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Old March 7th, 2011, 06:14 PM   #1141
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Five sites to provide 11,000 flats
The Standard
Friday, March 04, 2011

MTR Corp will tender out five property projects this year, a move that will boost flat supply by 11,000.

In the first six months, MTRC will tender the sites above Tai Wai station and Tin Shui Wai light rail station. The Nam Cheong Station site and two land sites in Tsuen Wan West will be put to tender in the second half.

"We believe another tender withdrawal will not happen this year," property director Thomas Ho Hang-kwong said. The tender for the Nam Cheong site last May was withdrawn because only three bids were received. It expects to receive the consent letter for Festival City phase III in December.

Profit from property development totaled HK$4.03 billion, accounting for 33.45 percent of MTRC's total net profit in 2010.

It posted a property revaluation gain of HK$4.07 billion before tax last year, surging 45.6 percent from HK$2.3 billion in 2009.

In property development, profit booking came mainly from Le Prestige in Lohas Park.

The sale of homes under inventory at The Palazzo in Fo Tan and Lake Silver in Wu Kai Sha also added to this result.
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Old March 8th, 2011, 04:57 AM   #1142
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Cheung Kong wins tender to build Yuen Long small flats
The Standard
Tuesday, March 08, 2011





Cheung Kong (Holdings) (0001) won the tender for a plot of land in Yuen Long on which 800 flats of less than 400 square foot will be built.

The land at On Ming Road is part of the government's pilot plan to build lower- priced flats. However, it is estimated that the homes will be sold at more than HK$6,000 a square foot.

Calford Investments, a subsidiary of Cheung Kong, put a HK$2.41 billion bid in for the land. The 12,340-square-meter plot carries a restriction to build no fewer than 960 flats, of which 800 should be 35 to 40 sqm, and the remaining 160 should be 40-60 sq m. No flat can exceed 60 sq m, or 645 sq ft. "The price is reasonable," said Grace Woo Chia-ching, executive director of Cheung Kong.

Centaline Surveyors managing director Victor Lai Kin-fai said: "The plot is around HK$3,629 per sq m, which is a reasonable price under the current market conditions. I think it will become a benchmark for future tenders for plots with price limits."

The flats can be sold for HK$6,000 to HK$7,000 per sq ft, Lai added.

Meanwhile, Midland Realty said flat prices have long since exceeded the peak levels of 1997 if property age is taken into consideration. The average flat price now stands at HK$5,557 per sq ft.

"This seems lower than the 1997 level when it peaked at HK$6,208 psf. But property age back then averaged around 10.8 years, while it is an average of 19.8 years now," said Buggle Lau Ka-fai, chief analyst for Midland Realty.

The realtor also warned of further property price hikes. If average prices climb another 20 percent, then taking age into consideration, average prices will jump to as much as HK$10,012 psf. Midland added that as an interest rate hike in the United States is likely to happen earlier than expected, mortgage rates may also pose a threat to homebuyers' affordability.

Against this background, mReferral Mortgage Brokerage Services announced a fixed interest rate mortgage plan with an interest rate of no more than 1.68 percent for the first 18 months for homebuyers borrowing more than HK$800,000. After the 19th month, homebuyers will have a choice of either HIBOR plus 0.8 percent or prime minus 3.1 percent.

Currently, most lenders offer HIBOR- based mortgage plans with rates as low as 1.02 percent.

According to a Hong Kong Association of Banks' poll, meanwhile, 81 percent of 1,197 respondents support the sharing of mortgage data for credit assessment among financial institutions. Only 7 percent disagreed.

Separately, Cheung Kong's Festival City 2 in Tai Wai sold about 400 flats at the weekend, while Henderson Land's CentrePoint in Sheung Wan sold only about three flats.
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Old March 10th, 2011, 11:58 AM   #1143
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LCQ16: Private housing land supply
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Government Press Release

Following is a question by the Hon Albert Chan Wai-yip and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 9):

Question:

There have been comments that since the government introduced the nine measures to stabilise the property market (commonly known as "the Nine Measures of Michael Suen") in 2002, the supply of sites for private residential developments through land auction, redevelopment of the old areas and change in land use have plummeted, resulting in a drastic decrease in the number of new private domestic units in recent years. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of:

(a) the area of the sites supplied annually since 2002 for private residential developments through the three different ways, namely land auction, redevelopment of the old areas and change in land use; and

(b) the respective numbers of private domestic units built and completed, since 2002, on the sites supplied for private residential developments through the three different ways, namely land auction, redevelopment of the old areas and change in land use?

