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Old April 19th, 2015, 06:10 AM   #1861
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URA cash woes may hit Central Market plan
18 April 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt

Renewal body mulls works on a smaller scale as it is under government instructions to conduct a value-for-money audit after a deficit last year

A revitalisation project that will transform the historic Central Market into a green urban oasis may be scaled down after the government ordered the Urban Renewal Authority to check its financial health.

The revelation has emerged as the authority faces a double whammy of tremendous budget pressure and accusations it is shirking its social responsibilities.

Critics suspect the URA is falling short on its public duty as it struggles to balance the books in the long run, having incurred high acquisition costs for projects and taken on a new mission of providing subsidised flats.

The controversy arose early this month when URA managing director Iris Tam Siu-ying resigned, citing “fundamental differences” with chairman Victor So Hing-woh over the future direction of the authority.

Tam said at the time that it was unacceptable for the URA to act as a developer or an agent providing land to developers.

Yesterday, So responded to the controversy. “The authority’s directions remain the same,” he said. “But we hope to introduce new thinking” to speed up redevelopment and to ease financial pressure in the long run.

He revealed Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah instructed the URA board in April last year to carry out a value-for-money audit on the authority’s structure and operations.

So spoke as about 20 protesters decried the URA’s perceived lack of social responsibility.

“Redevelopment and rehabilitation will remain the major mission of the authority,” he pledged. “Revitalisation and preservation will be done when there is a surplus.”

He declined to confirm if the authority would outsource the acquisition of old flats – a huge drain on the URA’s finances.
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Old April 20th, 2015, 05:57 AM   #1862
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Tai Long Wan still under threat
20 April 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt

By stephencntse from dcfever :



Developer planning resort in pristine coastal area of Sai Kung country park – even though another proposal was knocked back last week

A developer is still eyeing the pristine Sai Kung country park enclave of Tai Long Wan – despite town planners rejecting controversial applications for five houses in the area last week.

“The Tai Long Wan resort and spa projects will be developed to become a key resort attraction” with “the potential to become a popular spot for weddings and holidays”, according to the developer’s website.

Utahloy Group, recently renamed Tuenbo Group, said 24 hectares of agricultural land would be redeveloped into “a lagoon surrounded by resort houses transformed from the abandoned villages”.

It is listed as an “environmental and conservation project”.

Responding to inquiries from the South China Morning Post last week, the developer confirmed Tai Long Wan was still a “long-term project” and had been placed under the management of an affiliated non-profit organisation called the Greenlife Conservation Foundation.

“GCF is a charitable not-for-profit organisation focused on sustainable development and conservation projects for the benefit of Hong Kong,” Serge Gander, the foundation’s group chief operations officer, said in an email through Tuenbo.

Company records show the foundation was registered as a company in January. It is understood to be affiliated to Tuenbo, currently headed by Dorothy Wong Sung-king. Wong heads several other companies, one of which is still a major landowner in the enclave.

A spokesman for the Planning Department said it had yet to receive any applications for developments in Tai Long Wan cited by Tuenbo Group.

Concern over development in Tai Long Wan was reignited a few months ago after Dr Thomas Sit Hon-chung, assistant director for inspection and quarantine at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, and four relatives applied for permission to build five three-storey small houses in Tai Long Wan village, Ham Tin. The plans were rejected by the Town Planning Board last Friday.

But residents the Post spoke to on condition of anonymity still fear the threat of development.

The first “battle for Tai Long Wan” stretches back to the 1990s, when a controversial scheme by the same developer to turn the untouched paradise into a “Club Med-style” resort “for executive and middle management people” triggered outrage.
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Old April 22nd, 2015, 04:33 PM   #1863
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New Hong Kong shopping centre could open near mainland China border by October
6 February 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt



A new shopping centre could open near the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint by October in an attempt to relieve New Territories towns overrun by mainland shoppers, a lawmaker confirmed yesterday.

Wong Ting-kwong, who represents the import and export sector, revealed that he had struck a deal with a group of villagers to turn a 420,000 sq ft site - about a fifth the size of Victoria Park - into an outdoor shopping centre.

