'Cut threshold for forced sale'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 April, 2009, 12:00am

Requiring developers to secure the support of at least 80 per cent of a building's owners instead of 90 per cent to force the sale of the property was more reasonable, the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors said.

Citing benefits to society and the environment, Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung, who chairs the institute's general practice division, said it was unreasonable to allow a few reluctant owners to derail redevelopment plans supported by the majority.

A government proposal to lower the threshold for a forced sale under certain conditions has yet to be approved by the Legislative Council. Many lawmakers are worried the move will accelerate the acquisition of old buildings that are still structurally sound. They, therefore, want a stronger justification for reducing the current threshold.

Not so the surveyors. 'We support lowering the threshold,' Dr Poon said. 'I think making it 90 per cent is maybe too high, while 80 per cent is more reasonable.'

The institute has launched a booklet to inform the public about compulsory sales. The booklet is available for download from the institute's website.

The institute's senior vice-president, Stephen Yip Moon-wah, said a deeper understanding of compulsory sales was needed as many people harboured fears that they would get less-than-fair value for their property if the sale of their building was forced through.

But, he said: 'The value largely depends on the development potential of the land.'

The government initially wanted its proposal to apply to three different scenarios: smaller buildings in which a single holdout represented 10 per cent or more of the shares; buildings that were aged 40 years or older; and those with missing or untraceable owners who accounted for at least 10 per cent of shares.

The third provision was removed in a revised proposal because it might infringe on the property rights of untraceable owners.

The government said lowering the threshold under the first condition would allow for the private redevelopment of buildings with five to nine units where a deadlock could develop if only one of the owners refused to sell.

At present under the Land Ordinance, anyone who owns at least 90 per cent of the total undivided shares of a lot may apply to the Lands Tribunal for an order for compulsory sale of the entire lot.