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Old October 12th, 2010, 03:42 AM   #1041
hkskyline
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Kerry eyes combined sites
The Standard
Monday, October 11, 2010

The government is expected to rake in up to HK$1.79 billion from a Kowloon Tong site that goes under the hammer tomorrow, the eve of the policy address.

The 30,225-square-foot plot at 3 and 5 Ede Road is due to fetch between HK$1.4 billion and HK$1.79 billion - representing an accommodation value of HK$15,400 to HK$19,700 per square foot - according to eight surveyors.

Kerry Properties (0683) is set to be a key bidder, with executive director Chu Ip-pui not expecting any impact from the policy address. Kerry bought 1 Ede Road in August for HK$1.28 billion, or a record accommodation value of HK$16,587 psf for Kowloon.

Kerry is expected to go all out to secure the adjoining site for itself, but surveyor Pang Siu-kei did not rule out the possibility of the group joining forces.

`With just one site, Kerry can only build flats. Combined through a joint venture, flats and also houses, which command higher prices, can be built."

Ringo Lam Chun-chiu, valuations director at AG Wilkinson & Associates, thinks so too, but says Kerry may find it difficult to negotiate with others after the intense competition for 1 Ede Road.

With other prime sites in Inverness Road and Stubbs Road coming up, Lam said, other developers may give way to Kerry. Lam said his valuation of HK$1.79 billion for 3 and 5 Ede Road is based on its size and shape.

It can provide 29 homes when developed alone, or 51 homes that can fetch more than HK$24,000 psf when combined with the neighboring site.

Savills expects the average selling price to be up to HK$21,000 psf.

Only five flats in two nearby projects - One Beacon Hill and Mount Beacon - have been sold since last month. Prices ranged from HK$12,324 to HK$17,566 psf.

Meanwhile, Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016) said it has sold 250 villas at Valais 10 days into its launch.

Chinachem Group, meanwhile, said it has sold 141 homes at Billionaire Royale. The units were worth HK$1.4 billion.
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Old October 13th, 2010, 03:25 AM   #1042
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Cash happy
The Standard
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homeowners are hoping to laugh all the way to the bank after a government land auction yesterday fetched the highest ever price for a site in Kowloon.

Chinachem Group beat hot favorite Kerry Properties (0683) to win the plot in Kowloon Tong for HK$1.63 billion - committing to pay a record HK$17,976 per square foot.

Many luxury homeowners had already raised their asking prices by 10 to 20 percent before the auction, which came on the eve of today's policy address - widely expected to include measures aimed at tempering runaway property prices.

A homeowner in nearby One Beacon Hill is now asking HK$35 million for his 1,954-square-foot flat - up 13 percent from HK$31 million a week ago.

A 1,636 sq ft apartment at Celestial Heights in Ho Man Tin now commands HK$25 million, up 14 percent from last week.

One Beacon Hill and Mount Beacon each recorded two deals this month, averaging HK$17,912 psf and HK$17,571 psf, according to Midland Realty.

The final price for the 30,225-square-foot plot at 3 and 5 Ede Road, Kowloon Tong, fell within estimates by eight surveyors of HK$1.4 billion to HK$1.79 billion.

Chinachem sales manager Ng Shun- mo said the firm will invest HK$2 billion to develop the site, regardless of the policy address.

"If, as rumored, the government is going to provide more plots, subsidize home purchases or launch a rent-to-sale scheme for the middle and sandwich classes, I think it's very appropriate," Ng added.

The auction saw the first successful bid by Chinachem under its new chairman Kung Yan-sum, the younger brother of the late Nina Wang Kung Yu- sum.

Under Kung, Chinachem has actively bid at least seven previous land auctions, failing to emerge as the winner.

Chinachem and Kerry competed neck and neck in much of the 30-minute auction that saw a total of 74 bids from five concerns.

In August, Kerry won a smaller adjoining site at 1 Ede Road for HK$1.285 billion or HK$16,578 psf.

Kerry's shares slid 1.2 percent to HK$44.10 shortly after it lost the auction, before eventually closing up 0.6 percent to HK$44.95.

Ng denied Chinachem had only intended to bid up prices, saying it will consider working with Kerry.

Kerry, however, seems reluctant to enter into partnership with the group.

Chinachem will build one or two blocks with a maximum gross floor area of 90,676 sq ft, providing 48 flats. After taking into account GFA concessions, completed homes will have to sell for HK$22,000 psf to generate reasonable profits, Ng said.

