," he said.

Now Leung expects no growth in property prices in the next few months, although he believes the situation will improve. "We are still faced with tight residential supply, and inflation will get worse in the second half. Property prices will rebound 5 to 10 per cent by the end of the year."

Looking further ahead, Eric Wong, joint head of Asia property research at UBS, said he would maintain his forecast of a 35 per cent rise in home prices by the end of next year. "I don't see anything that will trigger a sharp fall in prices, although a consolidation of 3 to 5 per cent could occur in the next few months."

Paul Louie, the regional head of property research at Nomura International, said he would not change his forecast that prices would increase 20 per cent this year and next unless there was tightened mortgage lending. "One or two land auction results will not affect our prediction."
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Old May 29th, 2010, 06:19 PM   #968
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Developers' association objectives chiefly framed for own benefit
29 May 2010
South China Morning Post

The Real Estate Developers Association may claim it can regulate the often-questionable business practices of its members in the public interest without the need for legislation - but its stated objectives are overwhelmingly in its own interests.

It is also highly reluctant to discuss the objectives or its operations publicly, meaning the public whose interests it says it can safeguard has no idea how it will do so.

In the "objects" of the 45-year-old association, a four-page document deposited with the police and obtained by the South China Morning Post, only one of the 19 principles is related to the public interest. This says it will "consider, investigate and inquire into all matters and questions in any way related to real estate and allied business in Hong Kong".

But it has not been very active in that role - its compliance committee was recently found not to have held a hearing on any of 30 complaints made by the public against its members between 2007 and 2009.

The other objectives are all related to representation and protection of sector interests. For example, it is to promote, support or oppose any legislation affecting real estate and allied business. It is to finance any member involved in litigation concerning real estate transaction matters. It is also to support any movement, activity, scheme or project that in the opinion of the council of management is "in the interests of or beneficial to the association or its members".

Solicitor James To Kun-sun, the Democratic Party's deputy spokesman on planning affairs, said the objectives made it very clear that the association was more a self-interest group than a professional body.

"It is stupid of the government to rely on the group, which has a principal objective to protect its self-interest, to administer a guideline aimed at safeguarding the public interest," To said.

The government has recently introduced a series of guidelines governing developers' conduct, which the association insists it can enforce without legislation.

But To said that unlike the Law Society or the Bar Association, which have a disciplinary tribunal to sanction members, Reda has no such mechanism.

"So only legislation will really achieve the aim of protecting flat buyers," To said.

The "objects" document was obtained for HK$4 from the Police Licensing Office, one of the very few channels through which the public can get information about Reda, which was founded by late tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung under the Societies Ordinance in 1965. The association has no website, and it has no publications readily available in the community.

Asked for details of its terms of reference and organisational structure, the association provided only a copy of a press statement dated January last year, which reported that Stanley Ho Hung-sun had been re-elected president and Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong executive vice-president for two-year terms.

In a recent Cable TV report, a staff member of the association declined to be interviewed, saying it was "a private association".

Of the 11 vice-presidents, Ng Teng-fong and Peter Lee Ting-chang have died. Others are Li Ka-shing, Cheng Yu-tung, Lee Shau-kee, Gordon Wu Ying-sheung, Lo Ka-shui, Peter Woo Kwong-ching, Ronnie Chan Chi-chung, Keith Kerr and Joseph Leung Wing-kong. The association has more than 500 individual and 300 corporate members.
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Old May 30th, 2010, 07:15 AM   #969
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Lee eyes Yuen Long sites
27 May 2010
The Standard

Henderson Land (0012) chairman Lee Shau-kee said talks are continuing with the government on the premium amount for converting two Yuen Long sites to residential use.

A final decision on the land at Wo Shang Wai and Tai Tong Road is expected in the next few months.

Lee played down the lukewarm response at the most recent auctions for sites in Tung Chung and Fan Ling.

The tycoon nicknamed ``Uncle Four'' said cash-rich developers are bracing for a fight over two upcoming urban sites.

A 174,000 square foot plot in Fat Kwong Street, Ho Man Tin, will go under the hammer on June 8 and a 251,000 sq ft site at Mount Nicholson Road on The Peak will be auctioned on July 28. Lee said Henderson may join the bidding if the price is right.

Henderson is one of three developers to submit a tender for the MTR Corp (0066) Nam Cheong station residential-commercial development.

But the accommodation value of HK$6,600 per square foot is too high, Lee said.

Even if Henderson wins, the project will be ``very toilsome,'' with a slim margin,.

A Henderson unit, Hong Kong Ferry Holdings (0050), was the surprise winner at the auction of the Fan Ling site on Monday.

Last week, the Lee family paid HK$1.82 billion, or an accommodation value of HK$68,200 psf, for a site at Barker Road on The Peak.

On the stock market, Lee said he cashed 30 percent of his shares when the Hang Seng Index was still above 20,000 points to invest in the local property market. The veteran investor believes the index may find strong support at 19,000 points unless the European credit crisis spreads.

