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Old July 4th, 2010, 03:52 PM   #981
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Long seen as Central's less sophisticated sister, the peninsula is being transformed by new landmark buildings, malls and hotels District's renaissance
28 June 2010
South China Morning Post

Long regarded as the poor cousin to districts across the harbour, Kowloon, in recent decades, has benefited from relaxed restrictions on building heights thanks to the 1998 closure of Kai Tak airport. Hotels and serviced apartments have in turn opened to meet the demand from more global companies that are opening offices on the peninsula.

Stretching from Tsim Sha Tsui to Mong Kok, Kowloon once boasted the highest population density per square mile in the world and was home to the majority of the city's residents.

However, the development of new towns over the years and the relocation of many residents has regenerated neglected areas. These areas now offer seemingly endless streets of shops, malls and restaurants catering to locals and visitors.

From Union Square in West Kowloon - housing Hong Kong's tallest building, the 118-storey International Commerce Centre, which is home to the city's highest hotel, The Ritz-Carlton - to the Elements shopping mall above the Kowloon MTR station, and the neighbouring twin towers of The Cullinan, housing the W Hotel, Kowloon has undergone a renaissance that has reinvigorated and transformed the area.

South of Union Square is Harbour City, Hong Kong's largest shopping mall, stretching over several city blocks along Canton Road and boasting an infinite variety of retail, food and dining outlets, and three hotels.

Hullett House on Salisbury Road, with a hotel, shops, galleries, and indoor and outdoor dining on the site of the former Marine Police headquarters, shows signs of a new era of conservation and preservation of the city's historic buildings being embraced.

Nathan Road also boasts the new 31-storey iSquare complex on the site of the former Hyatt Regency hotel, with 600,000 sqft of retail space, and housing Asia's largest IMAX cinema.

To the west of Nathan Road, popular shopping areas around Kimberley Road and Granville Road have also undergone revitalisation, with shops galore and numerous new eateries.

A revitalised Knutsford Terrace, on the southern side of Observatory Hill, also features a row of international restaurants, pubs and bars, and has quickly become a nightlife destination in its own right.

The new Mira Hotel has also added an element of class to the former rundown neighbourhood.

To the north, Mong Kok is now the home to Langham Place, a complex housing a five-star hotel, a 59-storey office tower and seemingly endless retail outlets, cafes, a food court and cinemas. Back on the harbour front area, along Salisbury Road, sits several five-star hotels with panoramic views of Hong Kong Island, and some of the city's most unusually shaped buildings, including the round-shaped Science Museum and IMAX cinema, the Museum of History and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, hosting top local and international dance and music performances, and resembling the shape of a formal bow tie when viewed from the air.

The gracious and refined Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui is a Hong Kong icon with venues such as the Felix bar regarded by many as the best in town.
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Old July 6th, 2010, 05:20 PM   #982
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Stanley set to lose landmark blue house
6 July 2010
South China Morning Post

The waterfront at Stanley Main Street will lose its landmark "blue house" in two years' time, when the site is redeveloped into a 10-storey hotel.

The building is one of the most memorable spots in the street and has been occupied for 11 years by The Boathouse restaurant.

In March, the site's owners, the Dolphin Bay Trading Company, were given the go-ahead to turn it into a hotel-style serviced apartment complex with six guestrooms.

With two more years to continue business, The Boathouse's operators, Igor's Group, are renovating the building's third floor to make more open space for alfresco dining. "We want customers to enjoy themselves in our last years here. People met here, got married here, and brought their kids to here - lots of fond memories," restaurant manager Ashok Sharma said.

Igor's Group said it had yet to work out with the landlord whether the restaurant would be part of the redevelopment but Sharma said it would be difficult to find another place in Stanley.

According to the papers submitted to the Town Planning Board by Dolphin Bay Trading Company, the proposed hotel would house restaurants on the first three floors and be a continuation of the Stanley Main Street culture.

"This site {hellip} is ripe for renewal as a private-initiated urban redevelopment scheme. Such redevelopment will act as a catalyst and stimulate further renewal in other degraded areas of Stanley," the company said. In approving the application, the board advised the landlord to ensure the design of the hotel complemented the local street character.

The blue house is not graded as a historic building.

Hazel Yuen Wai-yan, a flight attendant who patronises the restaurant about twice every year, said she was not aware of the redevelopment plan.

"This is a comfortable place where you can enjoy seafood and the sea breeze," she said. "It's sad to hear it'll be torn down soon."
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Old July 8th, 2010, 04:05 PM   #983
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LCQ5: Government properties
http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/2...1007070173.htm
Government Press Release

Following is a question by the Hon Paul Chan and a reply by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Professor K C Chan, in the Legislative Council today (July 7):

Question:

In recent years, the community is concerned about the short supply of housing in Hong Kong and has urged the Government to make available more land on the market or strive to increase the supply of housing on the market. Yet, the Government Property Agency (GPA) invited tenders for purchase in one parcel of the two blocks with a total of 168 flats and car parking spaces of former government quarters at Ventris Road, Hong Kong last year, instead of selling them directly to members of the public, and the tender was eventually awarded to a real estate developer. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of former government quarters sold by tender for purchase in one parcel by GPA in the past five years, and whether the Government had compared and reviewed the differences between the proceeds from the resale of such properties by the successful bidders and those yielded by the sale of such properties by the Government; if it had, list, by the date of sale, the respective locations, names, quantities, numbers of flats and car parking spaces involved and the prices of such properties, as well as the review outcome; and of the number of former government quarters which GPA plans to sell by tender for purchase in one parcel in the next five years, and list, by the intended date of sale, the respective locations, names, quantities, numbers of flats and car parking spaces involved and the estimated tender prices of such properties;

(b) given that quite a number of members of the public hope that the Government can increase the housing supply, whether the Government will review the current policy on the leasing and sale of government properties and, placing the interests of members of the public above all else, consider giving priority to leasing or selling all vacant government quarters to members of the public, instead of selling them by tender for purchase in one parcel to individual real estate developers, so as to avoid depriving the public the opportunities of renting or purchasing such properties; if not, of the reasons for that; and

(c) given that the Director of Audit pointed out in his report published in March 2008 that some government properties under the management of GPA had remained unused for a long period of time, and it has also been reported in recent months that the situation has not improved since then, whether the Government has held the officials of the relevant bureaux or government departments accountable for that or recorded relevant remarks in their performance appraisals; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that, and whether it will take such actions against them?

