The clubhouses residents just can't use
Where would you expect to find a rock climbing area, a beach volleyball court and go-kart circuit all in one place? Possibly just a few steps from where you live.
Showy facilities have almost become a requirement for property developments in recent years. However, residents cannot use all of them. A flat owner in Tung Chung's Caribbean Coast - a development with a clubhouse of 610,000 sq ft - has complained that some of the facilities have not opened since he moved in three years ago.
The clubhouse's management company told resident Jeremy Tam Man-ho that it cannot open the snack bar, a bar and a computer game room for children because it lacks operating licences.
'They need, for example, an entertainment licence to run the game centre, but they will not do it as the centre will have to be opened to the public then,' Tam said.
It is a common problem among estate clubhouses: they will not apply for a licence to operate as a private clubhouse because if they do, they must be opened to the public.
Without one, the management company must obtain individual licences for services they seek to provide - such as a liquor licence for a bar or a food licence for a cafe. And clubhouses may not be able to meet all the requirements for these licences.
'At least 20 per cent of my clubhouse's facilities are wasted or left idle, and yet every month we keep pumping in money for their repair and maintenance,' Tam said.
And utilisation of other facilities at Caribbean Coast - such as a sand beach volleyball court and a rock climbing area - were low.
'The so-called sand beach is a potential safety hazard as it is bound by a fence just 1.5 feet tall and yet it is right next to the entrance of a car park,' Tam said, referring to concerns children might jump the fence to chase balls.
In 2008, the clubhouse of Caribbean Coast earned only HK$3.6 million, Tam said, but its expenses were some HK$17 million.
Clubhouses have become a mandatory feature for residential projects in recent years. The government waived the land premium for up to 5 per cent of the site's gross floor area for covered leisure features such as clubhouses. 'To make the most of the exempted floor area, developers stuff as many facilities as possible into the clubhouse, regardless of their practicality,' said the chairman of Green Sense, Tam Hoi-bong, who studied clubhouse facilities at 13 new housing estates.
Some of the clubhouses have band, pet and cigar rooms. One even has a zoo. Swire's Ocean Shores in Tseung Kwan O has 10 swimming pools. The management firm rented some of them to non-residents for a gala and training classes to help cover the maintenance costs until residents protested. 'These huge and unnecessary structures not only block air flow for the neighbourhood, they are also included in the saleable area of flats among individual owners,' Tam Hoi-bong said.
The new development above Nam Cheong MTR station, for example, will dedicate up to 140,000 sq ft to an indoor clubhouse that may be a few storeys high. Its tender closes tomorrow. 'Developers should use their own floor areas to build these facilities,' Tam Hoi-bong said
The MTR Corp, Caribbean Coast's co-developer and manager of the estate, said it would follow up on complaints from the flat owners.