However, Delta Asia Financial head of equity Conita Hung Lai-ping expects the benchmark to fall between 18,000 to 18,500 amid market fluctuations.

Lee said he is still bullish about the Australian dollar.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 04:38 PM   #970
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Henderson Land: 45,000 Apartments Under Development In HK
1 June 2010

HONG KONG (Dow Jones)--Henderson Land Development Co. (0012.HK) said Tuesday it has a gross floor area of 32 million square feet of property under development in Hong Kong, which can be developed into 45,000 apartments.

The land is from various sources, including the redevelopment of old buildings and the conversion of farmland into residential sites in satellite cities in the New Territories, Chairman Lee Shau-kee told reporters after the firm's annual general meeting.

He didn't give a timeframe for the completion of the apartments.

Separately, Lee said he wouldn't subscribe to new share offerings for now, including that of Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., with the exception of Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co.'s deal.

He didn't disclose the size of his subscription to the Chinese windpower equipment supplier's initial public offering, which aims to raise up to US$1.2 billion. Listing is slated for later this month.

Lee has been a subscriber to a wide variety of IPOs, big and small, including those of China Resources Cement Holdings Ltd. and building materials producer BBMG Corp. last year.
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Old June 5th, 2010, 06:33 AM   #971
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17 pre-sale consent applications for residential developments pending approval
Friday, June 4, 2010
Government Press Release

The Lands Department announced today (June 4) that 17 applications for pre-sale consent for uncompleted residential units and two applications for pre-sale consent for uncompleted commercial developments were pending approval as at the end of May.

The 17 applications for pre-sale consent for uncompleted residential units being processed involve a total of 7,448 units. Among them, five developments involving a total of 429 units are estimated to be completed this year, while eight applications involving a total of 5,182 units are estimated to be completed in 2011 and three applications involving a total of 1,788 units are estimated to be completed in 2012. For the remaining development involving 49 units, the estimated completion date is to be updated by the developer.

In addition, two applications for consent to assign involving a total of 3,048 residential units and one application for consent to assign for a commercial development are being processed.

No pre-sale consent or consent to assign was issued in May.

Members of the public can obtain up-to-date information on pre-sale consents for uncompleted residential developments issued for the last six months and cases pending approval as at the end of May by calling the Legal Advisory and Conveyancing Office's hotline: 2147 5475 or on the Lands Department website (www.landsd.gov.hk).
  
Intending purchasers are advised to carefully study details of the development and the sale procedures, through information available from public advertisements, sales brochures and price lists released by the developer, before making a deposit for a purchase. The sales brochure for a development (normally including a Chinese version) also contains the main points of the Deed of Mutual Covenant, including the definition of common areas, terms of appointment of manager, the basis of calculating management fees, amounts of any deposits and other relevant details, as well as any special features of the Government land grant, which intending purchasers are recommended to read carefully.

http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/2...1006040179.htm
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Old June 6th, 2010, 05:39 PM   #972
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Authority rejects comparison with private developers
6 June 2010
South China Morning Post

The Urban Renewal Authority bristles at any suggestion that it is a developer in a statutory body's clothing. It points to its "social mission" and says that while developers are private companies dedicated to making money for their shareholders, it ploughs any profits back into other projects, some of them loss-making.

Scrutiny of its balance sheet shows that in most years it does well. From 2005 to 2009, the authority's return on net assets - which would be its return to shareholders if it had any - was 50 per cent, 14.5 per cent, 3.38 per cent, 11.82 per cent and minus 48 per cent respectively.

Accountant Frankie Yan Man-sing, a member of the ginger group Professional Commons, said it was hard to grasp the authority's operations just through its balance sheet. "There are fluctuations in the authority's financial performance. It is largely because it has to take up projects, such as Kwun Tong, for political reasons," Yan said.

"It is a statutory body so it has to take up projects the government wants to do, such as redeveloping Ma Tau Wai, but then it also works very closely with developers to maximise profits."

The authority said any comparison between URA and developers was meaningless. "We don't have a return to shareholders," a spokesman said. "We are a public organisation with a social mission and our profit goes to projects in the future and money-losing projects. With listed companies, their profit goes to shareholders."

The URA was set up to replace the Land Development Corporation in 2001. The government gave it a HK$10 billion war chest to pay compensation, believing that this and a waiver of its usual requirement for payment of land premium would increase the authority's bargaining power with developers, allowing it to launch projects that benefit the community.

The authority is expected to redevelop 2,000 buildings over 20 years. Most are in nine districts - Ma Tau Kok, Tai Kok Tsui, Sham Shui Po, Yau Ma Tei, Yau Tong, Kwun Tong, Western, Wan Chai and Tsuen Wan.

In most cases, the authority picks an area for redevelopment without consulting the community. (The 25 projects it inherited from the corporation are an exception.) Landlords get compensation based on the price of an equivalent seven-year-old flat. Tenants can go to public housing.