Reply:

Acting President,

Government Property Agency (GPA) has in place a clear and effective strategy to deal with surplus government quarters properly. The ultimate objective of Government is to dispose of surplus government quarters in the open market. As an interim measure, some quarters pending sale would be let to private tenants at market rental to generate revenue for Government's coffers.

Generally, there are two ways to dispose of surplus government quarters. For quarters located on intact development sites which are suitable for residential use, GPA will return the sites together with the quarters to Lands Department for land sale. One example is the sale by auction of the former government quarters site at Mt. Nicholson Road at the end of this month. The remaining surplus quarters are mainly individual units or whole blocks of quarters in private housing estates, and will be disposed of by GPA by tender or public auction. The number of such surplus quarters has been small, and their disposal cannot effectively help increase the supply of residential flats. For instance, the 144 surplus government quarters sold by GPA over the past five years are insignificant when compared with over 1,400,000 private residential units in Hong Kong.

In putting up surplus government quarters for sale, GPA will adopt the most appropriate and cost-effective disposal method in light of the actual situation. If Government only owns individual residential units in a housing estate, GPA will sell the units concerned individually. Over the past five years, GPA sold a total of 20 such units.

If the surplus quarters involve a whole block of building in a housing estate, GPA will usually sell them in one parcel. This has the advantage of disposing of all the units concerned in one go, thus saving the high costs involved in managing and maintaining such old quarters. The additional administrative and marketing costs required for future resale of individual unsold units can also be avoided. In addition, selling in one parcel enables buyers to opt to make investment in refurbishing the building before reselling or leasing out the flats. Buyers may also seek to consolidate the ownership with a view to redeveloping the site. Under such circumstances, the selling price would, to a certain extent, reflect the redevelopment potential of the land, thus bringing more revenue for Government's coffers. Over the past five years, GPA sold out a total of 124 surplus quarters together with parking spaces by tender for purchase in one parcel, comprising the two blocks of quarters at Ventris Road as mentioned in the question and the single-block quarters at Wylie Court. For details, please see the Annex.

According to our understanding, some of above-mentioned 124 surplus quarters are still held by the buyers and have not yet been resold. Hence, we do not have complete information at this stage for comparing the selling prices of Government and the resale prices set by the buyers. As a matter of fact, we do not think it is appropriate to make such comparison. From Government's perspective, what is important is that we have sold the quarters concerned by open tender to the highest bidders. Such tender process has ensured that Government would obtain the highest price the market could offer at that time. The buyers will then decide whether to make further investment in refurbishing the properties for resale by taking into account factors such as the future price trend of the property market, purchasing power and needs of end-users, cost of capital, etc. The resale price will depend on the prevailing market conditions, and the buyers have to bear the risk of fluctuation in property prices. As for whether GPA will sell other surplus quarters in one parcel in the next five years, we have no specific plan at this moment.

The vacant government premises in the three buildings as mentioned in Report No. 50 of the Director of Audit (the Audit Report) published in March 2008 and reported by the media in recent months were originally reserved for use by the MTR Corporation Limited as mass transit railway entrance/exit areas (reserved areas). As we explained to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) before, to change the use of the three reserved areas would involve, among others, various legal and technical issues. PAC has made recommendations on this matter and released its Report No. 50. According to the established mechanism, we reported the progress in the Government Minute (GM) submitted to the Legislative Council (LegCo) in October 2008, the annual progress report to PAC in November 2009 and the GM to LegCo in May 2010. In sum, we generally agree with the recommendations of the Audit Report and PAC. GPA, Buildings Department and other departments concerned have been actively following up the recommendations since then, with a view to identifying solutions to the legal and technical issues involved. GPA is taking forward the work relating to the change of the use of the reserved areas progressively. We will closely monitor the progress, and will report to Members the latest progress in detail in the annual progress report to be submitted to PAC this year.

Ends/Wednesday, July 7, 2010
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Old July 13th, 2010, 12:34 PM   #984
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Self-financing key to URA, say advisers
10 July 2010
SCMP

The Urban Renewal Authority should continue to be self-financing in the future even though some planned renewal projects may not be profitable, the government's advisers say.

Instead of injecting more public money into the authority, the advisers suggest setting up a heritage trust to deal with conservation projects as a way to reduce part of the authority's financial burden.

Professor Stephen Cheung Yan-leung, a member of the government's steering committee on urban renewal strategy, said yesterday that there would be more flexibility in the authority's financial operations as it was expected to adopt a district-based approach in the future.

"The authority doesn't have to gain a profit in every project in a district. It can lose in one while gaining in another," Cheung said. "I don't see an immediate need to inject more money."

The authority is supposed to be self-financing under the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance. The government injected HK$10 billion into the authority when it was set up in 2001 and the authority does not have to pay land premiums for its redevelopment projects.

But the self-financing principle is seen as putting limitations on the authority. Some critics say redevelopment quality may be compromised and the authority has sold luxury apartments to prevent losses.

The authority's financial operations, along with other measures, are being reviewed by the Development Bureau, which will come up with a new strategy by the end of this year.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who chaired the steering committee, said earlier she had an open mind on the authority's future financial model.

But Cheung said yesterday the committee did not recommend a change to the existing model.

"We agreed that preservation projects are costly. One idea worth considering is that a trust could be set up separately to support those projects," Cheung said, adding this could reduce the authority's financial burden.

Cheung said the committee had not decided who would give the trust money and how much money was needed. But he said the authority would not suffer a loss easily because the city's property market was prospering and renewal projects could be quickly implemented.

He said the committee's recommendations released in May were meant to rebuild trust between the authority and communities affected by redevelopments.

Recommendations include giving people an extra flat-for-flat compensation option, giving independent status to social workers who offer help to affected owners, and setting up a local consultative body comprising owners' representatives and professionals to recommend the scope of renewal for districts.