Lanbase Surveyors director Chan Cheung-kit said Chinachem had not obtained any new site in a while and saw a strong need to replenish its land bank.

He said the government appears to have no intention of curbing the luxury market and is only trying to help mass- end buyers.

But Hong Kong Property senior sales manager Calvin Lam Yee-hang expects transactions to slow due to dramatic price hikes in recent weeks and policy address cooling measures.

Yu Kam-hung, CB Richard Ellis senior managing director for Greater China, said successive land auctions have fetched record prices as developers remain bullish amid the prevailing low interest rate environment.

The government, in the face of high home prices, can only boost land supply, which is currently far from sufficient, Yu said, and - given its larger size - it was only natural that the site sold yesterday commanded a higher price than the number 1 site bought by Kerry.
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Old October 14th, 2010, 10:57 AM   #1043
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35pc of luxury HK flats sold to mainlanders
14 October 2010
South China Morning Post

More than one in three new luxury flats in Hong Kong were bought by mainlanders in the first half of this year - a rise of more than 50 per cent compared to the second half of last year. And the trend is set to continue.

"Hong Kong property prices have become around 25 per cent cheaper to mainland buyers because of the appreciation of the yuan in recent years. It is very attractive to them," said Louis Ng, a director at property agency Ricacorp Properties.

Beijing's new measures to curb property speculation also prompted mainland investors to shift their focus to the Hong Kong market, Ng said.

Research by Centaline Property Agency showed that new luxury units costing more than HK$12 million were the most popular among mainland buyers. In the first half, about 35.1 per cent of new luxury flats sold in Hong Kong were bought by mainlanders, up from 22.5 per cent in the second half of last year.

However, in the secondary market, only 16.7 per cent of luxury flats priced more than HK$12 million were bought by investors from across the border. Residence Bel-Air in Cyberport and the luxury housing estate atop Kowloon Station were the most popular among mainland buyers in the secondary market. Residence Bel-Air saw 23 deals worth HK$582 million in the first half while The Arch on Kowloon Station sold 17 flats totalling HK$298 million.

Wong Leung-sing, an associate director of research at Centaline, said the number of mainland buyers in the secondary market for luxury flats remained flat since the first half of last year but it continued to rise significantly in the primary market.

In the mass residential market, new homes are still the most attractive to mainland buyers. About 13.2 per cent of the new mass residential flats below HK$12 million were bought by mainlanders in the first half of this year, up slightly from 11.9 per cent six months ago.

Mainland buyers accounted for only 5.8 per cent of the flats sold in the second-hand mass residential market in the first half, compared with 5.7 per cent six months ago.

Ng of Ricacorp estimates that fewer than 10 per cent of his mainland clients bought flats for immigration purposes and believes the influx of mainland buyers would continue despite the temporary removal of real estate from the investment asset classes under the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme.

"Most of them bought the flats for long-term investment purposes or for personal use. They will keep the flats even if property prices rise sharply. You can see the number of flats in the estate on Kowloon Station available for sale has been decreasing as mainland flat owners are reluctant to sell. They are proud to own a property in Hong Kong," he said.

In view of Beijing's strict foreign currency controls, mainland investors have to resort to credit card transactions, fund transfers between companies trading in Hong Kong and the mainland, parallel accounts, the underground banking system and currency smuggling to be able to buy properties here.
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Old October 14th, 2010, 04:32 PM   #1044
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Home comfort
The Standard
Thursday, October 14, 2010

The hopes of middle-class homebuyers got a boost yesterday as the government launched steps to cool the market and promised a day-to-day watchdog role.

Plans include a government land reserve that will produce 20,000 private flats annually over the next 10 years and a new scheme of subsidized housing to help the sandwich class buy homes. First-time homebuyers can rent flats and use part of the rent they pay for a future purchase.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam- kuen's housing initiatives have won praise from property developers and academics.

Experts said the new strategy - while mild - will work in the long run and help stabilize the red-hot property market.

Tsang said the package will immediately ease property prices and solve the housing crisis, which he said is Hong Kong's "greatest concern."

In his sixth policy address, he said he has set up a Steering Committee on Housing Land Supply, chaired by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun- wah, to ensure that housing issues will be dealt with as a matter of priority.

An enhanced scheme of subsidized housing will be introduced.