While private developers must buy 80 per cent of the flats in a building they want to redevelop, the authority has land resumption powers under the Land Resumption Ordinance, which does not state the proportion of flats the authority must buy before it can require owners of the rest to sell.

People who refuse to move are classed as illegal occupants of government land. Most eventually settle. Once a site is vacated, the authority invites developers to submit tenders to take part in redeveloping it.

The URA has so far demolished or plans to demolish flats comprising 522,526 square metres, on which it has built or will build over 15,000 flats.

In the 2008-09 financial year, the URA had a net operating deficit of HK$4.52 billion, largely because of a HK$4.03 provision made for the Kwun Tong Town Centre project.
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Old June 9th, 2010, 05:42 PM   #973
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In lap of luxury for $10.9b
The Standard
Wednesday, June 09, 2010







A prime Ho Man Tin site sold yesterday for HK$10.9 billion - beating records and market expectations and reflecting developers' bullish views on the luxury market.

Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016) beat out seven other bidders for the 173,800-square-foot lot on Fat Kwong Street with gross floor area of 864,200 sq ft. It will build luxury homes on the site.

Market estimates for the site ranged from HK$7.15 billion to HK$10.6 billion.

The price paid represented accommodation value of about HK$12,540 per sq ft - a new record for Kowloon.

This boosted investor confidence, as property stocks shot up across the board. New World (0017) climbed 3.05 percent, while SHKP shares rose 2.01 percent and Cheung Kong (Holdings) (0001) gained 1.74 percent. Meanwhile, existing homeowners in the vicinity immediately adjusted their sale strategies.

Centaline Property senior sales director Matthews Lee Tze-ming said some sellers pulled their flats off the market, while others raised asking prices by 5 percent.

Hong Kong Property sales manager Kenny Kwok Siu-fung said one raised the asking price for a house at King's Park Hill by 4.6 percent to HK$68 million, or HK$20,821 psf.

Another seller at Celestial Heights decided not to cut the price following the auction, which lasted 90 minutes and drew a total of 77 bids from eight bidders.

Cheung Kong was prompted to announce new strategies for its remaining units at Celestial Heights phase two today. Secondary prices at the developm
ent average HK$10,275 psf, agents said.

Cheung Kong's land cost was a mere HK$5,476 psf when it acquired the previous site auctioned in Ho Man Tin in 2004 for HK$9.42 billion, said Midland chief analyst Buggle Lau Ka- fai.

CCB International Securities executive director Adrian Ngan Wai-hung said SHKP's ability to build top projects makes the HK$10.9 billion price "reasonable."

Both Cheung Kong and Kerry Properties (0083) agreed the price was reasonable given the site's ideal location.

Sun Hung Kai Real Estate Agency executive director Victor Lui Ting finds the price dear, but acceptable: "It is located at a high-end area, and there will be an MTR station nearby in future."

SHKP plans to invest a total of HK$18 billion in the project. Ngan said the auction will be positive to the market as a whole, but cautioned that "it doesn't mean developers are optimistic about the entire market, but more likely just a particular kind of home."

Ngan expects completed homes to fetch around HK$16,000 to HK$17,000 psf and bring HK$2 to HK$3 billion in profits.

Midland Surveyors director Alvin Lam Tsz-pun said SHKP will book reasonable profits selling at an average of HK$18,000 to HK$20,000 psf.

Centaline Surveyors yesterday raised its valuation of the Mount Nicholson Road site in The Peak, to be auctioned in late July, by 21 percent to HK$9.75 billion, or an accommodation value of HK$30,000 psf.

Lands Department deputy director and auctioneer Graham Ross said the government is "happy" about the transaction price for the Ho Man Tin site.
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Old June 14th, 2010, 05:49 PM   #974
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Caine Road standouts in new forced sales battle
The Standard
Monday, June 14, 2010

The law on the compulsory sale of old buildings is at the center of another row as some residents of Grand Court and Kension Mansion on Caine Road are not willing to move out even though a developer has acquired the 80 percent rights threshold.

The law, which reduced the threshold on buildings aged 50 and over from 90 to 80 percent, became effective on April 1.

Since then, there have been several cases in which owners forced out have complained about unfair compensation.

One of the new standouts is Krishna Singh, 79, who purchased an eighth-floor flat in Kension Mansion and has lived there for about 50 years.

"Home is where my heart is. I don't want to go away from my home and my community," wept Singh, saying she may be unable to buy another flat in the area even if she is compensated.

Her daughter, Mala Barber, blamed lack of transparency on purchases, saying no one has revealed the actual percentage of property rights acquired despite the stringing up of banners congratulating compensated owners.

"It is not about how much they pay us. We want to live here and we won't leave even if they pay us HK$10 million," Barber said. "They should show some responsibility to society."

Barber estimated the flat is worth about HK$6.5 million at today's prices.

Singh said she received by post notices in Chinese relating to the compulsory sale but that she did not know how to respond as she cannot read Chinese.