Responding to criticism over the authority selling luxury apartments that were unaffordable for residents, Cheung said the authority had started to provide smaller flats in its redevelopment projects.

The panel also agreed that the authority should, wherever possible, provide instant housing near redevelopment sites for affected residents to buy.

"Instead of waiting for a redeveloped flat, some residents may want to move into a readily available flat," Cheung said.

Professor Law Chi-kwong, studying renewal issues at the University of Hong Kong, said it was inevitable the government would inject more money into the authority in the long run.

He said there was a chance of the property market slowing down and a lower development density considered by the government in recent years also reduced the development potential of old buildings.

"The community has increasingly high expectations. They want more open space and community facilities. These factors will eventually increase the authority's financial burden," Law said. However, he admitted it was difficult to predict the loss and gain of renewal projects.

He suggested the authority limit conservation projects in order to save money and provide flats which were more affordable. "Small units do not mean they are always affordable," he said.
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Old July 15th, 2010, 09:23 AM   #985
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Repulse Bay parcel could fetch HK$1b
Owners at the top end of market opting to cash in on surging prices for luxury homes

14 July 2010
South China Morning Post

Surging house prices in the luxury sector have encouraged owners to put top-priced properties up for sale - with a Repulse Bay property likely to carry a price tag of about HK$1 billion, according to agents.

The owner of the five-storey detached house and an adjacent five-storey residential block at 20 and 22 South Bay Road in Repulse Bay has appointed property consultant Knight Frank to sell the parcel of luxury properties by tender. Closing date for offers is August 18.

The buildings are on a combined 20,723 square-foot site that provides a total floor area of 37,324 sq ft, including open area. The site was bought for HK$130 million or HK$6,970 per sq ft at a government land auction 10 years ago.

A property agent said that following the strong growth in luxury residential prices the two properties could fetch a combined HK$1 billion or HK$53,616 per sq ft.

Another luxury residential property up for tender is house number 26 at Le Palaris in Tai Tam. The two-storey house has a gross floor area of 4,372 sq ft and an 840 sq ft garden. The tender will close on August 12.

A 12,318 sq ft house at Jardine's Lookout is also offer for sale at HK$400 million or HK$32,000 per sq ft.

Keith Chang, deputy senior director of the residential department of property agency Savills said the last deal done in the housing estate was in September last year when a house sold for HK$96 million, or HK$21,622 per sq ft - suggesting a possible price for the latest home on offer of between HK$110 million and HK$120 million.

Clarence Chow Ho-yin, associate director at Centaline Property Agency, said an increasing number of owners were now willing to sell their luxury residential properties because prices had risen to high levels.

According to the firm, prices of luxury houses on The Peak and Island South have risen by 20 per cent and more than 10 per cent respectively so far this year.

"There are two types of vendors selling luxury residential properties currently. One is 'old family' that wants to cash in assets for estate allocation. The other is motivated by the profit that can be made at present prices," he explained.

Contributing to the high prices, said Chow, was the limited supply.

"I don't think you will be able to find another new site available for luxury residential development in Island South in the next 20 years. But demand is strong. The entry price for a single house in Island South has risen to HK$600 million," he said.

Property agents are now hoping the upcoming land auction of the site at Mount Nicholson Road on The Peak, and the former Civil Aid Service Training Centre in Ho Man Tin will record good responses.

But Landscope Realty managing director Koh Keng-shing worried that sales volumes could fall under the weight of rising prices.

"Flat owners may raise their asking prices sharply if the land auction result is positive and that could keep potential buyers away from the market in the short term," he said.

Mainland buyers could possibly be counted on to remain a major driver of demand as long as the mainland economy continued to grow strongly, said agents.

"They have continued to look for luxury properties in Hong Kong in last few months," said Alvin Yip, co-head of the investment department of property consultancy DTZ in North Asia. "However, they are cautious as the cooling measures on the mainland are continuing and this could affect their income. They are also affected by tightened loan conditions," he said.

A Nomura study found that mainland buyers accounted for 12 per cent of total property purchases in June, up from 9 per cent in March. Excluding corporate deals, purchases by mainlanders accounted for 18 per cent of transactions while other foreigners' buying accounted for 10 per cent. Only 71 per cent of deals recorded in June were by local buyers - the lowest proportion recorded in the firm's four surveyed periods beginning in September last year.

The latest time frame coincides with the measures taken by the central government to further tighten property lending, and Nomura said the tightening policy may have pushed some speculative demand from the mainland to Hong Kong.

The report found Kowloon remained the most favoured location for mainland buyers.

The proportion of mainland buyers involved in property deals in Kowloon rebounded to 22 per cent in June from 18 per cent in March, while in the New Territories it rose to 13 per cent in June from 2 per cent in March. Mainlanders accounted for 18 per cent of deals on Hong Kong island in June versus 16 per cent in March.

Henry Lam, executive director of investment services at consultancy Knight Frank, said he expected the austerity measures on the mainland and the appreciation of the yuan would prompt mainland buyers to search for luxury properties in Hong Kong.
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Old July 19th, 2010, 05:09 PM   #986
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Hybrid housing an affordable alternative
Foundation suggests homebuyers could part-rent, part-buy properties

19 July 2010
South China Morning Post

Hongkongers priced out of the property market could soon get a more affordable alternative - a scheme that allows them to part-buy and part-rent their dream home.

According to an ongoing study by the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre, this hybrid model might be the answer to the thorny issue of providing affordable housing to people who are not eligible to apply for public rental flats.

Centre chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk said the concept was modelled on Britain's shared ownership schemes under which a homebuyer can part-buy and part-rent their home.

"Shared-ownership schemes can provide the Hong Kong government food for thought in helping local people buy their homes," Wu said.

The centre's study on home ownership is expected to be completed by October. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will give an account of the results of the consultation on subsidising home ownership in his policy address in October.

Under the shared-ownership schemes in Britain, a homebuyer can buy as little as a 25 per cent share in his flat and a housing association buys the rest. The buyer pays rent set at an affordable rate, in most cases 3 per cent, on the part that he doesn't buy. He also has the right to buy the housing association's share in the property.

