Owners of small properties should be allowed a level playing field

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 July, 2009, 12:00am

The government has proposed lowering the sales threshold needed to trigger compulsory acquisitions of all units in redevelopment projects. A private developer must buy 90 per cent of the property, but the proposal is to lower this to 80 per cent.

This would apply to residential buildings which are at least 50 years old.

Though this measure is supported by most developers and landlords, property owners in these kinds of buildings are concerned that their properties could, in effect, be seized by developers and they might not get paid the fair market value.

Such fears are not totally groundless.

Consider the fact that in the past, at forced-sale auctions, few bidders other than the company acquiring the building have turned up.

Therefore, it is little wonder that some homeowners are complaining that their assets might be taken from them at below the market value.

I agree that we must step up our efforts to revitalise the inner city.

However, private property rights must always be respected and protected. The problem as I see it is that minority owners faced with a forced acquisition presently lack adequate channels through which they can appeal against a compulsory purchase order.

All they can do is confront the big developers, at their own expense, at the Lands Tribunal.

I can understand the motive behind amending the Land (Compulsory Sale for Redevelopment) Ordinance. But any legislation must ensure minority owners can resolve likely disputes over property rights, valuations and other delicate issues.

If the party wanting to acquire the property seeks a compulsory purchase order, then surely there must be a set of transparent and fair acquisition procedures.

I continue to believe that the pace of the city's regeneration should be speeded up; by doing so, we can make better use of our land.

However, a level playing field must be created to minimise tensions between big developers and small landlords.

Jimmy Chow, Kwun Tong