The owner of a fourth-floor flat at the 51-year-old Grand Court, surnamed Chan, said he has lived there for over 26 years.

Property agents frequently disturbed his family with phone calls and knocks on the door.

"Since the policy was implemented, our family has been frequently disturbed, with the highest number of visits being three times each week late at night or at dinner time," Chan said.

Wong Ho-yin, a member of Minority Owners' Alliance Against Compulsory Sales, said a developer has acquired 80 percent of the ownership rights of Kension Mansion, which turns 50 next year. However, it has not yet got 80 percent of Grand Court.
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Old June 21st, 2010, 06:38 PM   #975
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City skies no limit for development
18 June 2010
Planning

In Hong Kong planning ambitions have been shaped by geography, history and fortune with unique results, say Jon Gateley and Serena Tong.

Flying into Hong Kong, the first sights are craggy ridgelines which become the green backdrop to fishing villages, commuter towns and modern cities. Connecting these is a stunning coastline of natural peninsulas, coves and scattered islands punctuating the horizon. Hong Kong is far more than a stopover or vague colonial memory.

Now an administrative region of China, most of Hong Kong's industrialisation followed the Second World War, with the population growing at one million per decade to reach seven million today. Most of this development is squeezed into an area barely the size of Swindon, leaving aside more than three-quarters of the territory for recreation, conservation and agriculture.

As a result, not only do apartments and offices naturally sprout to great heights but factories, schools and virtually anything else are to be found in high-rise form. Many pitfalls that typically accompany rapid urbanisation have been avoided, while robust planning has delivered world-class infrastructure and standards of living that are among the highest in Asia.

Despite the 1997 handover to Chinese rule, Hong Kong's planning system has remained a close cousin of the UK's. While in the past reclamation, new towns and sheer scale enabled development to keep pace, Hong Kong's planners are now charged with sustainability, meeting the needs of the community and avoiding problems that can arise from engineering led solutions.

The current approach to planning is exemplified by the former Kai Tak Airport where, following a 2004 ruling that prevents further harbour reclamation, original redevelopment proposals were shelved. Technical studies, masterplanning and public engagement have culminated in plans to create a heritage, green, sports and tourism hub on a site of more than 300ha. Provision is made for 30,000 dwellings on little more than 40ha - densities considered modest by Hong Kong standards.

Faced with stiff competition in the manufacturing sector, the government's objective is to become Asia's 'world city' and the gateway to mainland China. Key to this has been the promotion of financial services and luring international corporations to choose Hong Kong for their Asian headquarters.

Hong Kong's transition, drawing on professional services, has been remarkably successful and the results are written not only on its skyline but the streets, which retain character despite losing their historic buildings to modernity. Additions such as elevated walkways are not unique but a mid-level escalator system, developed in the 1990s to relieve congestion in a steep part of the city and transporting more than 50,000 people per day, probably is.

Despite functioning as a state in its own right Hong Kong's relationship with the wider Pearl River Delta (PRD) region is an increasingly important dimension for planners.

Embracing Macao and the special economic zones of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the PRD accounts for about a quarter of China's trade. With a population racing towards 50 million, it has been described by the UN as one of the world's emerging megacities.

Although in the past the region evolved rather disjointedly, shared objectives of sustainable development come together in a common planning framework. While planning in the UK may have reached its high-water mark, in Hong Kong it seems the best is yet to come.

Jon Gateley is a consultant at Savills Planning and Regeneration. Serena Tong is an urban designer at John Hui and Associates, architects and development consultants.
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Old June 23rd, 2010, 04:33 PM   #976
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LCQ20: South East New Territories Landfill
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Government Press Release

Following is a question by the Hon Miriam Lau Kin Yee and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for the Environment, Dr Kitty Poon, at the Legislative Council meeting today (June 23):

Question:

Quite a number of Tseung Kwan O residents have indicated to me that the environmental problems created by the South East New Territories ("SENT") Landfill since its commissioning have caused nuisances to them for a long time. Recently, the Planning Department submitted a paper to the Sai Kung District Council proposing to further extend the SENT Landfill area, including designating about five hectares of land in Clear Water Bay Country Park and about 15.6 hectares of land in Tseung Kwan O Area 137 for landfill extension purpose. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council :

(a) of the number of complaints received about the SENT Landfill since its commissioning, together with a breakdown of the complaints by category; how the authorities follow up such complaints;

(b) given that it has been recently reported that it is expected that the proposed extension of the SENT Landfill will aggravate the adverse impact on residents in the district, including the environment (in terms of odour and visual impact), traffic and the health of the residents nearby, and will also affect Chai Wan district, which is situated on the other side of the bank opposite to Tseung Kwan O, and the authorities had indicated in its paper to the Panel on Environmental Affairs of this Council in October 2008 that they would adopt a number of mitigation measures for the proposed extension of the SENT Landfill in accordance with the principle of avoidance, minimisation and compensation as set out in the Technical Memorandum of the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (Cap. 499), whether they have assessed if such mitigation measures can resolve the aforesaid adverse impact on residents in the district; whether the authorities have other mitigation measures; if they have, of the details;