Hundreds of shipping containers will be used to rapidly turn the site on the junction of Castle Peak Road and San Tin Tsuen Road - used now for parking, car repair workshops and warehouses - into a shopping mecca in time for the "golden week" holiday starting on National Day, October 1.

The move comes amid anger in towns such as Sheung Shui and Tuen Mun, where so-called parallel traders, who buy goods in Hong Kong for resale on the mainland, put intense pressure on public transport and are accused of crowding out stores selling daily necessities.

"[The centre] is not just for business," Wong said. "I hope it can help to [alleviate the pressure on] Northern district and towns in New Territories West, such as Tuen Mun."

Wong expects tenants to move out by the end of May so work can begin to install containers. Half will be rented to retailers of Hong Kong brands, a third will sell "hot products" popular with mainlanders, such as milk powder, diapers, clothes and sportswear, and the rest will be for food and beverages.

The centre will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and accommodate 3,000 visitors per hour - up to 30,000 in the course of a busy day.
Border shopping mall will be delayed until Christmas
17 April 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt

Proponent admits he was ‘naive’ to believe centre would be finished by National Day holiday

A proposed shopping centre intended to lure mainland visitors as soon as they enter Hong Kong is unlikely to be ready in time for the National Day holiday in October, and may be delayed until at least Christmas.

The lawmaker behind the plan said the delay was due to unexpected complications.

The centre – to be located near the Lok Ma Chau border crossing – was proposed in February amid rising tensions over an influx of shoppers and traders from the mainland that sparked unruly protests. Government officials welcomed it as a way to relieve New Territories towns overrun by mainland shoppers.

Import and export sector lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong yesterday admitted he was “too simple and naive” in believing the planned 420,000 sq ft outdoor centre would be easy to complete and open by October.

The Town Planning Board would not be able to approve the plan until the end of July at the earliest as more time was needed to research transport arrangements and the mall’s impact on noise pollution, Wong said.

“We can only kick it off during the Christmas holiday if not the new year,” Wong, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said. “I had hoped it would be opened earlier … but after all, the project is not aimed at gaining money but to relieve tensions in society.”

The Town Planning Board has zoned the site only for “service station” use. This designation allows only limited uses including as a public transport terminus or a library. Using the site for markets, shops and services would require approval from the board.

Concerns over cost have also forced Wong’s team into a rethink. They had planned to use hundreds of shipping containers to build the shopping mecca, but realised air conditioning costs would be four times as high as for a regular indoor shopping centre, and extra insulation against the summer heat would be needed.

Instead, prefabricated structures will be used. Half of the site will be used for local-brand products, Wong said, while 30 per cent would go on “popular” products such as baby milk formula.
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Old April 24th, 2015, 07:08 PM   #1864
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Landlords mull upgrades as rents tipped to increase
22 April 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt



Improved infrastructure linking Central and non-core districts set to push up office rents

Landlords in Causeway Bay are either accelerating or pondering redeveloping their old properties as improved infrastructure linking Central and non-core districts would spur office rents higher over the next 10 years, according to industry experts.

Colliers International executive director Simon Lo Wing-fai said office rents in Causeway Bay would benefit once the Central-Wan Chai bypass and Island East Corridor Link due to be completed in 2017 are finished.

“The rental gap between Central and Wan Chai or Causeway Bay will be narrowed,” he said.

In its latest report, Colliers said the rental premium of Central over Wan Chai and Causeway Bay would narrow from 46 per cent last year to 23 per cent in 2025, driven by improved infrastructure.

In 2025, Grade-A office monthly rents in Wan Chai and Causeway Bay would increase 118 per cent to HK$136.90 per square foot from HK$62.90 per square foot last year, it said. Central Grade-A office rents would jump 83.5 per cent to HK$168.10 per square foot in 2025, from HK$91.60 per square foot last year.

Colliers’ forecast came after news that The Excelsior hotel may be torn down to make way for a commercial development after 42 years as a Causeway Bay landmark.

Excelsior Hotel (BVI), a wholly owned subsidiary of luxury hotel operator Mandarin Oriental International, has secured approval to build a 26-storey commercial building over the four-storey basement at 281 Gloucester Road, according to the Building Department’s February digest released last Friday. The plan would yield a total gross floor area of 684,005 square feet.