Reply:

President,

Just as the Financial Secretary mentioned in the 2011-12 Budget Speech, the sources of private housing land supply include the housing land sold by the Government, the property development projects of the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), the urban renewal projects of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), private development projects subject to lease modification or land exchange and private redevelopment projects not subject to lease modification. The Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) is responsible for monitoring the supply of first-hand private residential flats and publish relevant information regularly.

The way the Administration monitors and records the relevant information is different from the way asked in the question. I now reply to the two parts of the question as follows in accordance with the information currently available -

(a) According to THB's information, the number of residential flats that could be provided by the above five sources of private housing land supply in 2003-10 (THB does not have the relevant information for 2002) is set out at Annex 1.

(b) Depending on the developers' timing and strategy of sales, the flats to be provided by the housing land supply at Annex 1 could largely be completed in three to four years thereafter. Under the existing requirements of the Lands Department's Consent Scheme, pre-sale consent may be granted upon application 20 months prior to the anticipated completion date of the development at the earliest. THB does not have complete information about the private housing land area produced by the above five sources of housing land supply. If THB is required to provide the area of the sites sold by the Government, property development projects of MTRCL and redevelopment projects of URA, THB will have to check the detailed information about all these projects item by item. Due to the considerable number of such cases, it will take quite a long time to compile such information. Furthermore, THB's database does not have the information about the area of private development projects either subject to lease modification or not. On the contrary, as the public's concern about housing land lies in the supply of private residential flats, we are happy to provide the yearly figures of residential flat supply. According to THB's information, the number of private residential flats completed in 2002-10 is set out at Annex 2.

Annex : http://gia.info.gov.hk/general/20110...0196_76271.pdf
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Old March 11th, 2011, 04:43 AM   #1144
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Delay newhospitals,services,medics say
Staff shortages trump expansion for doctors

9 March 2011
South China Morning Post

Doctors suffering from heavy workloads are urging the government to postpone new hospital projects and the expansion of medical services amid a severe staff shortage.

They are also demanding long-term manpower planning and standard work hours instead of just extra money for night shifts.

Hospital Authority chief executive Dr Leung Pak-yin met department heads last night to discuss the staffing crisis. Unions have threatened to take industrial action if the authority fails to find a solution by March 18. Leung spent a few hours on night shift early yesterday at Caritas Medical Centre.

Frontline staff have been criticising the authority for aggressive expansion of medical services at the expense of working conditions.

Projects in the pipeline include the 180-bed North Lantau Hospital in Tung Chung, to be completed by December next year; the 468-bed Centre of Excellence in Paediatrics to be opened in the Kai Tak development area by 2016; a public hospital in Tin Shui Wai, also by 2016; and a new centre of excellence in neurology.

The Food and Health Bureau will open four sites for new private hospitals later this year. There are also various expansion plans at individual hospitals to meet growing local demand. Doctors fear the projects will put further stress on medical staff.

The head of obstetrics and gynaecology at Sha Tin's Prince of Wales Hospital, Dr Cheung Tak-hong, said the authority should carefully assess staffing in the next few years before opening new hospitals or services.

Cheung, also chairman of the authority's co-ordinating committee for his specialty, objects to the authority's decision to open new maternity services at Tseung Kwan O Hospital next year while the specialty is suffering a high turnover of doctors.

"At our hospitals, we are 10 per cent down in our doctor manpower," he said. "The new services [at Tseung Kwan O Hospital] will certainly put stress on other hospitals because it has to draw specialists and midwives from others to fill the new posts. As a result, the quality of services will be at risk. The residents in Tseung Kwan O will enjoy faster service, but the cost is a service of poorer quality. It is not good for the public."

Dr Joseph Lui Cho-ze, chief executive of the authority's Kowloon East group of hospitals, said the maternity services were carefully planned and much needed by the residents of Tseung Kwan O.

Public Doctors' Association president Dr Loletta So Kit-ying said the authority should postpone some of its projects. "Many public hospitals are very old and they need urgent renovation," So said. "Why doesn't the authority improve its existing services before opening new ones? We should concentrate on existing services before going for centres of excellence. The North Lantau Hospital is necessary because the local residents need it, but we think the two centres of excellence are not urgent."

The authority should also suspend its labour-intensive hospital accreditations process, she said.

As an interim measure to retain doctors, the authority plans to promote all 100 doctors who have had specialist qualifications for more than five years to senior posts and pay them extra for night shifts.

