Keep athletes village in the public sector, lawmakers urge

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 September, 2010, 12:00am

Lawmakers have urged the government not to grant development rights for the 2023 Asian Games athletes' village to private developers to avoid giving an impression of business collusion.

While trying to drum up public support for a bid for the Games in the city, Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said during a special home affairs panel meeting in the Legislative Council that the government was keeping an open mind on who would build the accommodation for the 11,000 athletes and officials.

'There are two proposals for the building of an athletes' village at the moment: one is that it will be built by private developers, another is that it will be built by public organisations,' Tsang said without giving details.

Only two public bodies building private residential flats in Hong Kong - the Urban Renewal Authority and the Housing Society.

Tsang noted that like other athletes' villages built overseas for major sports events, the 3,000 flats if built here would be sold after the Games.

'They will not be very extravagant flats. They will be decent and quality flats, which will be welcomed by the local community,' he said.

If the flats were to be built by private developers, there would be a land premium, Tsang said. 'But I cannot tell you how much the land premium will be since we do not know the location and the quality of the buildings so far.'

This could be a factor in which way the government chooses to go, because the Housing Society, for instance, pays a lower land premium than a private developer, so giving the Housing Society the job would incur a loss of revenue when the time came to sell the flats to the public.

Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan said the government should not consider offering the development rights to private developers.

'No matter how you calculate the land premium and how much it will be, the government will be blamed for what many will see as business collusion.

'It's better that you build these smaller flats and sell them to Hong Kong residents,' she said.

Many lawmakers support this idea in the wake of the recent outcry over property prices, the demand for affordable small and medium-sized flats and calls to resume the subsidised Home Ownership Scheme.

Lau Sau-shing, lawmaker for the architectural, surveying and planning constituency, said the government should build the athletes' village with public money first.

'There are so many youngsters demanding housing now. It will be good that they can buy these units after the event at a discounted price,' Lau said

Professor Chau Kwong-wing, chair professor at the University of Hong Kong's real estate and construction department, said it would be all right for the government to allow private developers to build the athletes' accommodation.

'If the process is fair, it will be a cost-efficient way to organise the Games, as the government doesn't need to pull out a huge amount to construct the village ... while the developer can provide capital and take charge of the project's development.'

A government official said the administration had another option - the city could temporarily convert university dormitories into an athletes' village. 'Singapore did so for some major sports event it hosted,' he said.

Village people

The government has an open mind on who would build the athletes' village

If HK wins a bid for the 2023 Asian Games the village would accommodate this many athletes and officials: 11,000