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Old June 1st, 2010, 04:06 PM   #21
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Old August 9th, 2010, 05:49 PM   #22
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Safety review might ban partitioned flats
21 July 2010
SCMP

A review of building safety could regulate or even ban people from subdividing flats into small units.

The fatal collapse of a tenement building in Ma Tau Wai Road in January focused public attention on problems resulting from such subdivisions. It also prompted the Development Bureau to set up a core group to review building safety policy.

The group, led by Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will look into the problems of partitioned flats and illegal structures that are added to buildings and come up with measures to help owners to maintain their properties properly. It will report its findings by the end of the year.

The Buildings Department received 2,890 complaints about the subdivision of flats from 2005 to 2009. Among 85 removal orders it issued, two involved overloaded flats and 24 had suffered water seepage.

In 59 cases fire safety was compromised, with doors removed and exits obstructed.

Flats are commonly divided in Yau Tsim Mong, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon City and Kwun Tong, with most cases identified in buildings completed in the 1960s and 1970s.

The department said it did not have statistics on the total number of subdivided flats across the city as inspections required huge resources and involved asking a police officer to break into private premises with authorised building officials.

"The number of complaints is quite high and this is a reflection of public concern over the phenomenon and the need for clearer regulation," said Hui Siu-wai, an assistant director for buildings.

Hui said there was no exact definition of what constituted a subdivided flat but it was widely recognised that for a domestic flat it involved two or more small individual units, each usually self-contained with a toilet or kitchen, for sale or letting purposes.

As the work often involved knocking down partition walls and building new ones, putting in additional wiring, raising floors, and altering internal water pipes and the sewage system, this would probably result in overloading the building structure, causing water seepage and obstruction of fire exits.

But some of this work, such as building internal partition walls, is not covered by the building ordinance and does not require prior approval from the Buildings Department. This limits the government's role in monitoring problems inside those flats.

Lam said: "We understand the need to review the policy. But banning all subdivided flats would neglect the housing needs of some people who look for affordable housing in urban areas."

Last month she said renovation work in a ground-floor shop probably caused the Hung Hom tenement collapse, which killed four people.

One option the bureau is considering is to expand the scope of minor works to cover construction work related to the subdivision of flats. Anyone conducting minor works would be required to employ qualified contractors and to inform the department of the alteration details.

Other issues to be considered include which parties should conduct inspections and how subdivided flats should be defined.

The chairman of Yau Tsim Mong District Council, Chung Kong-mo, said he preferred regulating the problems to a complete ban.

"The cheap divided units are popular in the property market. We just want to ensure it won't affect the safety of buildings."

Chung said water seepage in such flats in Yau Tsim Mong had disturbed residents. Another problem was overloaded power systems caused by so many air conditioners running at the same time.
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Old October 27th, 2010, 02:34 PM   #23
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Finding new value in old buildings
26 October 2010
China Daily - Hong Kong Edition

There has been plenty of high drama at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium this year as land auctions grab the headlines every month. Record-breaking prices show that Hong Kong developers have an insatiable appetite after years of lean land supply from the government. But away from the media spotlight, however, they have also been busy boosting supply in quite a different way - acquiring "old buildings" for redevelopment. The Buildings Department classifies old buildings as those that have stood for 50 years or more.

In many cases, the city's buildings are aging along with their occupants. The Buildings Department conducted a comprehensive safety inspection after a building on Ma Tau Wai Road in To Kwa Wan collapsed on January 29 this year, claiming four lives. As of December 2009, the number of buildings aged over 50 years was 3,690. More of these buildings will fall into this category over the next decade at an even higher rate, at an annual average rate of 570.Most of these old buildings are crowded together in older parts of the city such as Sai Wan, Sheung Wan, and Shau Kei Wan on Hong Kong Island. Neighborhoods in Kowloon such as To Kwa Wan, Kowloon City, Sham Shui Po, and Tai Kok Tsui also contain a lot of aging buildings.

Gabriel H.W. Cheng, head of the collective sales division at property firm Savills, has been specializing in the old building acquisition market since 2004. Witnessing its ups and downs over the years, Cheng said the acquisition of old buildings is in line with the movement of the property market, where buyers' expectations set the tone.

"Back in 2002 and 2003, the property market was in a trough, and so was the interest of buyers in old buildings," Cheng said." After that, the property market started to climb up, yet land supply through auctions was limited, stoking interest of acquiring old buildings, especially those in old areas with good transportation links," said Cheng.