The bigger the share that the homebuyer purchases, the less rent he has to pay.

The idea is that the initial outlay to buy a property is far smaller than is usually the case and, as a result, people who would not be able to own their own home are able to do so. The initial outlay to buy a property is far smaller than usual, opening up the market to people who would not otherwise be able to own their own home.

"Our idea is that, for a HK$2 million property, a homebuyer in Hong Kong only has to pay HK$1 million and pays rent on the other half owned by the government," Wu said.

"The homebuyer can buy the share owned by the government within 10 years at the original price. The arrangement would protect the homebuyer from dramatic surges in property prices."

Wu said he appreciated possible concerns about details of the plan such as the rate of rent a homebuyer had to pay for the government's share and arrangements for homebuyers to sell their share.

"But let's start the discussion about whether shared ownership is a good idea in the first place," he said.

Francis Lam, a Hong Kong-born architectural assistant, was one of the beneficiaries of Britain's shared-ownership scheme when he bought a £297,000 (HK$3.53 million) flat in London in September .

He bought a 35 per cent share in his flat and had to pay a rent of £380 per month.

"There is no doubt that the scheme does cut down the initial cost but I also think there is uncertainty, particularly how many people would take the full ownership of their property. If the figure is low, the scheme will gradually become another public housing thing, " Lam said.

"Nonetheless, I believe this scheme eases off a lot of political and social tension regarding house prices within our country."

Wu said another proposal to be included in the centre's study was provision of rent subsidies for people who were eligible for Home Ownership Scheme flats.

"The people with the biggest grievances were those who could not afford to buy property and face difficulty paying rising rents," Wu said.

"There would be no need for people to rush to buy property when prices are rising if they are provided with a certain amount of rent subsidy," he said.

In May, Tsang announced a public consultation on whether the government should subsidise people to become homeowners, and if so, who should be subsidised and what kind of method should be adopted.

Tsang will give an account in his policy address in October if the government has further ideas on the issue after the consultation.

As property prices rise, there have been repeated calls for the chief executive to resume the HOS. Tsang said the government was aware that some people who did not qualify for public rental flats could not afford to buy private flats.

Meanwhile, the research centre is carrying out another study on the salary and social mobility of the so-called post-80s generation compared with older age groups.

Wu said the study would compare the pay rises and promotion prospects of university students graduating in 2000 with those who graduated in 1980 and 1990.

Since the protests against funding for the express rail linking Hong Kong with Guangzhou, there has been a popular notion that young people are becoming increasingly discontent and radical.

Some local media attributed the radical actions of some young activists to the lack of social mobility in Hong Kong and the sense of powerlessness among twenty-somethings in the city.

"My own observation is that the gap in status mobility between students graduating from university in 2000 and their counterparts graduating in 1980 and 1990 is bigger than that in salary mobility," Wu said.
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Old July 22nd, 2010, 06:21 PM   #987
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Work to stop at Sai Wan site
The Standard
Thursday, July 22, 2010





Excavation work at a controversial Sai Kung site near a protected park will be suspended today amid mounting pressure from green groups and villagers.

Lawmakers, green groups and individuals were outraged when the site at Tai Long Sai Wan was stripped bare by diggers.

A Facebook group protesting the destruction has reached more than 60,000 members since it was discovered.

The site, originally a deserted village, was bought by businessman Simon Lo Lin-shing for HK$16 million. While Lo claims it is to be developed into an organic garden with public pools, villagers believe he plans to build a private lodge, with artificial ponds and a tennis court.

While the site is surrounded by the Sai Kung East Country Park, it is not a part of it.

A spokesman for Lo issued a statement yesterday saying that work on the Sai Wan site "created unnecessary disagreements" from "differing opinions in the [Sai Kung] community and considerable speculation [from] the media."

The statement added: "We will commence discussions with the related departments and organizations in the hope [of finding] a solution that is acceptable [to] various parties."

An inspection of the site on Monday revealed no serious damage to vegetation despite the extensive excavation work, Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said.
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Old July 24th, 2010, 06:22 AM   #988
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Site in Kowloon Tong triggered for auction
Friday, July 23, 2010
Government Press Release









The Lands Department announced today (July 23) that a site at No.1 Ede Road, Kowloon Tong, New Kowloon Inland Lot No.6306, had been successfully triggered for sale under the Application List System.

The lot will be offered for sale at this financial year's sixth government land auction to be held at 3pm on August 31, 2010, at Tsuen Wan Town Hall.

A Lands Department spokesman said that the Government had accepted the applicant's minimum guaranteed bid of $659 million for the lot. This will be the opening bid at the auction subject to the reserve price of the lot.

New Kowloon Inland Lot No.6306 has a site area of about 2,399 square metres and is designated for private residential purposes. The minimum gross floor area and the maximum gross floor area are 4,319 square metres and 7,197 square metres respectively.

The final Conditions of Sale for the lot will be available for distribution and uploaded onto the Lands Department's website (www.landsd.gov.hk) by August 13, 2010, when the particulars of the land auction will also be gazetted.
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Old July 28th, 2010, 01:50 PM   #989
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Luxury rental prices fired by executive moves
28 July 2010
South China Morning Post

A sharp increase in the number of expatriate executives moving to Hong Kong with their families helped drive a 10.9 per cent rise in rentals of luxury residential properties in the first half of this year - and the trend looks set to continue over the remainder of the year, according to property consultants.

"This is simple supply and demand. We have seen a 33 per cent increase in the number of new families relocating to Hong Kong in the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2009," said Anne-Marie Sage, regional director of the residential division of property consultancy Jones Lang Lasalle.

"The new demand is mainly from the financial sector, with large corporations expanding and new hedge funds and legal companies setting up in Hong Kong," she said.

As a result, rentals increased 5.8per cent in the second quarter following a 4.8 per cent rise in the first quarter, and expatriate tenants are being forced to bear the consequences of sharply rising living costs.

"Rental allowances for large companies were generally reduced due to the recession and cutbacks made by the companies last year. Unfortunately the Hong Kong market moves so quickly that no sooner had these cuts come into effect then the leasing market began picking up," Sage said.