"If real estate developers know that, in the long run, our policy is that every year we are able to support the development of 20,000 residential units in the property market, we believe that will immediately ease property prices," Tsang said at a press briefing.

"I'm going to pay attention day by day to the question of property prices for the middle class. This is an important aspect
of our policy. We certainly will not allow a bubble in our property market."

Sun Hung Kai Properties said in a statement: "The average supply of 20,000 private homes per year can help maintain a stable supply of land to satisfy public need and is good for the market's healthy development."

Hang Seng Bank economists Irina Fan and Joanne Yim wrote in a report: "The new policies to provide steady long-term land and housing supply are a step in the right direction."

Emperor International executive director Donald Cheung agreed, saying: "It's a good first step."

But Citigroup economists Adrienne Lui and Cheng Mount-cheng believe the government will continue to rely on urban renewal projects and residential development along the West Rail Line to supply small-medium flats.

"As reflected in recent land auctions, property developers are more interested in luxury flats development than mass market projects," they said.

CB Richard Ellis senior managing director for Greater China Yu Kam- hung said a 20,000 annual homes supply will be effective in stabilizing the market in the long run.

But the company warned: "The chief executive has made it very clear that the government will begin moving at a faster pace away from the 'positive non-intervention stance' which it has carefully cultivated for nearly eight years."

Ricacorp Properties managing director Willy Liu Wai-keung said the measures are "long-term in nature and very mild."

"They shouldn't be able to counteract the momentum in the home market caused by a depreciated dollar and low interest rates," he said.

Billy Mak Sui-choi, a Baptist University professor in finance and decision science, said the housing initiatives can help stabilize the market.

"Tsang will only implement relatively mild strategies in order not to suppress the market too hard," he said.

"Therefore, substantial effects will only be shown after a year or two."

Economics professor Chong Tai- leung of the Chinese University of Hong Kong said sandwich-class families will get the most benefit from the property package.

"Without the government's new home purchase option, it's difficult for an ordinary families earning HK$210,000 a year to afford a home in the private market.

"They often have to save up to eight years to afford the downpayment," he said.
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Old October 15th, 2010, 05:40 PM   #1045
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Construction workers face surge in demand
Surge in demand spells good news for construction workers

11 October 2010
South China Morning Post

The good old days are starting to return for Hong Kong's depleted army of construction workers. With work starting on several large infrastructure projects, demand for labour is pushing up wages and creating more opportunities.

From November 1, those of the city's 269,100 registered construction workers who are still active will see pay rises of between 5 and 10 per cent being offered. They will also enjoy greater job security, with major contractors agreeing to blacklist subcontractors found guilty of non-payment of wages.

This is a major step forward in tackling the long-standing problem of wage disputes in the industry. It has been prompted by a ban on unscrupulous subcontractors from bidding for government contracts.

"This move will seriously deter subcontractors from owing workers wages, as they will be put out of business," said Chow Luen-kiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union.

Developers have been working with the government since last year to attract new blood to the industry with the start of major projects, such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and the HK$66.9 billion high-speed railway to Guangzhou, inevitably putting pressure on the city's ageing construction workforce.

Of the registered workers, only about half are still active, while half of these in turn are 50 or over.

The Development Bureau injected HK$100 million to give the industry a boost in May, with part of the money being used as individual subsidies of HK$5,000 for people to take a course to learn some of the most essential skills, such as bar bending and metal-forming. Graduates are guaranteed a job paying at least HK$8,000 a month for the first six months and HK$10,000 after that.

Not all the 105 course positions were filled in the first phase of recruitment, but course organiser Charles Wong Dun-wee of the Construction Industry Council said it was the first time in two years that youngsters had joined the bar-bending sector.

"The prospects are good. More than half of the 84 students we have accepted since September are between the ages of 18 and 37. When they become fully trained in three to four years they will still be young."

The council hopes to train 3,000 skilled workers in the next three years.

While this is good news for the workforce, the increase in wages and benefits will inevitably push up the price of projects. The Hong Kong Construction Association expects wages, which account for about 40 per cent of a project's cost, to rise at least 20 per cent in the next two years, though association vice-chairman Thomas Ho On-sing said the pay rates still lagged far behind 1997 levels when a bar bender, for example, could earn up to HK$40,000 a month. Several major infrastructure projects have seen costs increase due to the rising price of construction materials and labour.