This year has also marked a watershed for the acquisition of old buildings as the Legislative Council passed a compulsory sales law on March 17. Under the law, which took effect on April 1, developers can apply to the Land Tribunal to trigger a compulsory sale after acquiring 80 percent of a property interest, down from the previous 90 percent threshold. The law covers residential buildings older than 50 years and those left with only one apartment the developers have previously failed to acquire.

The past five months have already seen eight compulsory sale applications, while in 2009 there were only a total of seven. Cheng estimated that the number of buildings eligible for the 80 percent law may hit 100.

"Before the law, the success rate for collecting 90 percent of a property interest was quite low. Now - although 10 percent does not sound very exciting - it actually can make a significant difference," said Cheng.

Acting as a bridge between property owners and developers, Cheng said two approaches are prevalent in the practice of acquiring old buildings.

One is that a group of property owners, for example, representing 40 percent of property interests in the building, will bundle their interests together, then put it on the market for bidding. A real estate agent will then help to persuade remaining owners to join the others to attract potential buyers.

The other way sees the developers taking proactive step. On behalf of the developer, the agent offers property owners a price and signs a "conditional contract" with them, committing to buy the flats once 80 percent of the interests are acquired. Sometimes the trigger point may be lower, since the developer may want to take control and speed up the whole process.

From Cheng's experiences, the second approach - where developers take the initiative - usually shortens the acquisition period to around four months. This is far more efficient than the owner-led approach, which may last more than a year.

Over the years, the practice has been for the price offered by developers to be set against the market price as the benchmark. There is also a premium which reflects the developers' confidence about redevelopment prospects. Cheng said the average price has gone up 20 percent in 2010 compared with last year. He expects this trend to continue.

However, Cheng does have some concerns.

"Though the number of old buildings is soaring, the pool of old buildings with redevelopment value is shrinking," Cheng said.

By redevelopment value, Cheng means the site plot ratio, which determines the gross floor area allowed to be built on the site.

For an old building, if its allocated plot ratio - eg eight times - is higher than that used by the existing building - eg five times - the site will bring more value after redevelopment, since the developer can build and sell more flats on the site. This is the key factor developers consider when calculating their offer price.

As such old buildings with "potential" are gradually drying up, so the price offered by developers and that expected by property owners will see a widening gap. As buildings grow older and more dangerous to live in, property owners with a strong wish to sell may be frustrated by the price offered, since developers could be discouraged by the site's limited future profitability.

With this in mind, Cheng forecasts that the prices of old buildings, as well as the general property market, will meet resistance after 2014 due to supply and demand. Sites just auctioned or under construction will unleash a spate of home supply by then, holding down room for price hikes. Meanwhile, people prefer holding property right now given the present low interest rate. However, if the government nudges up the interest rate, people may reconsider their asset allotment and sell their by selling their properties, another supply stream that will put a dampener on prices.
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Old October 29th, 2010, 10:20 AM   #24
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Old February 27th, 2011, 05:06 AM   #25
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Old May 17th, 2011, 05:04 AM   #26
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Terror tactics claimed at buy-bid flats
The Standard
Monday, May 16, 2011

Kowloon City residents say they are living in fear of developers and want the government to buy them out.

According to district councillor Ng Po-keung, they claim private acquisition firms have been using illegal means - such as threatening phone calls, vandalism and even setting fire to common areas - to pressure them into selling their homes.

Ng said even though a number of small narrow buildings of seven to 10 storys have been bought by developers, work has yet to begin.

Under current law, a building taking up one plot of space cannot be higher than 70 meters. The larger the base area, the taller the building.

One resident who has been living in a walk-up apartment for nearly 30 years, claims her corridor was recently set on fire after negotiations fell through. She declined to be named for fear of reprisals.

"I woke up early one morning to the smell of smoke and when I opened my door, the area outside was on fire," she said, adding that within a two-week period, there were fires at three corridors on different levels.

Police were called, but said there was little that could be done without hard evidence.

Meanwhile, several hundred residents took to the streets yesterday to protest against hegemony by developers and soaring property prices.

Co-hosted by the Democratic Party, Civic Party, League of Social Democrats, People Power and Neo Democrats, as well as several green groups, the protesters walked from Chater Garden to the headquarters of two leading developers, Cheung Kong Center and New World Tower.

The protest, which was without incident, ended with the presentation of a petition to a representative from the Central Government Offices.
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Old August 26th, 2011, 12:11 PM   #27
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Kowloon City District Urban Renewal Forum meeting held
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Government Press Release

The following is issued on behalf of the Secretariat of the Kowloon City District Urban Renewal Forum:

The Kowloon City District Urban Renewal Forum (DURF) held a meeting this afternoon (August 25). The future work plan of Kowloon City DURF, the future use of the former Ma Tau Kok Animal Quarantine Depot (Cattle Depot) and the report on site visits were discussed during the meeting.