A senior executive of a public hospital said the four new private hospitals would draw more public doctors to the private sector, worsening the staff shortage in the public sector.
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Old March 14th, 2011, 05:28 AM   #1145
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Mortgage hike clips sales
The Standard
Monday, March 14, 2011

Local flat sales fell after the two biggest mortgage lenders in Hong Kong decided to lift their interest rates for HIBOR- based mortgage plans.

After the revision, the loan rate for HSBC (0005) is in the range of 1.17-1.57 percent compared to 1.07-1.27 percent previously, according to latest HIBOR- based data. And BOC (HK) has gone to 1.17-1.47 percent from 1.07 percent.

So when the interest rate reaches 1.17 percent a buyer of a HK$2-million home with a mortgage plan for 20 years would have to pay HK$125 per month over the original monthly payment of around HK$6,376, according to mReferral.

When the rate rises to 1.47 percent, a buyer must pay HK$315 more, and at 1.67 percent there is an additional HK$444.

Despite the hike, the HIBOR-based mortgage interest rates are still substantially lower than those of prime-based rates, the lowest of which is 2.15 percent.

Following the rate hike, transactions at the 10 benchmark residential projects during the weekend fell to 46 from 52, according to Centaline Property Agency. That was because potential buyers became very cautious.

Even home owners in Taikoo Shing - a traditional benchmark of the Hong Kong Island residential market - allowed their buyers to bargain 1-2 percent off the price, which has rarely happened during the past few months.

"Home owners have been less aggressive lately as many expected property prices to drop after seeing prolonged increases," said Kenneth Chiu, Centaline's chief district sales manager in Taikoo Shing.

"They too were worried that home prices may be affected by interest rate hikes. Some of them decided not to take the risk and placed a safer bet."

According to Midland Realty, deals at benchmark residential projects in Kowloon also fell - to 12 from 16 the previous weekend.

Meanwhile, market watchers said 27 flats were sold at Cheung Kong's (0001) Festival City 2 in Tai Wai versus 38 flats the previous weekend. And four flats sold at CentrePoint, the Henderson Land (0012) project at Sheung Wan.
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Old March 15th, 2011, 01:06 PM   #1146
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CL calls on construction sector to continue improving safety at work
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Government Press Release

The Commissioner for Labour, Mr Cheuk Wing Hing, appealed to stakeholders of the construction sector to continue adopting a zero-tolerance attitude by raising safety levels at work.

Speaking at the 12th Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme award presentation ceremony today (March 13), Mr Cheuk said the Labour Department has always co-operated with the construction sector and related bodies such as unions, government departments and public organisations, to adopt various measures to enhance the industry's occupational safety performance. The accident toll of the construction industry plunged 80.4% from 14,078 in 1999 to 2,755 in 2009, while the accident rate per thousand workers also dropped 72.5% from 198.4 to 54.6 in the same period.

"The construction industry is still a high-risk industry. Its accident toll is relatively high compared to other industrial sectors, with fatal cases topping all sectors. In 2009, among recorded industrial accidents, 20.3% happened on construction sites and fatal accidents in the construction industry accounted for 90.5% of overall industrial fatal accidents," Mr Cheuk said.

"Following the commencement of the ten major infrastructure projects, the number of large construction sites will increase and the demand for construction workers will grow rapidly. Labour shortage in the construction industry will inevitably accentuate and work safety may be neglected in order to speed up the work progress. Moreover, as fewer young people are joining the industry, the average age of construction workers will increase and the decline in physical strength of the workforce will likely become a factor pushing up the number of industrial accidents," he added.

He said the fact that the Government is providing more resources to carry out maintenance work to old buildings, such as through Operation Building Bright, and consequently mandatory building and window inspection schemes, renovation and maintenance works will increase, posing severe occupational safety performance challenges for the construction industry.

This year marks the 12th anniversary of the Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme, which aims to raise the occupational safety and health awareness of contractors, site personnel and workers of the construction industry, as well as to honour, through an open competition, participants with good occupational safety and health performances.

The Construction Industry Safety Award Scheme is co-organised by the Labour Department, the Occupational Safety and Health Council, the Development Bureau, the Hong Kong Housing Authority, the Construction Industry Council, the Occupational Deafness Compensation Board, the Hong Kong Housing Society, the Hong Kong Construction Association, the Hong Kong General Building Contractors Association, the Hong Kong Construction Sub-contractors Association, the Hong Kong Federation of Electrical and Mechanical Contractors Limited, The Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies and the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union.