Island South and The Peak saw the biggest increases in rentals in the second quarter, while Mid-Levels experienced the biggest increase in the first quarter, she said.

"Areas like Clearwater Bay, Sai Kung and Discovery Bay are popular with families who want the luxury of space and gardens at a lower rent than Island South. However, due to popularity and lack of supply, gone are the days you can find a selection of houses for around HK$30,000 a month. Popular village-type properties that have been renovated in Clearwater Bay are now achieving up to HK150,000 per month," she said.

"We expect this rise to continue for rest of the year with a further 10 per cent growth for the second half."

With continued increases in rentals, Sage said the trend for companies to encourage personal leases taken out by staff members was expected to grow. "I expect this trend to continue with only very senior management left holding company leases," she said.

Another property consultancy, Savills, said the rising trend in rents on Hong Kong Island had prompted some tenants to look for cheaper homes that nonetheless offered good quality. Discovery Bay continued to gain in popularity among expatriate families because of the space and higher-quality living environment on offer.

"The rental differential between Discovery Bay and traditional luxury districts on Hong Kong Island has narrowed, with the average discount falling from 47 per cent to 36 per cent over the past three years," according to Savills' latest research report.

Low-rise units and garden houses are the most popular housing types in Discovery Bay, with rents up by 5-14 per cent over the second quarter of this year.

Island South, with more choices of private or international schools, also remained a favoured housing locality for the expatriate community. Average rents of luxury flats and townhouses in Southside were up by 4.6 per cent and 3.9 per cent over the quarter, respectively - outstripping the overall market, Savills said.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 11:32 AM   #990
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Home auctions tap $226m
The Standard
Friday, July 30, 2010

Official coffers grew by a further HK$226.1 million yesterday as nine former government quarters on Hong Kong Island were snapped up at auction.

The luxury homes went under the hammer, one day after a site on The Peak was sold for HK$10.4 billion as part of official moves to boost the supply of prime urban land.

The nine homes, all with parking space, went for 6.6 to 41 percent higher than their opening bids.

The most expensive unit was an Elm Tree Towers apartment in Tai Hang that sold for HK$32.1 million, 22 percent above the opening bid.

A buyer surnamed Cheng, who said "I'm loaded," bought a Baguio Villa apartment in Pok Fu Lam for HK$25 million for his son's use.

Auctioneer and Centaline Surveyors director James Cheung King-tat said the results were "satisfactory."

He dismissed suggestions that the sale of the former quarters will boost home prices. "This is an open auction for everyone to bid. The government was only selling its assets at market prices."

Meanwhile, Jones Lang LaSalle is inviting tenders for a prime property atop a 25,764-square-foot site at 20 Peak Road in Mid-Levels.

"A number of prospective buyers from the mainland have shown interest," it said. The target price is between HK$500 million and HK$600 million.

Sino Land (0083) noted the proportion of mainland buyers at The Hermitage surged to 50 percent over the past week, from 10 to 15 percent previously.

The developer reiterated that it may raise prices for the remaining homes at the Tai Kok Tsui project after reaping over HK$90 billion.

Kerry Properties (0683) executive director Chu Ip-pui said prices for the remaining 120 homes at Island Crest may rise by 5 to 7 percent. It will sell four special units at the Sai Ying Pun project from HK$10.4 million. Kerry will also raise prices for Belgravia in South Bay and 15 Homantin Hill.
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Old July 31st, 2010, 05:18 PM   #991
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Planners act to extendtheir control to scenic Sai Wan beach site
31 July 2010
South China Morning Post

The Town Planning Board yesterday approved designating picturesque Sai Wan in Sai Kung as a development permission area (DPA), a major step towards protecting the scenic beach with statutory zoning.

The next step is to publish a plan of the DPA in the Government Gazette, after which the planning authority will have power to control any new development on the Tai Long Wan site. However, existing alterations to the site will not be affected.

The board's endorsement moves a step closer the start of a public consultation process to develop a detailed land-use plan for the site, which is not protected by any planning controls at present. "It is going to be a battleground within the community, as different parties will put forward their views and come up with a consensus," a board member said on condition of anonymity.

Under the Town Planning Ordinance, after a DPA is gazetted, an outline zoning plan specifying land-use rules should be prepared by the Planning Department within three years.

The board member refused to give details of the DPA discussed, only saying there were positive discussions about the issue and there was no opposition to bestowing the DPA designation. "We have been reminded not to reveal anything since this might be counterproductive to protecting the site from further destruction," he said, adding the whole board backed the DPA designation.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Tuesday she had instructed lawmakers the previous day to designate Sai Wan a DPA.

She said it was an exceptional move to disclose the designation before the process was completed, but she believed there would be little room for the developer to carry out further work on the site under the current close public monitoring.

A spokeswoman for Simon Lo Lin-shing, the businessman who bought several private plots of land at Sai Wan on which to build a personal retreat, said he did not have any further comment on the case.

Lo issued a statement on July 21 saying he would stop construction, which had spread onto government land, and discuss the situation with relevant government departments.

Lo and his contractor face the possibility of charges, including illegal occupation and excavation on a government site. It remained uncertain last night whether the Lands Department had issued a formal notice to Lo for reinstatement of the public land, covering an area of 5,500 square metres, to its original condition.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said yesterday it was still investigating how diggers had been moved to the work site. It said it had not yet approved an application by the diggers' operators, received on Thursday last week, to remove them via the protected beach. The department has yet to publish a list of 54 sites in or close to country parks not covered by zoning.
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Old August 1st, 2010, 04:57 PM   #992
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Tenants keen on measures protecting the environment
28 July 2010
South China Morning Post

A growing number of tenants are keen on moving into luxury residential developments with eco-friendly features.

Coco Wong, Swire Properties' residential manager, says it's not unusual for residents to inquire about green programmes that Swire Properties have in place before they sign a tenancy agreement.

"We believe our residents share the same environmental values as Swire Properties, and appreciate our efforts and commitment to environmental protection. For instance, residents of Pacific Place Apartments are mainly senior executives working for multinational corporations, so it is not surprising their awareness about environmental protection concepts is extensive," Wong says.