At the meeting, members agreed to commence the Study on Urban Renewal Plan for Kowloon City, which aims at formulating an urban renewal plan and action area plans for the district in late 2011. The study will also make proposals with regard to the preservation of heritage, architectural or local characteristics and heritage trails, as well as examine problems in the district. During the Study, different stages of public engagement exercises would be conducted to collect public views. Members also agreed to conduct the social impact assessment at an early stage, which would help assess the potential social impact of proposed urban renewal plans, and to make necessary amendments to the plans. The timetable for other work items, such as submission of a recommended proposal to the Government, public education and monitoring work on the progress of implementation of selected redevelopment, rehabilitation, preservation and revitalisation projects, was also agreed by members.

Members also gave their views on the future use of the Cattle Depot, and will continue to study the key findings and local views collected from the three site visits conducted in July in Hung Hom, To Kwa Wan, Lung Tong and Ho Man Tin sub-districts.

Kowloon City DURF was established on June 1, 2011, comprising a total of 20 non-official and official members appointed by the Secretary for Development. Dr Greg Wong was appointed as Chairman of the forum. Non-official members include four incumbent members of the Kowloon City District Council, two Area Committee members who are centres-in-charge of local non-governmental organisations and professionals from relevant fields.

Members of the public can visit the DURF website at www.durf.org.hk for the latest information and meeting updates.
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Old August 13th, 2012, 04:52 PM   #28
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Stage 1 Public Engagement for Kowloon City Urban Renewal Plan launched
Monday, August 13, 2012
Government Press Release

The following is issued on behalf of the Secretariat of the Kowloon City District Urban Renewal Forum:

The Kowloon City District Urban Renewal Forum (DURF) cordially invites members of the public, especially those from Kowloon City District, to participate in the Stage 1 Public Engagement for the Kowloon City Urban Renewal Plan to be launched tomorrow (August 14), and to provide their views on the Preliminary Urban Renewal Proposals (PURPs) for Kowloon City.

According to the new Urban Renewal Strategy, the "People First, District-Based and Public Participatory" approach should be adopted in urban renewal. The DURF was thus set up to strengthen urban renewal planning at the district level. The Kowloon City DURF will propose to the Government an urban renewal plan which displays the character of Kowloon City, reflects local aspirations and strikes a balance among different social interests.

"The vision of the Kowloon City Urban Renewal Plan is to preserve the rich history and culture, synergise with surrounding developments, optimise land resources, and create a quality living environment. We have already commenced the Planning Study and Social Impact Assessment, and will collect views from members of the public and the community on the PURPs through a range of public engagement activities," said the Chairman of the Kowloon City DURF, Dr Greg Wong.

The Stage 1 Public Engagement for the Kowloon City Urban Renewal Plan will last for one and a half months until the end of September, and the events will include focus groups, walking tours cum workshops, public forums, roving exhibitions and a questionnaire survey. For details, please visit the designated website, www.kcrenewal.hk. 

The Kowloon City DURF will prepare the Draft Kowloon City Urban Renewal Plan based on the views collected and the findings of the Stage 1 Social Impact Assessment, and plans to commence the Stage 2 Public Engagement in the first quarter of next year. All the views collected and the study findings will facilitate the formulation of the Kowloon City Urban Renewal Plan for submission to the Government.

Members of the public are welcome to express their views and suggestions on or before September 30 through the following:

Website: www.kcrenewal.hk
Email: [email protected]
Fax: 3104 0240
Mail: Secretariat
Kowloon City District Urban Renewal Forum
27/F, Tsuen Wan Government Offices,
38 Sai Lau Kok Road, Tsuen Wan, New Territories
(Please specify "Kowloon City Urban Renewal Plan")

Established on June 1, 2011, the Kowloon City DURF comprises non-official and official members appointed by the Secretary for Development. Dr Greg Wong was appointed as the forum's Chairman. Other non-official members include three incumbent members of the Kowloon City District Council, two Area Committee Members who are centres-in-charge of non-governmental organisations and professionals from relevant disciplines.
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Old January 12th, 2014, 06:39 PM   #29
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Old April 11th, 2014, 05:54 AM   #30
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Kowloon's 1,000-year secrets are revealed
The Standard
Friday, April 11, 2014









Hong Kong 1,000 years ago was a salt production center and bustled with traders.