Another big MTR project, the West Island Line, faces the same problem. Its projected cost has risen from the budgeted HK$8.9 billion to HK$15.4 billion, also due to the rising cost of materials and design changes made for environmental reasons.

Unionists will press for more benefits today when they renew calls for the city's 500 main contractors to cover workers' unpaid Mandatory Provident Fund contributions as well as their wages if subcontractors renege on paying wages.

"The main contractors now cover up to two months of workers' unpaid wages, why can't they cover unpaid MPF as well?" Chow said.

The union will also demand that contractors get subcontractors to sign proper employment contracts with their staff.
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Old October 16th, 2010, 08:48 PM   #1046
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
35pc of luxury HK flats sold to mainlanders
14 October 2010
South China Morning Post
That's huge chunk of the pie, may as well give them a second market to play with like in Singapore.
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Old October 17th, 2010, 07:01 AM   #1047
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Anyone want to tell me why some of Hong Kong's newer skyscrapers (mostly the resdential ones) have unusually small floorplates?
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Old October 18th, 2010, 12:55 PM   #1048
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim856796 View Post
Anyone want to tell me why some of Hong Kong's newer skyscrapers (mostly the resdential ones) have unusually small floorplates?
Residential skyscrapers tend to have a squarish floorplate with units radiating out with gaps between units. Hence, the windows in the kitchen / bathroom may actually not face the exterior. This arrangement saves the amount of space needed to put more units.
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Old October 19th, 2010, 06:43 AM   #1049
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Old October 19th, 2010, 06:44 AM   #1050
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Old October 19th, 2010, 06:45 AM   #1051
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Old October 19th, 2010, 06:45 AM   #1052
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Old October 19th, 2010, 06:46 AM   #1053
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Old October 19th, 2010, 10:34 AM   #1054
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Set example on 'inflated buildings', Tsang urged
18 October 2010
South China Morning Post

The government has been asked to set a good example by addressing its plans to construct "inflated buildings" under its West Rail project partnership with the MTR Corporation.

Environmental group Green Sense found six residential projects to be built atop three West Rail stations and the Tin Shui Wai light-rail station will have large car parks, clubhouses and shopping malls taking up as many as seven levels of the buildings.

Such facilities increase the total gross floor area for which flat buyers have to pay. Tall buildings also create a "wall effect", blocking air flow.

"To show its sincerity, the government should start making changes to projects it can have a say in," Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong said. "[The West Rail plan] is totally not in line with the new government policy.

"Although all those plans have been approved, the tendering process has not started. It is not too late for the government to make changes."

Tam was responding to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's promise in his policy address last week to control inflated buildings.

Critics allege developers abuse the government's concessionary policy encouraging the construction of environmental buildings. New measures have been introduced to cut back on the claims developers can make for areas to build extra facilities and green features, but these will not go into effect until April.

The six projects to which Tam referred have already been approved and would not be affected by the new measures, but Tam said the government should set an example. He wanted small and more affordable flats to be built, because most of the units planned would be three-bedroom "luxury" flats of about 1,000 sq ft.

Citing three projects atop Tsuen Wan West station, Tam said: "There are already clusters of high-rise blocks walling in the coast of Tsuen Wan. If the new projects go ahead as planned, it will worsen air ventilation in the inner parts of the district.

The new government policy aims to control the scale of developments by capping the amount of floor area that can be given to green features and amenities. Facilities and features such as balconies and clubhouses should not exceed 10 per cent of the total gross floor area of a development.

At present, they may be exempted from calculations of the gross floor area and this has proved a bonanza for developers, which get areas taken up by most of these facilities for free but include them in the pricing of their flats' gross floor area.

Widespread abuse has inflated the scale of development, but shrunk the usable area of flats for homeowners.

The MTR Corp said: "We are acting as an agent of the government on the West Rail development sites and have the duty to proceed with the planning and development process."

A spokesman said plans for some of the projects cited by Green Sense were approved two years ago.
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Old October 20th, 2010, 05:42 AM   #1055
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Hong Kong's 'Last Train' Rush
15 October 2010
Dow Jones

Last-minute applicants to a Hong Kong residency scheme, presumably many from the mainland, rushed to purchase property before a change in rules took effect today. But analysts say the hefty mainland Chinese appetite for Hong Kong homes is unlikely to shrink soon.

