Inflated flat sizes set to be punctured

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 October, 2010, 12:00am

Proposals to tackle developers who inflate the size of flats by including green features and common areas were announced by the chief executive.

The government proposes forcing developers to use saleable area - which excludes bay windows, air-conditioning plant rooms and other common facilities - as the only basis for listing the price per square foot.

It also proposes shrinking the size of bay windows in flats and capping the size of green facilities to enhance a flat's efficiency ratio and to improve neighbourhood ventilation by controlling the scale of residential developments. A flat's efficiency ratio is decided on by dividing saleable area by gross floor area.

The proposals, which have been opposed by developers, are welcomed by green activists. But the Hong Kong Institute of Architects is disappointed that bay windows - taking up more than 5 per cent of a flat's area and increasing the indoor temperature - have not been removed from the policy offering gross floor area concessions to developers.

Flat sales practice is confusing under existing policy, as developers announce flat prices in terms of both saleable area and gross floor area. The per-square-foot price in terms of gross floor area, often used by developers, appears cheaper as gross floor area includes bay windows and other common facilities shared by owners. Prices expressed in saleable area appear more expensive, as they include only balconies and utility platforms. Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said yesterday that the housing bureau would set up a steering committee to consider regulating the sale of new flats by law, including requiring price lists to be expressed in saleable area only.

The bureau will also require developers to specify each common facility counted as a flat area..

A revised Development Bureau policy would impose a cap on green features and amenity facilities that are exempted from the gross floor area calculation. Developers are not required to pay land premium for most of these facilities but currently charge buyers for them.

The new policy proposed yesterday, aiming to avoid oversized developments and which would be applied to building plans submitted after March next year, would reduce the thickness of prefabricated walls by half, cut the size of bay windows by 80 per cent and reduce clubhouse area from 5 per cent of domestic areas to 2.5 per cent.

Only half of the car parking space would be exempted if these are sited above ground. Full exemption would only be granted when underground parking space is considered infeasible.

In the case of Lohas Park in Tseung Kwan O, the building height would be reduced by about two storeys and the efficiency rate of a flat would rise from 76 per cent to about 80 per cent under the new policy.

Breathing space

How the new rules would apply to recently built Lohas Park in Tseung Kwan O

Thickness of non-structural external walls cut by half to no more than 15cm

Size of balcony and utility platforms cut by half

Size of bay window cut by 80%

Ceiling height of sky garden no more than 6 metres

Two-storey car park goes underground

Clubhouse area cut by 44%

4.8 storeys space taken by green features and clubhouse

3.1 storeys space taken under new 10% cap

75.9% current efficiency ratio of a 682 sq ft flat

80% + improved efficiency ratio