Kai Tak residents doubt flat plan can work

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 October, 2010, 12:00am

Elderly residents in crumbling areas of Kowloon City would like to take advantage of the new flat-for-flat scheme - but only if their new homes are as big as their old ones and they do not have to pay any extra money.

Selection of the district as the first place where the new urban renewal strategy will apply has shone a ray of hope into places like 'Thirteen Streets' and 'Five Streets' - two areas next to Kai Tak named for the numbers of parallel streets of dilapidated buildings.

But residents, who have been waiting for years for an improvement in their living conditions, have their doubts. Tang Ming-kang, 80, said the option of a flat in Kai Tak sounded good but he would not be able to pay the tens of thousands of dollars difference between the compensation for his old flat and the price of the new one.

'Who doesn't want to stay in the neighbourhood? But I don't have that much savings,' he said.

The owner of a 500 sq ft flat might have to pay HK$500,000 more if the compensation - based on an equivalent seven-year-old flat in the same neighbourhood - was HK$1,000 per square foot cheaper than the replacement.

The authority said residents would not need to pay the difference if they chose a smaller flat.

But Tang, whose flat is 500 sq ft, would not be happy with that.

'In that case, I would rather take cash and look for a flat elsewhere, since I don't want to move into an even smaller flat,' he said.

His neighbour in Ying Yeung Street, Yeung Chi-kan, was also concerned about the additional cost of living in the replacement buildings.

'I hope the authority will really keep its promise to offer no-frills flats, otherwise we could not afford management fees for unnecessary common facilities,' the 70-year-old said.

Yeung said that although fellow owners of his building had repaired the block's external walls and common areas, the work was patchy and did not help much to stop water seepage and rusting of steel bars.

Announcing yesterday that Kowloon City would get priority, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said it had 1,088 buildings more than 50 years old, more than any other of the city's 18 districts. About 320 of the blocks were in bad condition.

Priority was given also because the URA had done little in the area, she said.

The authority will set up the first urban renewal forum in Kowloon City to collect views from professionals and residents to decide which areas should be redeveloped and which should receive maintenance.

The forum would also propose ways to revitalise heritage sites in the area, including the Cattle Depot on Ma Tau Kok Road, now an artists' village, and the Linjin Stone Bridge within the former airport site.

Money for nothing

If the difference in price between old and new flats is HK$1,000 per sq ft, the owner of a typical 500 sq ft flat would have to pay: $500,000