She says Swire Properties has received compliments from residents on various green programmes, such as garment and book recycling initiatives, dimming and switching off lights during non-busy hours, reduction in the use of plastic bags for laundry, and participation in the Earth Hour scheme.

She says recycling programmes can serve as a friendly reminder for residents to include eco-friendly planning in their day-to-day living. Wong explains that instead of throwing away unwanted items, such as toys and books that end up in landfills, tenants can donate them to a charity.

She says cleaning products used in Pacific Place Apartments are environmentally friendly and meet the government's Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) regulations. The government implemented the VOC regulation as part of its objective to reduce emissions from cleaning products, adhesives and sealants. The adopted standard is similar to those in place in California, and puts Hong Kong in a leading position in the region to limit VOCs in selected products.

One of the biggest environmental concerns associated with property development and management is the emission of greenhouse gases from electricity use.

As a large user of electricity, Swire Properties is committed to improving its energy efficiency, while encouraging stakeholders to do the same.

Last year, the company invested HK$48 million in energy efficiency initiatives and HK$11 million in environmental improvement works across the firm's Hong Kong portfolio.

While saving energy across Swire's properties is one of its highest priorities, the firm says that to reduce energy use significantly over the long-term, it is essential to integrate sustainability into the design of new developments. The firm routinely assesses its impact on the environment and seeks to integrate environmental considerations into the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of its facilities.

Last year, Swire commenced studies on four of its new developments to determine the environmental and cost effectiveness of sustainable design features and systems that help to reduce energy consumption. It adopted a number of recommendations from the studies, including better performing glazing, LED lighting and renewable energy.

In Guangzhou, Swire's new TaiKoo Hui development features a rain harvesting system which collects water to be treated and used for flushing.

Kenneth Wong, executive director at architectural and design firm Aedas, says developers are acutely aware that investors and end-users are demanding that sustainable design is a central part of environmental solutions and are increasingly marketing properties on that basis.
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Old August 2nd, 2010, 12:06 PM   #993
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Tunnel toll hike sparks call for fourth crossing
The Standard
Monday, August 02, 2010

The toll increase for the Western Harbour Tunnel yesterday drew protests, with a political party suggesting a fourth harbor tunnel be built.

Members of the League of Social Democrats drove slowly in protest through the tunnel. Ten cars and taxis displayed slogans protesting against the hikes, asking the government to buy and take over the operation.

Legislator Tam Yiu-chung said the government should adjust tolls and help redistribute traffic by attracting vehicles from the congested Cross Harbour Tunnel.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong also suggested building a fourth crossing and introducing an exit in Central to alleviate jams in Wan Chai and Causeway Bay.

From yesterday, tolls for cars, taxis and minibuses increased HK$5 to HK$50, HK$45 and HK$60 respectively, with taxis facing a 13 percent increase. Single-decker buses and double-deckers now have to pay HK$10 and HK$13 more each, respectively.

The Western Harbour Tunnel Company attributed the increases to financial difficulties, saying it faces debts of HK$2.6 billion by end of December.

The toll rise is the third after 2004 and 2008.

Following the Western Harbour Tunnel rise, the KMB plan to increase fares also met protests calling on the government to reject the proposal.

The DAB staged protests in front of the Kowloon Motor Bus headquarters at Lai Chi Kok yesterday.

More than 20 residents joined the demonstration.

KMB and its subsidiary, Long Win Bus services, which operates around North Lantau and the airport, are proposing fare increases of up to 8.6 and 7.4 percent with an average increase of 52 and 85 HK cents per trip, respectively.

Around 2.7 million commuters using 400 routes would be affected.

Protesters called the bus operator "shameless" for proposing fare increases despite recording hefty profits last year.

Meanwhile, New World First Bus drivers and technicians are threatening to strike next Monday against the company's offer of a 1.8 percent pay rise, asking for 2.2 percent instead.
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Old August 2nd, 2010, 05:43 PM   #994
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LCQ9: Village public sewers
http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/2...1007140206.htm
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Following is a question by the Hon Albert Chan Wai-yip and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (July 14):

Question:

Recently, I have received complaints from quite a number of villagers, who have pointed out that for years the Government have not provided public sewers in some villages, leaving the sewage from such villages not properly treated. Moreover, in some of the villages where public sewers are provided, since sewers are not directly connected to the sewerage facilities of the villagers' residences, the villagers had to spend a substantial amount of money to connect such facilities to public sewers, which had significantly increased the burden on their livelihood. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of villages which at present are still not provided with public sewers, and the names and locations of such villages; whether the authorities have planned to provide public sewers to such villages; if they have, of the details of the plans and when the works will commence; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) in those villages which are provided with public sewers, the percentage of the number of households for which the sewerage facilities of their residences are not connected to public sewers in the total number of households in such villages; whether the Government has planned to assist the households in connecting such facilities to public sewers; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether it will connect the sewerage facilities in the villagers' residences to public sewers directly when providing new public sewers and implementing sewerage projects in villages; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

(a) Village sewerage is part of the Government's sewerage provision programme to improve the village environs and sanitary conditions of unsewered areas and reduce pollution to our rivers and coastal waters. There are about 980 villages in the rural New Territories. As at end April 2010, we have provided public sewerage to about 130 villages and village sewerage works for about 55 villages are in progress. In addition, about 275 villages covered by the village sewerage programme are at the planning stage. The names of these villages by areas are at Annex 1. Construction of the village sewerage will commence after the pre-construction works, such as design and consultation, are completed. We shall progressively roll out the village sewerage programme to cover more unsewered villages and areas.

(b) The rate of sewer connection of village houses in Sha Tin, Tai Po, Sai Kung, Tsuen Wan, Islands, North and Yuen Long districts upon provision of the public village sewerage, as at end April 2010, is shown at Annex 2. The sewer connection rates of village houses vary and depend on a number of technical factors. Based on past experience, the main reasons for those unable to be connected include limited space, inadequate hydraulic gradient, costly pumping requirement, obstruction from underground utilities, land resumption issues and encroachment on other's private land etc. Such unconnected village houses may continue to use their private treatment facilities including septic tanks.