Historians take these insights from a trove of relics found recently in the Kowloon City area.

Major finds included buildings and wells from the Song dynasty plus coins and porcelain.

The relics were unearthed during work on the MTR's Central- Sha Tin link in Kowloon City.

Lauded historian Siu Kwok- kin, who heads Chu Hai College of Higher Education's Centre for Hong Kong History and Culture Studies, said: "Those relics provide more information for us to understand Hong Kong's history in the Song era and more proof it was more than a fishing village.

"It shows there was hectic business activity in [today's] Kowloon City area."

From the Song to the Ming dynasties, Siu said, "salt was produced along the Kowloon City coastal areas. As there was salt trading, there were officials and business people there. That explains why certain relics and wells were found, suggesting established settlement."

Also, Siu said, Hong Kong's major role in producing salt lasted for a long time - from the Song through to the Ming dynasties.

Experts commissioned by the MTR Corp submitted an interim report on an archeological survey and excavations to the government on Monday.

Close to 240 features were listed, including eight stone buildings and seven others, 151 ditches, 49 ponds and pits, five wells and 16 burial points.

Among most important finds is a square-shaped well from the Song dynasty (960 to 1279) and said to be in very good condition.

As there will not be any excavation or construction work near the well, the experts recommend preserving it in place. Meantime, to protect it from erosion the well has been covered again.

With smaller relics, there have been more than 3,000 finds. These include opium containers, porcelain and pottery. Coins have been dated from 618AD.

The excavations went through three historical layers, from the 1920s to the 1960s, the late Qing to the Republic of China, and the Song-Yuan dynasties.
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Old August 25th, 2014, 07:46 PM   #31
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HK to see surge of more tiny flats
30 July 2014
South China Morning Post

Demand for ever-smaller homes remains strong due to cheaper prices, with developers expected to build increasing numbers of shoe-box flats

Developers are expected to produce more tiny flats in their future projects given the frenetic buying spree for shoe-box homes by young homebuyers and investors, industry observers said.

Demand for cheaper small flats would continue to rise, they said, since Hong Kong home prices have remained buoyant despite the government’s introduction of new stamp duties.

“Building more small flats will become a trend, as they are sought after by younger home seekers and long-term investors,” said Patrick Chow Moon-kit, head of research at Ricacorp Properties.

A Midland Realty survey showed that land that had been sold in the past two years and designated for building small flats would supply 12,400 units over the next few years.

Upcoming new home sales include those at Sun Hung Kai Properties’ 968-unit The Wings Phase 3 in Tseung Kwan O, which will offer about 200 small units of 334 sq ft to 360 sq ft. The official launch date has not yet been set.

Chow said that the market’s attention has turned to smaller flats. He noted they were being sold for record prices in the secondary market and were commanding high rents per square foot.



A case in point was a 225 sq ft unit at a new project, The Avery in Kowloon City, which has been leased at a monthly rent of HK$14,000, or HK$62 per square foot – which is higher than in Mid-Levels.

On Monday, a 327 sq ft two-bedroom unit at City One in Sha Tin was sold for HK$4 million, or HK$12,400 per square foot. It was a record price per square foot for the development.

Chow also attributed the popularity of small flats to the tightening of mortgage lending.

Under Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation’s mortgage insurance scheme, buyers of flats below HK$4.5 million could receive mortgage loans of up to 90 per cent of the flat’s value, capped at HK$3.6 million, while for flats priced between HK$4.5 million and HK$6 million the maximum loan-to-value ratio is 80 per cent, capped at HK$4.8 million. For flats priced between HK$7 million and HK$10 million, the maximum ratio is 60 per cent, capped at HK$5 million.

Since the government doubled the stamp duty for the purchase of a second or subsequent home, buyers of such flats have to pay stamp duty of 1.5 per cent, as against HK$100 previously, for a property priced at HK$2 million or below; 3 per cent, from 1.5 per cent previously, for one priced between HK$2 million and HK$3 million; and 6 per cent, from 3 per cent previously, for a unit priced at between HK$4 million and HK$6 million.

“New homes being offered in the price range of HK$4 million and HK$6 million registered the fastest sales response because of the lending policy. Properties exceeding HK$7 million will require a higher down payment,” Sino Land associate director Victor Tin Sio-un said.

Sino Land has sold 95 units at Park Ivy – a joint venture with the Urban Redevelopment Authority in Tai Kok Tsui – sized between 256 sq ft and 321 sq ft.

Midland said the number of secondary residential market transactions for homes worth HK$5 million or below fell to 3,479 last month after hitting a first-half high of 3,524 in May.
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