The Immigration Department said it received around 200 applications yesterday for the Capital Migrant Investment Scheme, or more than six times the daily average of about 30. The surge followed Chief Executive Donald Tsang's announcement in his policy address Wednesday that property purchases would no longer qualify applicants for residency under the scheme. Local press described the surge as a rush by Chinese buyers to squeeze onto the "last train" into Hong Kong via the real-estate market.

Mainland Chinese buyers have become a force to be reckoned with in Hong Kong property. James Cheung, director of Centaline Surveyors Ltd., said research shows that up to 30% of total residential sales this year are from mainland buyers.

"And this doesn't even include transactions made under a company's name, so the figure could be more," said Cheung.

In the luxury space, or apartments costing upward of HK$12 million (about US$1.5 million), Centaline estimates that the proportion of mainland buyers in the first half of the year was more than 35%.

Yet the official statistics suggest only a small number of these purchases were made by buyers looking to acquire Hong Kong residency.

As of 30 September 2010, 6,570 applications from mainland China had been approved for residency under the scheme, or just over 80% of the total. About HK$19 billion, or just over a third of the total investments, was in real estate.

Assuming that 80% of those investments were made by mainland Chinese, that means they poured about HK$15.4 billion into Hong Kong real estate over a period of about eight years, or an average of HK$2.2 billion a year. That's only about 0.4% of the HK$526 billion in residential property sales for the 12 months to September.

The initiative is "a non-event to the property market," wrote analyst Cusson Leung of Credit Suisse in a note. He said Tsang could help ease some of the public's concern, "but this is not the root of the problem."

Chinese buyers may be pushing up home prices, but analysts say asset price inflation due to excess liquidity and low interest rates are a much bigger cause. Given Hong Kong's pegged currency, those factors are probably out of the chief executive's control.
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 07:22 PM   #1056
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Developers' group reluctant to play ball on new law for flat sales
22 October 2010
South China Morning Post

The Real Estate Developers Association (Reda) said yesterday there was no need for new laws to regulate flat sales, just 24 hours after the government set up a committee to work on legislation.

A number of the association's corporate members met yesterday to discuss the measures announced in the chief executive's policy address relating to flat sales and the artificial inflation of apartment sizes.

"Our principle is to work with the government as much as possible, but we have yet to see whether all the measures are feasible. We do not aim to put up resistance," said Louis Loong Hon-biu, the association's secretary general.

However, he said the association had not changed its view that there should be no law to regulate flat sales. "We have already updated guidelines on flat sale arrangements. They have been working well," Loong said. The association has yet to decide who will be its representative on the steering committee to regulate on the sale of new flats.

The committee will deliberate on the definition of new flats, sales practices, price lists, show flats, saleable area, the enforcement mechanism and penalties. It is expected to make recommendations within a year.

The 14-member committee is chaired by the permanent secretary for transport and housing, Duncan Pescod. It includes lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, the Democratic Party's spokesman on housing; lawmaker Dr Patrick Lau Sau-shing, who represents architects, surveyors and planners; Andrew Chan Chi-fai, a marketing professor at Chinese University; Lam Kin-che, a geography professor at Chinese University; and solicitor Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, a vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. Representatives have yet to be named from the Consumer Council, the Estate Agents Authority, the Institute of Surveyors, the Law Society and Reda.

Lee Wing-tat said he disagreed with Reda that a law was unnecessary: "Reda should reflect on why its position has always been different from the absolute majority view in society. I don't wish to see the committee end up saying there is no need for a law after working for a year, like in 2001."

In that year the government aborted a law regulating flat sales after pressure from developers.
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Old October 25th, 2010, 06:48 PM   #1057
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Family fights to save noodle shop from developer
The Standard
Monday, October 25, 2010









A 56-year-old family noodle-making operation in Sham Shui Po faces closure under a mandatory auction bid by Lai Sun Development.

Leung Fat Noodle is owned by seven children of 90-year-old Yeung Wo-man, who founded the company in 1954. The firm is known for its handmade boletus mushroom noodles, invented by Yeung's brothers.

The business produces 1,000 catties of noodles a day, selling them to restaurants and individuals.

Yeung Ding-yin, the youngest son, said the redevelopment will mean the end of the business.

"The developer has offered compensation of about HK$8 million for us to relocate our shop of 1,050 square feet ... but it's not enough to buy another unit of similar size in the same district," Yeung said.