(c) of the daily average numbers of trips run by refuse collection vehicles and vehicles carrying construction waste which travel to and from the SENT Landfill through Tseung Kwan O at present, and the expected changes in the respective vehicular flows of the aforesaid two types of vehicles after the extension of the landfill; what measures the authorities have to mitigate the traffic impact and odour nuisance caused by such vehicles in the Tseung Kwan O district;

(d) whether the authorities will plan to require the use of compressed and enclosed type of refuse collection vehicles to travel to and from the SENT Landfill, so as to prevent wastes from spattering and emitting odour during transportation; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(e) given that the proposed extension of the SENT Landfill will cover 15.6 hectares of industrial land in Tseung Kwan O Area 137, of the original planned use for the site; whether the proposed extension of the landfill will affect the development potential of other industrial land lots in Area 137, and as a result, reduce the employment opportunities within the area for residents in the district;

(f) given that it has been reported that the authorities plan to supply the methane generated by the wastes in the SENT Landfill after its extension to the Hong Kong and China Gas Company Limited ("Towngas") for conversion into gas, whether the authorities will request Towngas to reduce the tariff for Tseung Kwan O residents, so as to compensate for their being plagued by the environmental problems caused by the landfill for a long time; and

(g) given that the life of the SENT Landfill will be extended to 2019 after the proposed extension, whether the authorities have planned to further expand the area of the landfill, with a view to extending the life of the landfill again?

Reply:

President,

(a) The development of the South East New Territories (SENT) Landfill started in the 1990s and was commissioned in 1994, and its operation has been assessed as meeting international standards.

Since 2005, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has received complaints about odour problem in the Tseung Kwan O town and the related figures are as follows:

Code:
Year Figures
2005 106
2006 165
2007 459
2008 943
2009 629
Most of the complaints were received in hot and rainy months.

Apart from the SENT Landfill, there are potential sources of odour nuisance in Tseung Kwan O. In this connection, the District Officer of Sai Kung has established an inter-departmental working group comprising representatives from the Sai Kung District Office, EPD, Drainage Services Department, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), District Lands Office and Highways Department. It aims to investigate and follow up on potential sources of odour under the purview of various departments with a view to abating the local odour nuisance. The working group has held a number of meetings, conducted joint inspections in Tseung Kwan O, and stepped up cleaning of the sites where odour may be emitted. We will continue our work on this front.

The EPD looks into each complaint about odour nuisance independently to identify the odour source. The EPD also informs the complainant of the investigation results of each case.

The EPD understands that Tseung Kwan O residents are concerned about the odour nuisance. The Department has stepped up odour management and control measures to further abate the potential odour impact of the Landfill. Such measures implemented so far include for example covering the tipping face with a thicker layer of soil at the end of the daily waste reception process; covering the non-active tipping face with temporary impermeable liner; setting up fixed deodorisers at the Landfill boundary; providing additional mobile deodorisers at the tipping area; putting a mobile cover on the special waste trench; and installing additional landfill gas extraction pipes and mobile landfill gas flares. The EPD will continue to implement the above measures. In addition, the Department is planning to construct an 800-metre wall along the boundary of the Landfill facing the industrial estate to abate environmental and visual impacts on the surrounding area. The EPD will also upgrade the existing facility for wheel washing to full-body vehicle washing facility to ensure that the entire body of every refuse collection vehicle is washed before leaving the Landfill.

(b) The Government has been working hard to promote waste reduction at source in recent years. Last year, the recovery rate of municipal solid waste has reached 49%. However, as we currently rely almost entirely on landfilling as our only means of waste disposal and the total municipal solid waste disposed of at landfill is about 9,000 tonnes per day, this has exerted pressure on our valuable landfill space. The proposed extension of the SENT Landfill (the proposed Extension) aims to continue an effective management of the municipal solid waste generated in Hong Kong every day when the existing SENT Landfill reaches its capacity. The EPD completed the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and traffic impact assessment on the proposed Extension in 2008. The EIA has studied in detail the potential environmental impacts of the proposed Extension, covering air quality (including odour), ecology, noise, waste management, water quality, landfill gas as well as landscape and visual impacts, and recommended effective mitigation measures. Apart from Tseung Kwan O, the study on air quality, noise and visual impacts also covered Siu Sai Wan area in northeast of Hong Kong Island. According to the EIA Report, with the implementation of the recommended mitigation measures, the anticipated environmental impacts are acceptable and will meet the relevant requirements under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO) and its Technical Memorandum. The EIA was approved by the Authority in May 2008. The traffic impact assessment points out that the Landfill Extension will not have any adverse impact on the traffic. The EPD will ensure that the recommended mitigation measures will be strictly implemented, the works under the proposed Extension will comply with the conditions set out in the environmental permit issued under the EIAO, and the operation of the Landfill will not create any adverse impact on the residents nearby.