The Chairman of the Occupational Safety and Health Council, Mr Lee Kai-ming and representatives of the co-organisers also officiated at the award presentation ceremony today.

The award scheme's site safety competition recorded an entry of 150 sites, 52 sub-contractors and 100 safety teams this year.
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Old March 16th, 2011, 05:51 PM   #1147
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HK Government: To Sell 3 Residential Sites In Hung Hom In Kowloon
16 March 2011

HONG KONG (Dow Jones)--The Hong Kong government said Wednesday it plans to sell three residential sites in Hung Hom on the Kowloon Peninsula, as part of its pledge to boost private housing supply amid a booming property market.

The government said it will sell the largest of the three sites in an auction on April 27. The site will have a maximum gross floor area of 14,262 square metres.

The two smaller sites have maximum gross floor areas of 5,240.7 and 9,740 square meters, respectively, and will be sold via tender that opens in April. The saleable area per completed apartment at the smaller sites will be restricted to between 35 and 40 square meters, according to the government.
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Old March 16th, 2011, 06:00 PM   #1148
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Canton Road's third lane finally open after drainage work dispute
7 March 2011
South China Morning Post

A traffic lane blocked for 18 months on a busy part of Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is finally open, ending a period of frustration for drivers, shop operators and residents.

The lane was supposed to be ready when the adjacent 1881 Heritage renovation project - the commercial makeover of the old marine police headquarters - was finished in August 2009.

But Cheung Kong Holdings, which developed 1881 Heritage, and the government became involved in a dispute over water-drainage work under the road.

The work was delayed, leaving one lane blocked off for months by Cheung Kong barriers, while traffic jammed into the remaining two.

The hold-up was resolved only after a meeting in late December between lands officials and the property giant's executives, people familiar with the situation said. The full length of Canton Road eventually opened to the public shortly before the Lunar New Year.

Under the redevelopment contract for 1881 Heritage, Cheung Kong subsidiary Flying Snow was to lay, form, surface and drain the road and then return it to the government, the Lands Department said.

But the government apparently was not happy with the results when Flying Snow first completed the job, and asked that more work be done, a person from the Cheung Kong side of the negotiations said.

The source said the water work was not part of the contract's requirements, and that when the company later gave in and carried out the work, it took six months for officials to check it met their standards, leading to further delay.

Cheung Kong took possession of the historic site in 2003, paying HK$352.8 million for a 50-year land grant to turn the 11,700 square metre location into a commercial complex with a heritage hotel, high-end shops, restaurants and bars.

Mary Muvlihill, a long-time resident of Tsim Sha Tsui, was so angered by the delays that she complained to the police. "It is appalling that our government allowed a developer to occupy a public street, causing severe congestion and pollution," she said. "Who is in charge here?"
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Old March 17th, 2011, 05:03 AM   #1149
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LCQ18: Maintenance and repairs of fresh water mains
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Government Press Release

Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 16):

Question:

It has been reported that on the first day of this month, a burst underground fresh water main at Wong Nai Chung Road in Happy Valley had brought gush of fresh water from underground, and it took staff of the Water Supplies Department (WSD) nearly six hours when they succeeded in turning off all relevant valves for isolation of the burst main, after which they carried out emergency repair works. Fresh water supply in the vicinity of Wan Chai and Causeway Bay was suspended for 15 hours, which affected hundreds of thousands of residents, thousands of eateries and several hospitals. Regarding the maintenance and repairs of fresh water mains, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the records and plans of the underground water mains in Hong Kong are comprehensive, accurate and readily accessible at present; if they are, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether WSD has adopted new technology for inspecting and maintaining underground fresh water mains as well as preventing sudden bursting of fresh water mains; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) whether abnormalities such as water seepage and decrease in water pressure will appear prior to the bursting of water mains; if so, whether WSD will conduct inspections and repairs on the basis of such abnormalities; if not, of the reasons for that;

(d) given that replacement of aged water mains takes time, whether WSD has put in place corresponding procedure for emergency repair works, stepped up inspection of fresh water mains at risk and arranged for expedient replacement of such water mains; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(e) whether, in view of the aforesaid incident, WSD will adjust the priority of the various projects under the Replacement and Rehabilitation Programme of Water Mains and expedite their implementation; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

The water distribution network of Hong Kong has developed gradually in line with growing water demand over the years. The network is huge, complex and measures 7,800 kilometres in total length. Given the continual upgrading and expansion of the distribution network over the years and the congested state of public utilities and pipes underground (especially in the urban areas), the task of keeping comprehensive and accurate information on water mains is a very challenging one.

