Residents want cash not flats
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Residents offered flat-for-flat compensation at a Ma Tau Kok redevelopment project have all rejected the offers, the Urban Renewal Authority said yesterday.
It is the first time the policy has been tried since its launch in February last year. It offers those displaced from old buildings the choice of a flat in the new development or nearby, instead of financial compensation - with the aim of preserving long-standing communities. However, the affected residents in Pak Tai Street opted for cash compensation, turning down the swap offer because of uncertainties and because it could mean living in a smaller flat.
'Most residents showed no interest after learning they would have to wait for years to move into a new flat,' the authority's spokesman said.
Of the total of 108 property interests, 29 are owner-occupiers eligible for the option. They could have chosen a new flat at the same site, to be completed in 2018, or one in nearby Kai Tak by 2016.
'We wouldn't try to persuade them to opt for a new flat since it's a big decision in their lives,' the spokesman said. 'The scheme will look more attractive when the new flats are completed.'
Owners selling their flats to the authority will receive compensation of HK$8,939 per square foot of saleable area, while the prices of flats in the refurbished project will range between HK$9,003 and HK$10,358 per square foot.
The authority says two-thirds of the flats being built on the Ma Tau Kok site and at Kai Tak will be cheap enough to be covered by owners' cash compensation; some owners might even have cash left over. That is because most of them will be smaller than the existing flats.
For example, the owner of an existing flat with 626 square feet of saleable area will save more than HK$1 million if he or she buys a 465 sq ft flat in Kai Tak.
But an owner choosing a larger flat on a higher level would have to pay an additional HK$370,000 to HK$1.3 million.
Kowloon City district councillor Wong Yun-cheong said for an elderly person there were too many uncertainties to opt for a new flat. 'They don't know what it will look like, and they don't want to bother to find a temporary home, move in and wait for the new flat to be completed four years later,' he said.
'Also, they don't want to move into a smaller flat. If they opt for the cash, they can buy a second-hand home of about the same size in the same district, which will leave them with some savings.'
The Society for Community Organisation, which promoted the flat-for-flat policy, said its effectiveness should not be judged by this single project. 'The flat-for-flat option was an idea raised by many concern groups during public consultations,' said director Ho Hei-wah.
'They claimed the older residents would prefer to stay in the same site even if they needed to find a temporary home and wait for new flats.
'Does this case tell us the views of concern groups don't represent those of the residents? It will take time before we have an answer.'
The size in square feet of saleable area of most of the existing flats in the Pak Tai Street project. The new flats would be much smaller