Lo said the site would be a desirable location for Grade-A office with retail shops at street level. “It is an excellent location for office development with a spectacular sea view,” he said.

Other plans under way for redevelopment include Hysan Development, which has demolished Sunning Plaza and Sunning Court in Causeway Bay to build a mixed-use office and retail complex on the site. Hysan said earlier that the redevelopment of Sunning Plaza and Sunning Court was mainly to cater to the creation of offices for tenants who were moving out of Central and to make sure there was enough space to deal with future demand.
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Old April 26th, 2015, 07:00 AM   #1865
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Projected home supply raised to record 78,000
25 April 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt



Government accelerates land sales as number of flats under construction slides 75 per cent

The projected supply of private homes in Hong Kong has been raised to a record high of 78,000 for the coming three to four years as the government accelerates land sales.

Analysts said an increased annual supply had become a trend, but one that was unlikely to stem rising home prices in the short term.

The Transport and Housing Bureau announced the official figures in a report on new private housing supply for the first quarter of the year.

Some 78,000 new homes are projected to be put on the market over the next three to four years, an increase of 4,000 flats from the estimate made in the bureau’s previous quarterly report.

Meanwhile, the number of flats under construction in the first quarter of the year fell 75 per cent to 2,000 from the 8,000 reported in the first quarter of last year. The number of flat completions fell to 200, from 2,900 flats in the same period last year.

Property consultants put the declines in first-quarter flats under construction and flat completions down to differences in developers’ construction schedules. They say supply will increase significantly in the second half of the year because the government has been increasing land supply.

“The number of 78,000 flats is a record-high projection, driven by an increase in land sales by the government in the first quarter,” said Cliff Tse, national director of valuation advisory services at property consultant JLL.

The bureau’s latest report says “units from disposed sites where construction may start any time” increased to 21,000 in the first quarter, an increase of 6,000 units from December.

The projection of 78,000 homes includes 61,000 units under construction but excludes those presold by developers.

In the first quarter of this year, developers presold 10,000 flats, up from 7,000 in the previous quarter.

Tse said the revised home supply projection would not result in an immediate correction in home prices.

The total of 78,000 units represented supply of between 19,500 and 26,000 flats a year, Tse said, which is comparable with the average home supply of 25,000 units a year in the 1990s.
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Old April 26th, 2015, 08:15 PM   #1866
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Time to rethink urban renewal strategy to put the people before developers
Albert Cheng says resignation of key URA official could be a blessing if changes lead to merger with Housing Authority to create a better set-up
24 April 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt



The surprise resignation of Iris Tam Siu-ying last month as managing director of the Urban Renewal Authority has provided some serious food for thought for those in charge of the land and housing portfolio.

Highly regarded by her colleagues, Tam, however, has failed to satisfy her chairman, Victor So Hing-woh, that the authority's long-term financial health is secure. This set her on a collision course with So over how much the URA should rely on private developers who have no moral obligation to the tenants affected.

In an internal email dated March 31, Tam said: "URA must always put its social mission before profit considerations in selecting sites for redevelopment, helping owners rehabilitate their buildings, and contributing towards heritage preservation and revitalisation.

"As URA is trusted with the use of public money and the power to apply for land resumption, it is imperative that we are accountable to the public in how we handle acquisition, rehousing and clearance. I find it totally unacceptable to position URA as a developer or a land assembly agent to supply land for developers."

So, who took over from Barry Cheung Chun-yuen in June 2013, is eager to reform the URA, especially on the financial front. He has entered talks for closer collaboration with the Richfield Group, a developer notorious for aggressive tactics with residents in buying old buildings.

Last year, alarm bells rang when the URA recorded for the first time in five years a deficit of HK$2.3 billion. To address the problem, So has engaged McKinsey for a value-for-money study. It projected that the URA's fiscal reserves would plunge from HK$24.2 billion to HK$9 billion in five years.

The firm recommended the sale of land parcels to developers to boost income. It also denounced the strategies of rehabilitation, revitalisation, reservation and redevelopment as defective in regenerating urban areas. The first three have cost HK$2.8 billion, while the fourth resulted in slow land repossession and high compensation costs. McKinsey further proposed handing over the URA's acquisition and rehabilitation work to outsiders.