The Water Supplies Department (WSD) has always been looking for, researching into and adopting sophisticated technology for leakage detection in water mains network to improve its service and efficiency.

In general, to isolate a burst water main requires turning off not more than five valves. But in the case of the fresh water main burst incident at Happy Valley, the distribution network involved is more complicated and requires turning off 22 valves, including the valves of many branch pipes, in order to isolate the burst main. All these valves are recorded in the drawings.

My reply to the five parts of the question is as follows:

(a) The existing records of WSD are sufficient for the daily operation and maintenance of water supply systems on the whole. Since 1998, the WSD has implemented a digital information system on water mains networks. This information system is based on the Geographical Information System to record information on water mains installations and ancillary facilities, such as the locations of the valves, the level, size and materials of the mains. The System captures all the water mains plans and is readily accessible by staff. The WSD also takes every opportunity to ascertain and update the information in the course of their maintenance works on water mains.

(b) The WSD has adopted many measures to reduce leakage from water mains, including proactive leakage detection, water pressure management and establishing small district metering areas (DMAs).

The WSD has also adopted a risk management strategy for continual surveillance of water mains under busy trunk road sections that are pending replacement. To date, the WSD has installed about 1,200 noise loggers at these water mains to detect and record noises generated by water leakage to facilitate timely repairs.

The WSD is currently exploring a probe detection technology that allows surveillance cameras or equipment to be inserted into water mains for observing and monitoring the mains conditions without disrupting water supply. However, there is yet to have a cost-effective detection technology that can be adopted across the territories to prevent sudden bursting of water mains.

(c) Water pressure fluctuates with changes in water demand at different times of the day. As such, leakage cannot be concluded from changes in water pressure alone. The leakage detection technology primarily relies on detecting the noise generated by leaking water. As mentioned above, the WSD has adopted various measures to detect leakage and reduce bursts of water mains, including proactive leakage detection, water pressure management and establishing small DMAs as well as the 15-year Replacement and Rehabilitation (RR) Programme of Water Mains which has commenced since 2000. These measures have reaped certain success. For instance, the number of burst water mains incidents dropped from 2,479 in 2000-01 to 988 in 2009-10. The WSD expects the figure to drop further to about 600 in 2010-11.

(d) The WSD has stepped up monitoring mains leakage. Apart from traditional leakage detection devices, noise loggers have also been installed to monitor water mains under busy trunk road sections that are pending replacement. In the course of replacing water mains, the WSD will also install additional valves wherever necessary and practicable to reduce the area of suspension of water supply as a result of burst water mains.

(e) The water main involved in the Happy Valley incident is already included in the RR Programme. But in light of the burst water main incident, the WSD will expedite the replacement works of the water main section concerned.

In addition to regular review of the overall situation of burst water mains, the WSD also monitors the progress of water mains replacement and repair works to coordinate prioritisation of specific water main replacement works. Where necessary, water mains that are not covered by the RR Programme may be included in the current or pending RR works contracts to accord the problematic water main section a higher priority for replacement or repairs. In case timely adjustment to works under the RR Programme is not possible, the WSD will consider deploying district resources for early commencement of RR works for the problematic section.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 05:17 AM   #1150
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Opinion : Collusive land policy a harmful way to finance our economy
18 March 2011
South China Morning Post

Henry Cheng Kar-shun, the managing director of New World Development, is extremely well placed to comment that property prices are high and still rising, and that there is a growing anti-business sentiment due to the wealth gap.

His perspective that a fairer distribution of wealth is necessary is absolutely correct. However, his proposal to address these issues with a small rise in the company profits tax is not appropriate to the present situation ("Raise profits tax to help poor, tycoon says", March 8).

It is not lack of funds that is preventing a solution to Hong Kong's growing social problems but rather our senior officials' lack of confidence in being able to develop any policy that has a longer time horizon than 12 months. The knee-jerk ad hoc budget measures proposed by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah reveal an insecurity and incompetence in the collection, allocation and management of public resources. I have lost confidence in the government's ability to govern.

The method of auctioning land allows developers to exaggerate the business cycle and thereby create property speculation and market bubbles and abnormal company profits (as Mr Cheng acknowledged).

In a market economy, boom and bust cannot be prevented, but the government should aim to ameliorate business cycle excesses (rather than fuel them).

