Lawmakers call for sparing use of lower building-sale threshold

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 March, 2010, 12:00am

A new rule that makes it easier for developers to acquire old buildings should be used only at the development chief's discretion, lawmakers say.

Some legislators are also calling for a mediation system to be set up before the rule takes effect.

Lawmakers met yesterday to discuss the Development Bureau's proposal to lower the threshold for the compulsory auction of buildings that are 50 years or older. The change will take effect next month, unless lawmakers block it. Under the amended law, developers will be able to seek a compulsory sale after acquiring 80 per cent of an old building, down from 90 per cent now.

Pan-democratic lawmakers said yesterday that the lower threshold should not apply to all buildings 50 years and above. They called on the secretary for development to decide which buildings could be redeveloped under the new rule.

'We trust that the secretary will only allow dilapidated [buildings] to be subjected to a lower threshold,' Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said. 'We have to ensure that the redevelopment of such buildings will be in the public interest and property rights of the minority are protected.'

Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee proposed the same condition, citing the Ma Tau Wai Road project recently started by the Urban Renewal Authority as an example. The redevelopment of those blocks, including one that collapsed in January and killed four people, was endorsed by Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

To also proposed postponing the effective date of the amended law to April next year to ensure a mediation mechanism is ready when the threshold is lowered.

He said mediation would offer homeowners more options apart from accepting the price of compulsory sale. For example, owners could be offered a shop or a flat of the same value, he said.

Artists who have been renting cheaply in industrial buildings are worried by the new rule. Ah-kok Wong, a guitar player who petitioned outside the Legislative Council yesterday, said speeding up redevelopment of industrial buildings would force them out. 'Industrial blocks are our last shelter,' he said.