Housing chiefs move to bolster confidence
CHLOE LAI and MARTIN WONG
Housing Authority chiefs yesterday put forward a blueprint they hope will shore up public confidence in government housing in the wake of a spate of building scandals.
The 40-point plan hammered out by representatives of the construction industry and various professional bodies comes after three months of closed-door discussions.
It was approved yesterday by the Executive Council and now has to be passed by Housing Authority members before two months of public consultation on its contents.
Under the blueprint, all new and existing Home Ownership Scheme flats would have a 10-year structural safety guarantee from the date of completion.
Housing Authority chairwoman Rosanna Wong Yick-ming described it as 'appropriate and necessary for home-buyers'.
The authority will discuss with the Government a move to bring all its buildings under the control of the Buildings Ordinance, meaning both rental units and scheme flats will need final approval from the Buildings Department.
Democratic Party housing policy spokesman, Lee Wing-tat welcomed the moves but said he believed they would take a long time to implement as they would need government co-operation and legislative amendments.
As well as long-term measures, the authority aims to conduct more surprise checks and contract-out part of the final inspection work.
Ms Wong said she hoped the blueprint would lead to a revamp of the culture of the SAR's construction industry.
All completed projects would be subject to rechecking, and each piling contract would have a resident engineer to monitor all critical stages of work. Independent consultants would be commissioned to audit piling work.
The plan also proposes more emphasis on past performance rather than cost when deciding which contractors and consultants get jobs. But Ms Wong admitted it was impossible to exclude price completely because of the risk of soaring costs.
And as a reward for continuous good performance, top firms might be able to bypass the tender system.
But Ms Wong stressed retaining tendering was the 'pragmatic' option.
Under the proposals, main contractors would be required to submit a list of subcontractors at all levels. Contractors and subcontractors would have to employ contract workers in core trades to ensure a professional workforce.
The normal construction period for new piling and building contracts would be extended by one and two months respectively, but the planning stage would be shortened.
Jimmy Tse Kai-leung, president of the Hong Kong Construction Association, welcomed the lengthening of construction. But he questioned increasing professionally trained workers from 35 per cent to 60 per cent, saying: 'We would love to do it, but is it possible?' He said it would only work if a mandatory test for all 70,000 building workers were introduced.