He said if they relocate to another district, revenue will fall substantially owing to the loss of a community connection. As a result, the family may consider closing the business.

Leung Fat Noodle owns 14 percent of the undivided shares in the lot on Ki Lung Street, while all other units in the five-story building, including 15 homes and a frozen meat shop, have already been acquired by Lai Sun over the past two years.

The compulsory sale application threshold was lowered from 90 to 80 percent by the government in April.

Lai Sun deputy chairman Poon Yui- man said the company's application to the Lands Tribunal is expected to trigger an auction to enable redevelopment by the end of the year.

The noodle shop is the only business still operating in the redevelopment area since Lai Sun demolished an adjacent building last year.

Yeung Yee-hung, the eldest son of the family, said the developer has taken unusual measures in an attempt to force them to accept the compensation.

"Staff from the developer came and opened the windows of the vacant residential units when it was raining. It caused serious flooding in some lower floor units of the building," he said.

Yeung said the Buildings Department assesses the conditions of a structure under the developer's application for a compulsory sale order.

If the building is in a state of severe disrepair, the application for redevelopment has a higher chance of being approved by the Lands Tribunal.

Wong Ho-yin, a member of Minority Owners Alliance Against Compulsory Sale, said: "In many redevelopment projects, shop owners are resistant to the developers' unreasonable practice to acquire shares."

The alliance hopes the government will raise the threshold of compulsory sale back to 90 percent.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 05:16 PM   #1058
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Why city needs to do something about a big, wet footprint before it's too late
17 October 2010
SCMP

It has been the best part of half a century since Hong Kong was wracked by water shortages in the 1960s, but memory fades fast. Hong Kong residents now use more water per capita than nearly any other city in the world.

Last week, the chairman of Black & Veatch, the engineering company responsible for most of Hong Kong's major water infrastructure, came here with a message: unless we find ways to use water more efficiently, the world's growing population and changing climate will make it increasingly hard to quench our thirst.

Hong Kong's investment in water infrastructure "is setting an example for other countries", said the chairman, Len Rodman. But with some of the world's most advanced water-management infrastructure and a ready supply of fresh water from the mainland, it is easy to forget that fresh water is not naturally abundant in Hong Kong. "We still have to put emphasis on water conservation," he said.

Rodman was in town to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Black & Veatch's business in Hong Kong. In 1930, the Missouri-based company helped the government to design and build the Shing Mun Reservoir, which boosted the local supply of fresh water after a severe drought forced 60,000 people to leave the city.

Since then, Black & Veatch has had a hand in almost every major piece of water infrastructure in Hong Kong, from the massive High Island and Plover Cove reservoirs to underground storage tanks and an overhaul of the city's ageing water pipes.

But for all Hong Kong's technological prowess, it lags behind in conservation. People in Hong Kong are water hogs by any measure. Data from the International Water Association shows that the city's water footprint - which takes into account direct and indirect consumption - is 219 litres per person, per day; a higher rate than nearly every other city in the world.

According to the Water Supplies Department, domestic fresh water consumption increased from 493 million cubic metres of water in 2004 to 519 million in 2008.

Close to 80 per cent of Hong Kong's water comes from the Dongjiang in Guangdong, which also supplies water to more than 30 million other people in Guangzhou, Dongguan and Shenzhen .

"Although we don't have many water resources, we've been able to rely on Dongjiang water for so many years, we have forgotten about the problems," said David Chen Yong-qin, chairman of the Chinese University of Hong Kong's geography and resource management department.

As Hong Kong's mainland neighbours increase in size and wealth, so will their demand for water. Meanwhile, climate change will make rainfall patterns more unpredictable, leading to an ongoing drought that could cause water levels in the Dongjiang basin to decrease. "Competition for water will increase," said Chen. "We need to take conservation more seriously."

Part of that will involve understanding something that water experts call "the nexus of water and energy". The amount of water each person consumes goes well beyond an evening shower or a load of laundry. Production of a single kilogram of beef requires 15,000 litres of fresh water and each litre of fresh water consumes energy through treatment and transportation.

When cities and countries become more populous and more prosperous, their fresh water consumption increases, regardless of the amount of water available nearby. "How are we going to spread that fresh water out?" asked Rodman.