It is fundamental that all land property in Hong Kong is leasehold and that this should allow our government a stable recurrent income by way of an expedient land rent.

Developers should concentrate on the business of supplying buildings, not on land speculation.

The present land policy is a collusion whereby the major tycoons get into the driving seat on land development, and government gets massive lump sums to place into the capital works account. This is not a prudent way to finance our economy.

Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai
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Old March 19th, 2011, 07:02 PM   #1151
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HK$120m green cash from niche developer
9 March 2011
South China Morning Post

A developer will inject up to HK$120 million into a government-run environment fund to support the preservation of the dragonfly haven in Sha Lo Tung valley.

The aim is to build a massive columbarium with capacity for 60,000 urn niches, along with a nature reserve and an education centre.

The money will be added to the Environment and Conservation Fund if the plan is approved.

The niches will be housed in five structures to be built on 5.5 hectares of land deemed not to be environmentally sensitive on the edge of the Sha Lo Tung valley.

They will be sold to the public by the developer, the Sha Lo Tung Development Company.

The proceeds from selling the niches could run to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Work could be completed as early as 2016, provided issues such as land lease modifications are completed. The landowner has also come to an agreement with local villagers that no small houses will be built in the area.

"The HK$120 million funding will be provided before the start of construction and will be injected into the government fund, instead of setting up a private trust," a spokesman for the company said.

A person familiar with the situation said the proposed financial arrangement via a government fund would set a precedent for similar projects in the future, though it might be less flexible than a private trust in terms of administration.

A separate and unknown sum would be set aside for maintenance of an access road to the area.

The injection to the fund is expected to generate HK$4 million to HK$5 million a year in interest to cover the cost of running the 52-hectare reserve.

A management agent, probably the NGO Green Power, will be chosen to run the facilities.

The company, which has bought up 96 per cent of private land lots at the site from local villagers, failed to win permission for a more ambitious development, first mooted in the 1980s, that included a golf course and low-rise villas. In 2005 it changed tack and decided to collaborate with Green Power in a government-backed public-private partnership initiative to protect privately owned sites of high ecological value.

The government ranked Sha Lo Tung second of 12 priority ecological sites in terms of species and habitat diversity after the Mai Po nature reserve, a sanctuary for migratory birds.

The Sha Lo Tung development is expected to have an acceptable environmental impact on the sensitive site, home to at least 70 of the 116 dragonfly species found locally. The Sha Lo Tung stream is also a site of scientific interest where the endemic Hong Kong paradise fish is found.

The developer will restrict transport to the columbarium during festival periods and prohibit the burning of incense at the site to prevent hill fires.

The environmental impact assessment for the project is available for public comment on the Environmental Protection Department website until April 4.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 05:45 PM   #1152
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Opinion : Time for some serious soul-searching on Hong Kong's future
20 March 2011
South China Morning Post

With the government under fire for piecemeal solutions and lack of vision, it is time for Hongkongers to debate the balance between what we expect the community as a whole to pay for and what we expect to pay for individually.

Education and the overstretched health service appear to be good candidates for more community cash, given the amount of research that has gone into them over the years.

But the last time the government intervened in the housing market - by promising more supply in 1997 - it worsened the subsequent crash. Yet the low prices which followed did not help the less well-off to buy since the collapse took the rest of the economy with it.

We need to ask why it is that throughout the past 40 years - during which Hong Kong's population has almost doubled - an extraordinarily high 50 per cent of households have been unable to afford either decent rented accommodation or home ownership and have had to rely on government-subsidised housing.

Is it because they are not paid enough or because private housing is too expensive? Perhaps both, but poor people's chief problem is not having enough money.

Solutions such as the travel allowance are just another hidden subsidy to employers. I surprise myself by agreeing with "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, who is right in, reportedly, saying that it would not be necessary if workers were paid HK$33 per hour.

Now that people are no longer squatting on hillsides, there is also a case for saying that more public housing simply begets a need for more public housing, as wages adjust.

The policy inertia of recent years has seen the super rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The former have enough influence to get all the measures and subsequent rewards they want but, as you reported ("Boom time for bar benders {hellip} and those who speculate in them", March 9), the number of people earning HK$3,500 a month or less has risen from 1.186 million in 2001 to 1.26 million in the first half of last year.

Is this what we want? Low pay and handouts from government and/or foundations built by tycoons on the money we have paid them, often by way of monopolies?

It is the way we are going.