The government's urban renewal strategy dates back to 1988 with the launch of the Land Development Corporation. It was empowered to acquire and redevelop dilapidated buildings but was not given substantial resources for compensation and the subsequent civil works. Abraham Shek Lai-him, who headed the corporation, had no other option but to cooperate with private developers.

The corporation was revamped into the current URA in May 2001 with an injection of HK$10 billion. The new statutory independent body introduced a "people first" approach for its initiatives in dilapidated urban areas.

Former chairman Cheung left a positive impression in leading the Kwun Tong Town Centre project. However, to balance the books, Cheung also joined with private developers to build luxury flats.

Both Tam and So have their points but both approaches would entail a transfer of interest to developers. It is only a matter of degree. The difference is Tam's emphasis on a "social mission" to provide greater safeguards for the people. In contrast, So makes no pretence of distancing the URA from private developers. In the public's eyes, the URA is now an instrument for them to squeeze every last drop of profit in the name of urban renewal.
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Old April 28th, 2015, 05:08 PM   #1867
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Tycoon plans cheap homes for young and old
The Standard Excerpt
Friday, January 16, 2015





Henderson Land (0012) chairman Lee Shau-kee laid out bold plans yesterday to build cheap homes for the elderly and young people.

The elderly would be able to secure new flats for as little as HK$100,000 just over the border in Guangdong, while the tycoon wants to build apartments costing just HK$1 million for youth in Hong Kong.

Lee said local housing prices are about to peak, though the market is unlikely to collapse even if interest rates go up.

To help resolve the SAR's housing problems, Lee wants to join hands with Country Garden (2007) chairman Yang Guoqiang to provide 10,000 flats for seniors in either the Nansha district of Guangzhou or Huizhou city, both of which are less than two hours' drive from Hong Kong.

"Construction cost in the mainland is just about a tenth of that in Hong Kong, which means for every unit built here, we can build 10 in the mainland," Lee said.

Lee said people will have a better chance moving into a flat of their own under his proposed program than by applying for public housing.

"What's the point of fighting so hard for one quota?" said Lee, referring to the overwhelming response to the Housing Authority's latest batch of subsidized flats coming on the market in 2016.

Lee said his top priority is to help the young. He raised the possibility of building 5,000 flats at Tai Hang Sai Estate in Shek Kip Mei for employed local youths. The project is named "housing for entrepreneurial, hard-working youths."

At about HK$1 million each, the units will not require any downpayment. Buyers could choose to pay HK$9,600 monthly at a fixed 3 percent interest rate for 10 years or they could pay HK$5,500 per month for 20 years. "I hope every young person can become a millionaire by owning an affordable home, so that Hong Kong will be a paradise," said Lee.

But such homes cannot be sold in the secondary market.

Lee has not decided how to compensate and relocate the existing occupants of the 1,300 apartments who will be affected if the Shek Kip Mei project is implemented.

The apartments are owned by Hong Kong Settlers Housing Corp Ltd of which Lee is a shareholder and serves on the board.Both types of flats for the young and the old will each measure 300 square feet. Existing tenants at Tai Hang Sai Estate last night demanded that if the project is approved they should get priority rights to buy HOS flats and also be exempted from detailed screening for renting public units.
Tai Hang Sai Estate













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Old May 1st, 2015, 10:08 AM   #1868
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Shatin-Central Line, Wan Chai section
3/28

















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Old May 1st, 2015, 03:35 PM   #1869
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have you renders??
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Old May 2nd, 2015, 07:38 AM   #1870
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One Bay East
By ngkwokhing from dcfever :

T/O - By R.HAR from dcfever :

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Old May 2nd, 2015, 07:53 AM   #1871
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have you renders??
I found this from a 2011 news clipping :



Exhibition Station is on the Hong Kong Island side of the Shatin-Central Line :

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Old May 4th, 2015, 01:21 AM   #1872
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thanks, is much easier to understand the pictures with the renders
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Old May 5th, 2015, 02:32 AM   #1873
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Hong Kong developers 'disadvantaged' by lack of a clear conservation policy
4 May 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt

Private developers have no role in preserving heritage buildings and are left at a disadvantage by the absence of a comprehensive conservation policy, a young property tycoon says.