(c) It has been our aim to extend the sewerage network to all village houses within a sewered area and provide the branch sewer up to the lot boundary of a village house where feasible to facilitate as far as possible the house owner to make sewer connection to the public sewerage. According to the current legislation and policy, all sewer connection works within a lot boundary and associated maintenance are private works that are the responsibility of the house owner. This policy has been applied to all property owners in Hong Kong on equal basis for years. In Hong Kong, all private buildings and village houses that were already connected to the public sewerage had completed the sewer connection works at their own cost. Currently, there are building related grant and loan schemes provided by the Government and other organisation to assist those eligible house owners in need for carrying out the sewer connection works, such as the "Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners" and "Home Renovation Loan Scheme" operated by the Hong Kong Housing Society and the "Comprehensive Building Safety Improvement Loan Scheme" operated by the Buildings Department. Owners in need may contact the Hong Kong Housing Society and Buildings Department for details accordingly. Also, the Environmental Protection Department and the Drainage Services Department can provide the relevant information and referral assistance.
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 10:46 AM   #995
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Fresh code of practice imposed on estate agents
The Standard
Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Estate Agents Authority has published a new code of practice for agents acquiring old tenements, which takes effect today.

The code comprises six major categories, including the need to clarify the estate agent's function, potential conflict of interest, accuracy of paper work, and agents' conduct.

"More owners of old properties have voiced their concerns about estate agents after the government lowered the threshold for the compulsory sale of flats in old buildings. A new circular is needed to better safeguard their interests," said EAA chief executive officer Rosanna Ure Lui Hang-sai.

Under the revised threshold, developers have to gain only 80 percent instead of the earlier 90 percent of overall ownership of an old building for the compulsory sale of other remaining flats to come into effect. So more old building acquisitions are expected.

To ensure estate agents are well informed of the new guidelines, the EAA will step up inspection and education efforts. Estate agencies seemed to welcome the new code.

"The new guideline will curb the rising [instances] of misconduct as it provides a formal framework," said Jeffrey Ng Chong- yip, director of Midland Realty. "It's a positive thing for the industry."
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Old August 6th, 2010, 07:19 PM   #996
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We need new thinking on our land supply
5 August 2010
South China Morning Post

The dream of one day owning one's home is universal. Responsible governments do their best to make it a reality; a happy, stable and productive society is built on the foundation of people having a place they can call their own. That is well understood here, but there is a danger that the fundamentals are getting lost in the debate. While we need more flats, they also have to be affordable.

This is not rocket science. Plenty of data is available: housing supply, population, forecasts and construction approvals and schedules are a starting point. Income levels, savings and investments and mortgage terms and conditions complete the picture. Getting the numbers right is not foolproof, but estimates with a fair degree of accuracy can be arrived at.

Yet the crucial element of affordability has not been raised loudly enough ahead of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's policy address in October. Part of his speech will be devoted to detailing the results of the consultation on subsidising home ownership. He is likely to put a firm number on how many new public and private flats we need. It is probable he will raise the issue of whether land in the New Territories should be reclaimed so that they can be built.

Tsang promised fresh thinking on land supply in his previous policy address, and we certainly hope to see it. But, hopefully, reclamation will not be the centrepiece of that. Selling land has been the backbone of government budgets since the 19th century and reclamations have played a central role in that process. Reclaiming land is an expensive proposition. The property that is built on it reflects the high costs. The Protection of the Harbour Ordinance prevents Victoria Harbour from being reclaimed, but obviously the New Territories falls outside its ambit. It is hard to imagine that housing built on expensive reclaimed land will be particularly affordable.

The government is also believed to favour providing subsidised housing by private developers rather than directly participating in building Home Ownership Scheme flats. It has been criticised by some lawmakers for underestimating the number of new flats needed. While 15,000 public flats and 14,000 private ones will be built annually over the next four to five years, there is pressure for the latter number to be 20,000 - the yearly average supply over the past decade. So more land will be needed if such a figure is to be accommodated.

That is where data comes in. Our population growth is just 0.5 per cent and falling, which points to lessening demand for new flats. Assuming an average household of 2.9 people, Hong Kong would need just 12,900 more flats to meet the increased demand. Older parts of the city are being redeveloped, which requires replacement homes to be built, but still, the numbers are not huge.

Of course, creating an oversupply of flats, if that is what happens, would seem to augur well for potential homebuyers. That is not the case, though: expensive land generally means high flat prices. After all, the developer wants to recoup his costs, and so sets his sights on the high-end market. The result: a glut of housing, but few units that the middle-class can afford. Reclaiming land cannot be the solution. Tearing down perfectly good affordable blocks so that glossy, new expensive apartments can go up is not either. Middle- and lower-income families looking for a place to call their own should not have to take on mortgages that eat up most of their income. We hope the fresh thinking that has been promised will address this issue.
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Old August 8th, 2010, 09:01 AM   #997
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Urban renewal has seen
Wan Chai overcome its tawdry image to become one of the city's best places to reside, with a world of shopping and dining to enjoy
Infamous district reborn

28 June 2010
South China Morning Post



Urban renewal and the introduction of upmarket bars, restaurants and serviced apartments have injected a new lease of life into this formerly worn-out district.

Arguably the city's most famous - and infamous - district, Wan Chai is trying to shed its decades-old reputation as a waterfront haunt. Serviced apartments have sprung up to serve multinational companies with offices in the district and the area is a magnet for locals and visitors who flock there to wine, dine and shop.

Host to the historic 1997 handover ceremonies, heralding the city's reversion to Chinese sovereignty, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) continues to be the region's most popular venue for world-class conferences, exhibitions and trade shows. A new HKCEC extension now sees the venue also hosting international art and antique shows, fashion extravaganzas and health and wellness expos. The surrounding area is also home to commercial and government organisations, and some of the city's best hotels.

By way of contrast to its nightlife reputation, Wan Chai is also home to the Academy for Performing Arts (APA) which hosts cultural offerings across the artistic spectrum.

The APA has also grown an international reputation attracting talents from around the world to train in music, dance and theatre.

