Review six years too late
PRIVATE homeowners have long been compensated for compulsory clearance of their properties. Owners from poor neighbourhoods receive an additional Home Purchase Allowance if the compensation would be too little for them to buy a new place to live. Clearly, the allowance for those cleared out of the Kowloon Walled City was bound to be substantial. However, the Director of Audit is asking why absentee owners of multiple properties - in one case the landlord of over 100 units - should have received an allowance on each of them. What justification can there have been for granting a single landlord an additional $14 million allowance? The Director of Audit estimates this policy has cost an excessive $91 million in additional payments for the Walled City clearance alone.
The Director of Buildings and Lands' response is less than adequate. The right of absentee landlords to allowances had become an established policy when the clearance was announced in 1987. Owners therefore expected it.
The Government, however, should have acted well before the announcement of the clearance. Now the rules are said to be under review. The Government finally is thinking about tightening them - after six years of slack administration.