Jo McBride, Pok Fu Lam
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Old March 22nd, 2011, 06:27 PM   #1153
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Flat buyers get legal aid under revised scheme
The Standard
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New homebuyers will be able to apply for legal aid to claim against property developers under a revised scheme.

If the Legislative Council approves the HK$100 million injection to the Supplementary Legal Aid Scheme, it may be implemented before the end of the year.

Currently the self-financing fund has HK$88.26 million.

Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Raymond Young Lap-moon said the revised scheme aims to provide more protection for flat owners against unfair and unscrupulous developers.

"For many first-hand flat buyers, they will have to face litigation against a large and financially sound corporation. It's a matter of social justice to expand the scope to help these buyers under the legal aid scheme," Yeung said.

He declined to comment on whether the proposal is linked to the recent controversy surrounding The Icon.

The developer of the Mid-Levels project was accused of selling HK$10 million flats whose quality did not match the descriptions in sales brochures.

The developer, Winfoong International, which authorized Centaline Property Agency to sell the flats, later offered a buyback deal.

Under the revised scheme, claims may be made against developers and professional service providers including estate agents, architects and surveyors in addition to the existing categories of dentists, lawyers and doctors.

Employees pursuing appeals on labor tribunal decisions and negligence claims from sales of insurance products will also be included.

However, minority owners involved in compulsory sales of buildings in conflict with developers or major owners are not covered.

The Home Affairs Bureau said some of the minority owners are speculators and it would be against community good to help them. Besides, land tribunal cases are generally not covered by legal aid.

The application fees for the new cases will be increased from HK$1,000 to HK$5,000, on the grounds they still fail to cover the average administration cost of HK$7,850 per case.

The interim contribution rate is also increased from HK$43,950 to HK$65,000, or 10 percent of the assessed financial resources of the person applying.
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Old March 24th, 2011, 05:47 PM   #1154
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U-turn on floor area rule for developers
Buyers must be told 'price' of green spaces

23 March 2011
South China Morning Post

Developers must continue to reveal to buyers how much living space in a building has been offset by adding balconies, sky gardens and other "environment-friendly" features after a government U-turn.

The requirement had disappeared when the Buildings Department issued a new set of guidelines last month.

There was an outcry from environmental groups, but officials said that the need for such disclosures would be dealt with by a steering committee under the Transport and Housing Bureau which is reviewing practices governing the sales of flats.

The committee's review is not expected to be completed until the end of this year.

However, in a surprise turnaround yesterday, the Development Bureau said in a paper submitted for discussion by legislators that the requirement to reveal "gross floor area concessions" would be kept in the new guidelines as an interim measure.

Asked if developers would be forced to disclose further information, for example, by breaking down the square footage of common facilities apportioned to an individual flat's living space, a bureau spokesman said no new measures were proposed at this stage.

Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong welcomed the government's change of heart.

However, he questioned whether developers would comply with another guideline which requires they get certificates from the Hong Kong Green Building Council to show a development's environmental efficiency.

"Some developers could escape from the assessment if they are not required to submit the assessment results when they submit building plans to the department," he said.

But a Buildings Department spokesman insisted that developers would be forced to submit an interim assessment result before starting the construction.

From next month, the amount of gross floor area of living space that can be offset by lobbies, clubhouses and balconies will be capped at 10 per cent.

Until then, developers escape paying government land premiums for most of these facilities but can charge flat buyers for them. As a result, the so-called environmental features had become excessive, accounting for more than 20 per cent of gross floor area in some cases.

A Buildings Department spokesman said there had been an 80 per cent increase in building plans submitted to the department over the past few months as developers rushed to avoid the 10 per cent limit.
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Old March 25th, 2011, 06:56 PM   #1155
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HK needs clear strategy to expand commercial space
23 March 2011
SCMP



Recent reports about Hong Kong's commercial property sector have focused on escalating rents and decreasing affordability relative to other financial centres in the region and internationally.

The message of the reports is clear: unless Hong Kong follows a clear path towards a more sustainable landscape for new commercial accommodation, its dubious distinction as the world's most expensive real estate market will risk driving away businesses.

Last year, office rentals across the city rose by an average of 28.5 per cent, and the city is now the most expensive office market in the world for multinational corporations.

Is our office space really worth considerably more than space in other financial hubs? Or have users merely accepted the high cost as part of doing business in one of the world's most compact cities?

Given the limitation in supply of expandable sites in core districts, the time is right for occupiers to change their mindset to break location-centric taboos and consider places outside Central for front-office accommodation. Aside from a few future development sites identified by the public sector within traditional business districts such as Central, and expectations that these will be made available to the market, the district is close to saturation.