Lau Ming-wai, 34, who took over as chairman and CEO of Chinese Estates Holdings last year, made the remarks yesterday at a student forum on development and conservation.

Chinese Estates was at the centre of a major conservation row in the 2000s, when public pressure forced it and the Urban Renewal Authority to preserve part of the old Wan Chai Market instead of removing it completely for a housing development. The development was one of many in recent years to spark bitter protests and raise questions about whether the city was too quick to remove historic buildings.

"The government should lay out all the rules of the game for developers to follow," said Lau, who also chairs the government's Commission on Youth. "For example, you can set out all conservation requirements in the land lease when putting the land on sale. If a developer finds the requirements too harsh, he can choose not to bid."

Lau also said society should "discuss what conservation means", adding: "Keeping everything untouched is not a good solution. Conservation should not mean not tearing anything down."

He added: "It is not fair to ask a runner to run slower to take care of other contestants' feelings."

Ultimately, he said, it was up to the government to "listen and to balance the various interests of different stakeholders".
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Old May 6th, 2015, 06:46 PM   #1874
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Church’s proposal fails to win support
6 May 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt



Jardine’s Lookout residents scored a small victory yesterday after an amended proposal to expand a church compound on Mount Butler failed to win support from district councillors.

Two members rejected the plan, while all others abstained in the non-binding vote. The project involves the construction of a seminary, administration offices and a hostel, and an expansion of the existing two storey kindergarten on the site.

One of those who voted against the plan, Jardine’s Lookout councillor David Lai Tai-wai, said residents had not been properly consulted about the proposal by the Sheng Kung Hui, the city’s Anglican Church.

He said any development would worsen traffic on Mount Butler Road, which was already brought to a standstill every morning as drivers brought children to the elite Braemar Hill Nursery School.

“The traffic problem is already very serious. Even the Transport Department agreed that it underestimated the impact of traffic from Braemar Hill Nursery when it moved there,” said Lai. “The situation will be worse with hundreds more pupils in the area.”

Two dozen members of the Jardine’s Lookout Concern Group staged a small protest before the council discussed the plan. Resident Cheng Kit-ying expressed fears that emergency vehicles would be unable to pass because of increased traffic.

The church acquired additional plots in a land swap approved by the government in 2011. It planned to expand its facilities there to “reduce development intensity” at its heritage-graded compound in Central.

The plan was initially put to the district council in 2011. Following opposition, it reduced the plot from 12,000 sq m to 8,500 sq m. Measures to alleviate traffic concerns included internal drop-off and pick-up areas and maintaining a 70 per cent quota of pupils using its school bus service.
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Old May 10th, 2015, 05:29 PM   #1875
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Upper West 奧城.西岸



Rendering

3/22



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Old May 11th, 2015, 03:27 PM   #1876
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4,000 public flats to go up at Diamond Hill site formerly home to historic village
9 May 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt



The site of a former historic village and moviemaking hub in Diamond Hill will be home to 4,000 public flats housing 12,000 residents, after town planning advisers approved the government's redevelopment proposal.

Housing blocks will occupy 2.83 hectares of the 7.18-hectare site of the former Tai Hom village, built in 1800, and the adjacent Ha Yuen Leng.

The villages have been pulled down save for a stone house that was once the home of late movie star Roy Chiao.

Two other structures, a pillbox and a former Royal Air Force hangar - both listed as grade two historic buildings - have been removed and will be relocated along with the stone house to a new 1.64-hectare park to make way for the MTR's Sha Tin-Central link project, under the final plan endorsed by the Town Planning Board yesterday.
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Old May 16th, 2015, 05:31 PM   #1877
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Land exchange option could resolve the URA's dilemma of purpose vs profit
Francis Neoton Cheung says it would avoid cash outlay and spur developers to initiate projects
13 May 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt



Statutory bodies are not all created equal. Some, like the Consumer Council, are welcomed by the public because of its clear mission, while others are born with inherent identity issues. The latter category is perhaps best represented by the Urban Renewal Authority, which is primarily tasked with upgrading Hong Kong's ageing neighbourhoods.