And, while Lockhart Road still retains its reputation for notorious entertainment, newly established bars and eateries also signal the rapid disappearance of many less than salubrious establishments and old-fashioned Chinese dai pai dong eateries.

Further into the district, Johnston Road has also benefited from renewal projects, with former traditional shop-houses dating back to 1888 now housing international restaurants and pub-style eateries, while also retaining their exotic ambience associated with the architecture of a bygone era.

The maze of streets in the surrounding area are also home to food and fashion outlets, open-air markets, traditional tea merchants and Chinese herbalists.

Savvy investors have also recognised the district's potential.

The new Star Street precinct is home to scores of trendy bars, cosy cafes and top restaurants. Conveniently connected to Admiralty's Pacific Place, the 280-metre link features moving walkways providing the public with safe, direct and air conditioned access to the lively new lifestyle precinct.

Immediately adjacent is Queen's Road East, home to traditional Qing dynasty rosewood furniture shops that reside next to modern furniture shops and interior décor emporiums.

The 64-storey Hopewell Centre, formerly Hong Kong's tallest building, hosts a top-floor revolving restaurant providing panoramic views of Victoria Harbour, while lower floors house numerous retail shops and one of the largest international supermarkets in the city.

All roads lead to Wan Chai and the area's public transport options are the envy of many other districts. A short MTR ride delivers passengers to the heart of Causeway Bay and Admiralty, and quick and easy connections to the city's Airport Express train. Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) is also a short 10-minute cross-harbour MTR trip away. The Star Ferry also departs from the Wan Chai waterfront, next to the HKCEC with connections to TST and Hung Hom.
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Old August 8th, 2010, 06:07 PM   #998
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Flood death village given safety pledge
30 July 2010
The Standard

Director of Drainage Services Peter Lau Ka-keung has promised to clear the boulders from a construction site believed to have caused the flooding in a Tai Po village during last week's rainstorm, in which a man died.

Legislator Gary Chan Hak-kan said he was told by the director that the clearing of the boulders, which blocked the river in Sha Po Tsai village, will be completed by Sunday. A floodgate will also be built.

Chan met with Lau and Development Bureau officials yesterday. A 50-year-old villager, Lam Wing-wick, died in the floods triggered by last Thursday's black rainstorm, and more than a dozen villagers were trapped for hours before they were rescued.

Villagers said boulders from government construction projects washed down from the upper reaches of the river, blocking it and causing the flooding.

``We hope the floodgate can block both the boulders and water [from going to the lower stream],'' Chan said.

According to Chan, Lau agreed that the boulders came from nearby government construction projects.

Lau has earlier denied that the flooding was caused by one of the nearby drainage works of his department.

The Drainage Services Department also will address the issue of compensation when the investigation on the cause of flooding is completed in six weeks, Chan said.

``We hope the investigation can be completed as soon as possible so that it will not cause trouble for villagers when claiming compensation,'' he said.

Chan said villagers remain afraid that more flooding will occur. ``Many have packed their things and are ready to leave,'' he said.

During the second black rainstorm on Wednesday, Chan and other government officials visited every household to warn villagers to seek safety in the Tai Po Community Centre.
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Old August 9th, 2010, 01:30 PM   #999
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Greens out to smash flats bay window ploy
The Standard
Monday, August 09, 2010

Developers are cashing in by building needlessly deep bay windows, a green group claimed yesterday.

Green Sense urged the government to stop exempting such windows from floor areas after revealing how developers take advantage of the provision by building them as deep as 80 centimeters, and then charging higher prices for "more" space.

The group revealed the findings after inspecting four new estate projects by Sun Hung Kai Properties, Cheung Kong, Emperor Group and Sino Group.

Green Sense chairman Roy Tam Hoi-pong said developers have been allowed to build bay windows as deep as 50cm, which is included in the floor area, and homebuyers have been paying for such windows over the past 30 years.

However, developers have been building 80cm deep bay windows since 2006 and, lately, they have also made full use of the exemption on prefabricated components, which may be as deep as 30cm.

And they include such 30-cm-deep parts in salable areas.

The prefabricated components are an approved green feature that the government has exempted from the plot ratio.

The depth of bay windows stated in sales brochures is misleading, Tam said. "The sales brochure says the bay window is 50cm deep but we found that the bay window is in fact 80cm deep after measuring it in the model flat."

A 611-square-feet flat at Sun Hung Kai's Lime Stardom was cited as an example of a bay window area as large as 10 square meters and equivalent to about HK$240,000 of the sale price.

The window takes up a quarter of the flat's smallest room, he said.

Tam said this was the first time they had discovered such a feature in a Sun Hung Kai property.
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Old August 10th, 2010, 11:30 AM   #1000
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Home prices unrealistic, bank warns mortgage seekers
The Standard
Thursday, August 05, 2010

Property prices can be seen as "slightly unrealistic" and some would-be homebuyers might not get the mortgage loans they seek, Hang Seng Bank (0011) warned yesterday.
Bank valuations could be lower than transaction prices, said vice chairman and chief executive Margaret Leung Ko May-yee.

"We'll not approve loans to [buyers] who have woolly capital resources," she said.

The loan-to-value ratio for new mortgages is not high, she added.

Stephen Man Wai-shing, head of secured lending for consumer banking at Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong), said he has not heard of many cases of under-valuation as prices are pegged to the market.

Man noted that the bank uses an independent firm for valuations and it has its own mechanism.

Normally, he said, buyers can get 70 percent of home value for properties worth less than HK$20 million and 60 percent for more expensive ones.

But he pointed out that uncompleted properties will not be valued until transactions are actually completed months later.

Terence Chong, an associate professor of economics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, concurs.

"A property bubble is emerging," Chong said. "The pace at which property prices soar is far beyond the average pay rise. The general public simply cannot afford them."

A family would have to set aside up to HK$20,000 a month for eight years to buy a 400-square-foot unit in Kowloon, he said.

But Midland Realty chief analyst Buggle Lau Ka-fai is less downbeat.

He admitted that the working population cannot easily buy primary homes these days but said secondary properties - such as at Kingswood Villas in Tin Shui Wai and Laguna City in Kwun Tong - remained affordable.
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