One answer is new technology - even something as simple as Hong Kong's dual pipe system, which allows toilets to be flushed using seawater instead of fresh water and saves 270 million cubic metres of fresh water every year. Black & Veatch is currently rehabilitating 3,000 kilometres of water pipes, which will prevent water from being wasted through leaks and bursts. But it comes at a price. Building the new infrastructure required to cope with the world's increasing demand for fresh water could cost US$40 trillion, said Rodman.

"You have to ask, where will money come from?" In the long run, he said, limiting demand will be much more cost-effective than increasing supply.

Two years ago, the government introduced the Total Water Management programme, which emphasises water conservation through education and upgrading Hong Kong's water infrastructure. One of the programme's initiatives is a water efficiency labelling scheme for consumer products.

So far, though, there has been no sign that consumers are concerned enough about water conservation to actually change their habits. Part of the reason is that, even as the government encourages conservation, political pressure has kept water rates frozen for 15 years. In the 2008-09 financial year, the government earned HK$2.587 billion in water rate revenue, while the cost of buying water from Guangdong was HK$2.621 billion. As a result, there is little political motivation to raise rates to cover the cost of both supplying Hong Kong with water and maintaining its infrastructure.

In a paper presented by the Legislative Council Panel on Development last May, the government acknowledged Hong Kong's low water rates contributed to its exceptionally high rate of water consumption. "We do not rule out the option of changing the water tariff structure to induce a reduction in consumption," it said.

Until that happens, said Chen, Hong Kong might continue to struggle with conservation. "The water bill is always the smallest one," he said. "But this is a problem worldwide. Water is really cheap and its price doesn't reflect its economic value, or the costs of diverting the water, treating it and distributing it."
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Old October 26th, 2010, 07:01 PM   #1059
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Home prices to rise
The Standard
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Local home prices will rise a further 10 to 15 percent in the coming year, Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp said.

Low interest rates will continue for at least 1 years more, while official efforts to boost land supply to bring down prices will show results only from 2012, said Donna Kwok, economist for Greater China.

She said more capital will flow into the local property market as Beijing puts the brakes on property speculation and if the United States launches a second round of quantitative easing.

The bank's chief executive for Hong Kong, Mark McCombe, said a vibrant home market has historically been "the bedrock of Hong Kong's economic growth."

He said the policy address took a prudent approach to address the issue of affordability.

"I think it is ...extremely important that people in Hong Kong have a chance to own their homes," he said.

According to Midland Realty, secondary deals at 35 major projects were up 24.3 percent at 476 last week, an almost three-year high.

And the Housing Authority said almost all the remaining 3,200 Home Ownership Scheme units left in its inventory have been sold.

As of Friday, the Land Registry recorded 9,179 HOS deals worth HK$15.6 billion so far this year.

On a wider front, HSBC chief economist for Greater China Qu Hongbin believes Asian authorities may launch more tightening policies - such as taxes or capital restriction - to minimize risks stemming from liquidity inflows.

The possibility of a quick and sharp rise in home prices and rising inflation driven by capital inflows may be the largest concerns this year, Qu said. HSBC expects mainland home prices to fall by 7 to 20 percent in the coming year.
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Old October 27th, 2010, 02:48 PM   #1060
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HK property prices up 45pc on post-crisis low
27 October 2010
South China Morning Post

Property prices in Hong Kong have risen by more than 45 per cent from the trough to which they sank after the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, research by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority shows.

The recovery in the luxury residential market has been particularly strong and average prices in the sector are now 14 per cent higher than their previous historic peak, reached in the third quarter of 1997.

Prices in the mass residential market are only 10 per cent down on the peak levels reached before the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998 triggered a sharp slump in the market.

But homebuyers are not as heavily indebted as they previously were, with the current mortgage repayment-to-income ratio at around 40 per cent, compared with more than 100 per cent in 1997. Mortgage rates are also less than 2.5 per cent, against more than 10 per cent in 1997.

The average loan size is about HK$2.5 million with an average contractual period of 23 years, both at record highs for the past 10 years.

Hong Kong has surpassed New York, Paris and Tokyo to become one of the most expensive cities for buying a flat, according to a report from the Global Property Guide.

The report says Hong Kong is now the third most-expensive city for buying a 1,291 sq ft apartment in the city centre, with Monaco the world's most expensive and London in second place.

"Demand for housing in Hong Kong is no longer limited to local people, but also comes from the mainland," said Alva To Yu-hung, the head of property consultant DTZ.
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