Its struggle for a sharper identity focus recently came to a boil when its managing director resigned over purported differences with the chairman. At the heart of the debate is URA's struggle to reconcile purpose with profit.

Frequent haggling with affected owners occurs over the URA's method of assessing the compensation based on the value of a notional seven-year-old flat in the vicinity. The URA has also been branded an aggressive developer for projects such as Wan Chai's Lee Tung Street, the so-called "Wedding Card Street", which has forced the body to shift to a more passive approach that relies on property owners initiating redevelopment.

Finally, there's the financial viability of the URA, given current market conditions. While the body has enjoyed bountiful revenues since its founding in 2000, more than doubling the initial government investment of HK$10 billion into a capital and reserves accumulation of about HK$24 billion, future income is in doubt and it has run a deficit in the past two years. The reason: soaring construction costs and the dwindling number of old urban buildings with high redevelopment potential.

Yet the need for the URA is as pressing as ever. Currently, there are more than 4,000 buildings in Hong Kong aged 50 or older, with the number expected to increase in the next decade. Out of the 4,000 now, about 3,000 are in a serious state of disrepair.

What is the most effective way of renewing ageing urban landscapes with low redevelopment value, like Cheung Sha Wan's Kim Shin Lane, or other dilapidated buildings in San Po Kong and Sai Wan Ho?

It's time to resolve the identity crisis once and for all, so the URA can more effectively serve its function. The solution: a strategic retreat from property development through the reintroduction of land exchange entitlements.

In the 1960s and 1970s, faced with the enormous task of developing new towns and budget constraints, the British government offered two categories of land exchange entitlements in lieu of cash to affected land owners. What was commonly known as "Letter A" and "Letter B" offered rights to alternative, similarly sized plots in the same area in return for surrendering existing plots that were already built on (A) or used as farmland (B).

The Hong Kong government could now create a new category of land exchange entitlement - a "Letter C" - that promises developers the right to other plots within the same district. This would encourage developers to round up owners in old buildings, freeing the URA from this often difficult task. The affected owners would benefit because they would be compensated readily according to market value and not subject to the "seven-year rule", a frequent source of tension.

More importantly, because there would be no cash outlay, the URA would no longer feel compelled to rebuild on the plots of the old buildings it gained control of to recoup its investment. It would no longer have to behave like a private developer concerned only with the bottom line.
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Old May 20th, 2015, 06:57 PM   #1878
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Scheme could produce 4,000 subsidised flats
19 May 2015
South China Morning Post Excerpt

The Housing Society is to launch a pilot scheme that will redevelop housing estates occupied by civil servants, potentially releasing land for the construction of 4,000 subsidised flats.

The scheme, put forward by the Development Bureau, is a response to calls from lawmakers to redevelop residential buildings built under the Civil Servants Cooperative Building Society Scheme since 1952.

The society said projects included in the scheme would be carried out on a “no-loss” principle, meaning revenue from the projects should be enough to cover all their development and acquisition costs.

Some 227 sites in the city hosting civil servant housing have never been redeveloped. Most do not have lifts and are occupied by ageing retired civil servants.

Civil servants were originally granted land for the construction of homes as a concession, but it means that if they wish to sell a site or have it redeveloped by the private sector, they must pay a land premium to the government set at two-thirds of the land’s value. Consequently only 11 estates have been redeveloped by private firms.

The bureau estimates 85 sites in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon City and Shau Kei Wan have redevelopment potential, and floor areas at these estates could be at least doubled. If all the sites are redeveloped, they could potentially produce more than 4,000 subsidised flats – an average of 50 additional units per site.

But strict requirements have been set for flat owners interested in applying for redevelopment. All owners on an estate must agree with the redevelopment, the site should not be smaller than 10,000 sq ft, and projects should be able to break even.

In return, the society will acquire the homes from the owners at market price, or 10 per cent above market price if possible, and affected owners will be eligible to buy a second-hand subsidised flat elsewhere built by the society with a saleable area of between 300 sq ft and 600 sq ft.
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Old May 25th, 2015, 04:53 AM   #1879
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Upper West 奧城.西岸
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Old May 30th, 2015, 06:28 PM   #1880
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Visionary, Tung Chung
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