(c)According to the statistics for 2009, on average the SENT Landfill received about 1,050 vehicle loads daily, including about 510 vehicle loads of municipal solid waste.

According to the traffic impact assessment on the proposed Extension, the number of vehicles travelling to and from the Landfill Extension will be similar to that of vehicles travelling to and from the SENT Landfill at present. Therefore, the vehicular flow will be approximately the same upon the exhaustion of the SENT Landfill and the commissioning of the Landfill Extension. As such, the Landfill Extension will not create any adverse impact on the traffic. However, to abate effectively the odour from refuse collection vehicles, the EPD will implement a number of odour mitigation measures under the proposed Extension. They include enclosing entirely the weighbridge area, providing a vehicle washing facility at the exit from the Landfill Extension, and reminding drivers of refuse collection vehicles to take heed of hygiene and keep their vehicles clean.

(d) Currently there are three strategically located landfills in the territory. Coupled with seven refuse transfer stations, they form a solid waste disposal network which handles the waste generated daily by the community. Bulk waste transfer is adopted to avoid large number of small refuse collection vehicles travelling in the urban areas. The SENT Landfill mainly receives commercial, industrial as well as construction wastes from Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Sai Kung District and domestic waste from Tseung Kwan O and Sai Kung collected by private waste collectors. It is the private waste collectors' own commercial decisions to choose the types of their refuse collection vehicles. To reduce the environmental impacts of refuse collection vehicles, the EPD regularly draws the attention of the trade to road safety as well as the cleanliness and hygiene of their refuse collection vehicles at landfill liaison meetings. At the meetings of the inter-departmental working group, the EPD also refers the complaints about refuse collection vehicles received to the relevant departments for follow-up. Moreover, the EPD distributes leaflets to drivers of refuse collection vehicles on a monthly basis through the landfill contractors to remind the drivers of the operation practice of refuse collection vehicles, so that they can keep their vehicles clean and tidy. Under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance, the FEHD may, with sufficient evidence, institute prosecutions against people concerned in case of refuse collection vehicles dirtying public roads.

(e) The 15.6 hectares of land in Tseung Kwan O Area 137 rezoned for the extension of the SENT Landfill as shown on the draft Tseung Kwan O Outline Zoning Plan No. S/TKO/18 was previously zoned "Other Specified Uses" annotated "Deep Waterfront Industry" ("OU(DWI)") on the earlier version of the Tseung Kwan O Outline Zoning Plan No. S/TKO/17. According to the Notes of the Outline Zoning Plan, the "OU(DWI)" zone is intended primarily for special industries which require marine access, access to deep water berths or water frontage. The subject area for the extension of the SENT Landfill is located inland which does not have access to the sea. Although part of the area in Area 137 is proposed for the extension of the SENT Landfill, the remaining area is still zoned as "OU(DWI)", which has an area of about 86.9 hectares of land with marine frontage unaffected to meet the long term need of deep waterfront industries.

(f) To utilise the landfill gas generated from the SENT Landfill more effectively, the EPD has been exploring a large-scale landfill gas recovery and utilisation project with the contractor of the SENT Landfill and the town gas producer. The EPD is studying its feasibility and contractual arrangements.

(g) We estimate that the SENT Landfill will reach its capacity in mid-2010s. We hope to complete the planning in time so that the SENT Landfill Extension can be commissioned immediately after the exhaustion of the SENT Landfill. Our current projection is that the Landfill Extension will reach its capacity in about six years, and then we can proceed with restoration and aftercare of the Landfill Extension. Apart from the proposed Extension, the Government has no plan to further expand the area of the SENT Landfill.
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Old June 25th, 2010, 07:14 PM   #977
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LCQ8: Illegal shop extension
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Government Press Release

Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Sophie Leung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (June 23):

Question:

It has been reported that the problem of illegal shop extensions in public places has becoming more and more serious in recent years, which has affected the cityscape and environmental hygiene and also posed danger to other road users. Besides, it has also been reported that the enforcement efforts of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department are lax, and despite repeated complaints from members of the public, no improvement has yet been made. The persons who were prosecuted and convicted were often fined a few hundred dollars only, and thus deterrent effect was not created. Some persons-in-charge of the shops have already included the fines in the recurrent operating costs of their shops and some have even instructed others to "stand in" for them. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the total number of black spots of illegal shop extensions in public places of Hong Kong at present, with a breakdown by District Council district;

(b) of the number of prosecutions last year which involved illegal shop extensions in public places, and among such cases, whether there was any person-in-charge of the shop prosecuted for more than once; of the number of cases in which the persons-in-charge of the shops were sentenced to imprisonment; of the number of cases in which the persons-in-charge were fined, the ratio of such persons-in-charge who were fined and the amount of fines;

(c) whether the authorities will amend the legislation to impose heavier penalty on repeated offenders; and

(d) whether the authorities had, in the past three years, considered conducting a comprehensive review on how to handle the aforesaid problem, as well as examining the relevant enforcement practices, prosecution procedure and legislation, with a view to eradicating illegal shop extensions in public places and preventing the aforesaid "stand in" cases from happening again?

