Renewal authority's role comes under fire

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2006, 12:00am

The urban renewal strategy is not satisfying affected property owners and residents and should be improved, lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit says.

He said the Urban Renewal Authority should consider acting as a middleman that only approves submissions, not as an investor.

A senior official should oversee the renewal policy and its implementation to cut down on excessive delays and time-consuming procedures, he said.

Mr Leong, a member of the planning, lands and works panel, presented a motion to review the strategy at the Legislative Council yesterday. The motion will be debated tomorrow.

He said the strategy's self-financing principle made it hard for the authority to offer better compensation to the people affected.

'This provision creates huge problems for the authority,' he said.

As the authority is not allowed to incur deficits, it is bound to take a conservative approach in calculating the amount of compensation for affected tenants - which often fails to consider the development potential of the site, he said.

Another problem was the delay in land resumption, which usually came after a renewal plan had been officially unveiled.

'The practice is very much contrary to what should normally be done,' he said.

'You can imagine how the prices of the nearby flats go up after the plan is revealed.

'It ends up that some residents cannot afford flats of a similar size in the district and have to relocate to faraway areas.

'If the government continues to play the role of an investor, it will be difficult to juggle between making money and factors like sustainable development and keeping residents' social networks intact.

'But if it plays the role of facilitator and only looks at various plans and approves them according to plausibility, its duty will be much simpler.'

He added that such a revamp could also encourage local participation in initiating renewal plans.

'It is almost impossible for a few interested individuals to initiate plans to renew their building or cluster of buildings. But the government can consider making such local participation possible in the strategy review.'