Developers eye the prime sites of urban villages

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 2007, 12:00am

Guangzhou urged to draw up policy on their redevelopment

A Hong Kong member of the Guangzhou People's Political Consultative Conference (GPPCC) has urged the city to allow developers to take part in the redevelopment of hundreds of urban villages on prime land, saying they pose a serious security problem.

In a meeting with Guangzhou senior officials, Changwei Trading chairman Lee Yip-shun, urged Mayor Zhang Guangning to draw up a policy as soon as possible to deal with the problem.

'I had tabled a similar proposal in the GPPCC meeting six years ago,' Mr Lee said. 'Now I have to repeat it because urban villages are a serious problem that needs to be solved urgently.'

According to the Southern Metropolis News, Mr Lee was previously involved in Guangzhou's real estate market but has since switched to the catering business.

Former Guangzhou party secretary Lin Shusen has barred property developers from redeveloping urban villages and old districts, but several delegates had expressed their interest in the prime land the communities occupy within the city centre.

Another, Hong Kong-based delegate to the GPPCC, Foo Kam-chu, chairwoman of Soundwill Holdings, said: 'As a developer, I want to make a contribution to urban redevelopment.'

Mr Lee said the villages, which occupied 'thousands of acres of land', were a great waste of land resources, and the cheap housing they provided was not properly managed, causing a hidden public security problem.

Mr Zhang told the delegates that the redevelopment was already in the city's 'Central Region Adjustment' strategy plan but it was not an easy task and would take time to handle.

'The redevelopment of urban villages is so complicated that we have to make different policies for each village,' he said. 'We have already drafted policies and will carry them out step by step.'

Mr Zhang said investment had to be balanced and an agreement struck with the villagers. 'We can't just do what we like without their support.'

The redevelopment of Guangzhou's old districts and the development of city land was a recurrent theme in speeches made by more than 20 delegates at the annual conference.

Benjamin Fok Chun-yue, director of the Henry Fok Ying-tung group of companies, urged the government to make the land supply process in the future more transparent.

As its land supply dwindles, the Guangzhou government is turning to old districts to free up more space to meet the strong demand for housing.

The local need for housing has sent Guangzhou property prices soaring in the past year, despite measures to cool the market.