URA takes over To Kwa Wan project
Olga Wong and Joyce Ng
The Urban Renewal Authority will take over redevelopment of the dilapidated area in To Kwa Wan where four people were killed when a building collapsed last month.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah announced the special arrangements as a measure to ease residents' 'fear and anxiety'.
At the same time the Buildings Department said two adjacent blocks - one of which has already been partly demolished - would be pulled down because they were dangerous. Residents will be allowed to return to the flats and pack their belongings today.
In the HK$2 billion project, 33 blocks on Ma Tau Wai Road and Chun Tin Street, will be turned into two 30-storey blocks each with 500 square metres of open space at ground level, 1,000 square metres of community facilities and street-level shops.
Acquisition will begin in May and construction is expected to take five years, until about 2016.
The URA had earlier avoided the project because of increasing private acquisition by investors but Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said it would now take it over instead of partnering with developers as it usually does.
Lam said the flats would be less than 500 sq ft to supply cheaper homes for first-time buyers.
The buildings will be of simple designs without luxurious packaging and facilities that 'inflate' the gross floor areas.
'We need special measures to deal with a special case. It will be quicker and more community-friendly,' she said.
Authority chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen estimated a loss of HK$700 million and said more than 500 households would be affected.
He said three tenements had been acquired by private developers but the compensation paid to them should not result in a significant increase in costs.
Single owners of a whole block usually ask for compensation reflecting the potential redevelopment va- lue of their sites, which is much higher than the total compensation paid to individual flat owners - equivalent to the value of seven-year-old flats.
The authority's spokesman said the loss would result from the high financing cost as the authority would not receive the upfront payment usually paid by a developer for such a project. Owners of the collapsed building would also receive compensation from the authority but would have to bear the ultimate legal liability from the accident.
Existing owners and shop tenants will be given priority in buying the redeveloped properties. Owners who want to move out before the acquisition starts in May can obtain a partial advance of their compensation.
The urgent plan is largely welcome by those living on the same street as the collapsed building but those running businesses there are more hesitant.
Hung Shuk-chun, who has run a metal workshop on the same street for the past 40 years, said she did not want to move and rejected several acquisition offers from an estate agent last year. 'We have a network of factory and shop clients here. It's hard to find another convenient place.'
Lau Kin-por, who rents a shop to run a salon at 45F Ma Tau Wai Road, temporarily closed by the government since the collapse, said redevelopment was inevitable because customers worrying about safety would stop coming. 'I don't have much hope in claiming compensation from the owner of [the collapsed block] because it is a limited company and can declare bankruptcy.'
After the tragedy
Project affects 33 blocks on Ma Tau Wai Road and Chun Tin Street
The redevelopment project, expected to be completed by 2016, will cost, in HK dollars: $2b