Reply:

President,

Illegal shop extension in public places is one of the street management problems which fall within the ambits of various government departments. For the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), it will, depending on the circumstances of obstruction, take enforcement actions in accordance with the most appropriate statutory provisions among the following three provisions: For shops which have extended its business without authorisation and caused obstruction of public places, the FEHD may institute prosecutions under Section 4A of the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap. 228). If the shops have obstructed scavenging services by extending its business without authorisation, the FEHD may institute prosecutions under Section 22 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132). Regarding those licensed food premises that carry on business illegally outside the confines of their premises, the FEHD may take enforcement actions under Section 34C of the Food Business Regulation (Cap. 132X). If the situation involves illegal structures, causes traffic congestion or threatens the safety of pedestrians, the FEHD may refer the case to relevant departments such as the Lands Department, Buildings Department or Hong Kong Police Force. Apart from regular enforcement and cleansing operations, District Officers will coordinate joint departmental operations to resolve the problem in locations with serious obstruction through concerted efforts. Our reply to the four parts of the questions is as follows:

(a) The major black spots in the joint departmental operations of various districts are at Annex.

(b) and (c) In the past year up to May 31, 2010, the FEHD has instituted 21,311 prosecutions against illegal shop extension in public places under the above legislations, inclusive of repeated cases. The FEHD, however, does not keep statistics specifically on the number of repeated cases.

Offenders in breach of Section 4A of the Summary Offences Ordinance are liable to a maximum fine of $5,000 or imprisonment of three months. Those who obstruct scavenging services in breach of Section 22 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance are liable to a maximum fine of $5,000. Food premises which carry out business illegally outside the confines of their premises in breach of Section 34C of the Food Business Regulation are liable to a maximum fine of $10,000 and imprisonment of three months.

Offenders in all of the 16,914 cases convicted by the court in the past year were sentenced to a fine. For the majority of cases which contravened the Summary Offences Ordinance and the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance, the fine ranged from $400 to $600, while the fine of most cases in contravention of the Food Business Regulation ranged from $4,000 to $5,000, with sporadic cases reaching $10,000. None of the offenders was sentenced to imprisonment, and there does not appear to be a need to increase the maximum penalties. The court as the judiciary body is responsible for awarding sentences. As the court will determine the level of penalty and the amount of fine by reference to the circumstances of the cases, the FEHD will provide relevant information, such as the previous record of offence, the area of obstruction, the number of complaints received and the amount of fine in respect of the repeated offenders or offenders in more serious obstruction cases to the court immediately after conviction as a reference in sentencing. If the FEHD considers that the sentence imposed in a particular case is too lenient, it will consider lodging an appeal after consulting the Department of Justice.

Besides, if a food premises carries out business illegally outside the confines of their premises, the FEHD will take actions under the Demerit Point System (DPS). Under the DPS, a licensee is subject to demerit points registered against his/her food premises in addition to a fine upon conviction. When the demerit points have accumulated to a prescribed level within a specified period, the food business licence of the premises will be suspended temporarily or cancelled. In 2009, the numbers of food premises with their licence suspended temporarily or cancelled due to unauthorised extension of business outside the confines of their premises were 104 and 7 respectively.

(d) It is the top priority of the FEHD to keep the environment clean. The FEHD staff will continue to handle street obstruction problems in accordance with the above legislations. The FEHD has laid down clear guidelines on the enforcement actions and prosecution procedures relating to illegal shop extension in public places for compliance by law enforcement officers. "Stand in" cases will definitely not be allowed, and such cases also involve perverting the course of justice. If suspected "stand in" cases are detected, the FEHD will refer them to the relevant law enforcement departments for follow up.
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Old June 27th, 2010, 05:42 PM   #978
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59,000 new flats to hit market within 4 years
24 June 2010
South China Morning Post

The government estimates that 59,000 new flats will become available in the private housing market in the coming three to four years.

That number includes those already completed but unsold, flats under construction and planned developments approved by the government on sites already sold or granted.

The 21 developments on which work has yet to start are expected to comprise 12,000 flats, the Transport and Housing Bureau said in a written reply to lawmaker Fred Li Wah-ming. He had asked for details after the bureau promised to increase the supply of housing. The bureau said it would set completion dates for the projects but would not stipulate when construction must begin.

The bureau did not list the locations and sizes of the 21 sites or the expected earliest dates for commencement of work, as Li had requested. Earlier, it said developers were normally required to complete construction within four to six years.

The number of flats unsold but in pre-sale, or under construction, is 40,000. Seven thousand completed flats that remain unsold. When they would be put on the market was up to developers since it was commercial decision, the bureau said.

Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung, a senior lecturer in real estate development at City University, said he was not about a mismatch between supply and demand.

"It's not that supply cannot meet our population growth, which has been slowing down. Many buyers are investors or property speculators, some from the mainland," Poon said.

"I'm more worried that if the central government tightens liquidity and less hot money is in the Hong Kong market, the property prices will lack support and drop, and so many thousands of flats on the market will be at risk."

Meanwhile, the Housing Authority has surrendered nine public housing estates in the past five years for redevelopment as open space or for schools and community facilities.

In addition, the 3.8-hectare former North Point Estate will be redeveloped for private housing and a hotel.
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Old June 27th, 2010, 05:43 PM   #979
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Keep the concrete jungle out of our country parks
27 June 2010
South China Morning Post

Our country parks are cherished. We should treat them as though they are sacred. Yet this reverence does not appear to be shared by those developing a parcel of private land within the Plover Cove reserve. One of our most pristine, serene places is being despoiled.

What is taking shape on the site is unclear. One of the men behind the plans says HK$200 million is being put into what will in effect be a park within a park, open to public use. Plans for a giant statue on a hill speak less of a public park than a tourist attraction. The involvement of a property developer and the tearing down of 11 two-century-old Hakka houses so that new ones - or a columbarium - can be built tell a more familiar story for the New Territories.

There's no mystery about the damage that clearing of the land has caused. Bride's Pool, an attraction downstream from the site, has been muddied by runoff water spilling over sandbags. A total of HK$3,500 in fines has been handed out for the illegal cutting down of 13 trees and driving of vehicles through the country park. It's also clear that for all the talk of the project and the work already carried out, authorities have not given it the go-ahead.

Although this is private land, activity of such a nature is at odds with the need to carefully preserve our country parks. There are strict laws governing use of their trails, attractions and facilities. But there is another reality: that ancestral land within the parks takes up about 2 per cent of their area. The government has consistently shunned calls to buy it back and insisted that mechanisms to control development and police law-breaking are effective.

Such assuredness is unjustified. There have been repeated infringements of laws, sometimes with devastating consequences. Illegal works described by conservationists as "shocking" were discovered in Pat Sin Leng Country Park and on adjacent government land last year; they included a long concrete road, a bridge over a stream and 150 felled trees. A total of 127 trees were illegally cut down in country parks between 2006 and 2008. It's clear that the cavalier and often lawless attitude of some people towards development in the New Territories extends beyond ancestral property to all land, regardless of its zoning.

The presence of country parks doesn't mean that time has to stand still on the private land within them. What is envisaged has to be sensitive to the parks, though; large-scale projects that disrupt wildlife, water catchment areas and serenity obviously aren't what we want or need. Nor do we require parks within country parks that have nicely manicured lawns, snack pavilions and concrete paths - we go to the country parks to escape such traits of our concrete jungle. Whatever is planned has to be firmly within the law and scrupulously monitored.

Penalties aren't harsh enough. The HK$25,000 maximum fine for cutting down trees and HK$2,000 for damage, with an additional HK$100 a day for recurring offences, aren't deterrents when multimillion-dollar projects are in the offing. They are a fraction of what applies in other places, where parkland is held in the highest regard. These need to be reviewed and policing stepped up.

Our country parks are our escape from noise, pollution and stress. Within their 41,582 hectares - 38 per cent of our land area - are the greenery, animals, insects, waterways and other natural features that make hiking, camping and picnicking so enjoyable. Every effort has to be made to preserve them.
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Last edited by hkskyline; June 27th, 2010 at 05:49 PM.
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Old June 29th, 2010, 08:47 AM   #980
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Developers face less room to move in new proposals
The Standard
Monday, June 28, 2010

The halcyon days for developers may be fast coming to an end, with a top advisory body proposing 51 rules to restrict their room to exploit floor-area concessions for "green" features.

The Council for Sustainable Development's proposals - the product of a year-long consultation that attracted 1,100 submissions, including 347 from individuals - come fast on the heels of the government's tightening of pre-sales regulations earlier this year.

But chairman Bernard Chan Charnwut was forced to deny that the council's refusal to propose a specific cap was due to fear of developers. "It's the government's job is to work out the percentage," he said.

"Our role is to collect public views."

The council also wants concessions on gross floor areas, implemented in 2001, to be cut for a whole slew of other features, from podium gardens, balconies, mailbox areas, clubhouses, guardrooms, etc, that are now regarded as indispensable for housing estates.

Another sticking point for critics and a swath of the public is that developers pay no premium or next to nothing for these enhancements and include them in the floor area for which home buyers pay market price.

Opponents of the measures say the environmental effect of the concessions have been nullified by the growing density of housing estates, leading to the so-called "wall effect," as developers go all out to cash in on them.

Pressure group Green Sense said the proposals fail to address public demands, and the absence of a specific cap was disappointing.
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