With further reclamation of the harbour unlikely, the CBD, at 23 million square feet, is destined to remain compact, and tiny compared to the City and West End in London, at 130 million sq ft, and Lower and Mid Manhattan, at 240 million sq ft.

To create room to capture current and future growth cycles, Hong Kong needs a long-term strategy to expand its business district, rather than the short-term approach of simply adding a few more buildings in established, congested areas.

The rapidly expanding services sector in Central continues to contribute to price tensions, but the accountancy profession seems to be rethinking traditional attitudes as to which industries "need" to be where, with many of its big players relocating a high proportion of their portfolios, including front-office operations, out of Central.

We expect this trend to develop. It will be supported by a significant proportion of Hong Kong Island's 50 million sqft of grade A space (another 27 million sqft outside Central) becoming ripe for redevelopment or refurbishment, which will bring the possibility of enlarging the core business district, with Kowloon East a continually expanding non-core hub.

Space is precious in Hong Kong. However, this compact city is served by a transport network that enables executives to squeeze in many more appointments in different locations each day than is possible in almost any other big international city across almost all commercial districts.

The success stories of the Causeway Bay and Island East commercial areas best demonstrate this unique advantage, where the amenities and connectivity exist akin to those in the Central CBD.

The city's best route towards sustained commercial property development to meet the needs of the growing corporate community may be to acknowledge the process of transition that is under way. Rather than encourage relocation in the region, acknowledgement of a city in its next phase of development may help change occupiers' perceptions of availability and cost, based on current levels of demand.

This will encourage developers to invest in helping to expand the Central CBD east and west on Hong Kong Island, while consolidating Kowloon East's strengthening non-core hub credentials.

Owing to Hong Kong's history as a manufacturing base, huge potential exists for developers to turn the many privately held industrial sites, especially in Kowloon East, into grade A office accommodation.

In the latest budget, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah announced that two public sector sites in Kowloon East would be sold through government-initiated auctions, and the Kai Tak area would be developed partly into another premier office node to be served by the Sha Tin-Central rail link and other new road infrastructure.

All this will boost the growing acceptance of Kowloon East as a commercial cluster, and will open up a wealth of opportunities for developers who invest in turning this part of the city into the next prime commercial location.

In tandem with this, the redevelopment of new grade A office accommodation on brownfield sites in locations such as Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Island East could help accelerate the establishment of these other districts on Hong Kong Island as core locations; the West Kowloon area linking Tsim Sha Tsui and the International Commercial Centre could also supplement this in the future, relieving the pressure on Central to accommodate pent-up demand from existing tenants seeking expansion.

There is a range of pressure from all sides on Hong Kong in its bid to retain its position as "Asia's world city", one of which is to provide adequate office accommodation. What comes with this is the need to keep costs at a more acceptable level to support the expansion of businesses seeking to be based here.

The current direction for the distribution and availability of future grade A commercial space is pointing the city in this direction and tasking the occupier community to participate in driving this change, while challenging the developer community in unofficial partnership with the government to make these changes happen.

Gavin Morgan is the deputy managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle Hong Kong
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Old March 25th, 2011, 07:31 PM   #1156
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One thing they really shouldn't do is to apply a FLAT rule that buildings shouldn't be taller than the hills behind. I agree that some of the hills must never be obscured, e.g. Lion Rock, The Peak, etc. but I'm sure the rule could be relaxed in Taikoo without really ruining much. Stubbornly following this rule only restricts the heights and hence GFA and price/rent of the office buildings...
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Old March 25th, 2011, 08:07 PM   #1157
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Well, developers will then question why can't their plot be the tallest. Once the height limits are lifted, everyone will redevelop to the highest they can get. Combining all these developments together will likely be a very bad wall effect.
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Old March 26th, 2011, 07:01 AM   #1158
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That's why we need a stronger government. We're wasting a lot of potential office space and people ask why property prices are so high.
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Old March 26th, 2011, 12:43 PM   #1159
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rachmaninov View Post
That's why we need a stronger government. We're wasting a lot of potential office space and people ask why property prices are so high.
Actually, commercial prices are only starting to catch up to the astronomical residential property prices.
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Old March 26th, 2011, 05:14 PM   #1160
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
Actually, commercial prices are only starting to catch up to the astronomical residential property prices.
But the article did state "office rentals across the city rose by an average of 28.5 per cent [last year]," that's a significant amount as well.
How much did the residential side rise on average?
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