Queen's Cube developer may 'learn lesson'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 October, 2010, 12:00am

The development secretary says a developer may 'learn a lesson' from the latest residential project it delivered with the Urban Renewal Authority, which has been criticised for its tiny flats and sky-high prices.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was commenting on the Queen's Cube project in Wan Chai, the URA development with Nan Fung Group which is currently on sale.

Yesterday, lawmaker Lee Wing-tat of the Democratic Party attacked the project at a meeting of the legislature's development affairs panel.

Lee said a 400 sq ft flat with an asking price of almost HK$6 million and a saleable area of only 275 sq ft including balcony was outrageously overpriced. The project raised eyebrows when flats went on the market at HK$14,888 per sq ft of gross floor area this month. Only two of the 96 flats were sold at the launch - one of the worst responses in recent years.

Lam said: 'True, there is a perception issue with the project. But in a joint venture between the URA and a developer, they play by the market rules. The URA cannot breach the rules and the contract [with the developer] because of perceptions.'

She was referring to public criticism and calls for the URA to lower the prices. 'The developer took a risk with such aggressive pricing, but it has also learnt a lesson,' she said. At the meeting, Lam also said she could not give a response to some lawmakers' demands that the government and the MTR Corporation force MTR residential projects to follow new, stricter rules on 'inflated buildings', which take effect in April. Inflated buildings are those in which developers have used concessions to inflate the gross floor area without adding to the usable area.

The MTR Corp has already obtained building approval for six towers atop three West Rail stations and the Tin Shui Wai light-rail station before launching a tender. They have large car parks and clubhouses that the group said would exceed the 10 per cent cap on bonus floor space for 'green features' under the new rules.

'Please pardon me for not being able to give a clear answer today. But the administration will listen to all views,' Lam said.

Councillors also urged Lam's bureau to bring in more measures to protect homeowners facing the threat of compulsory sale of their flats because of redevelopment.

Democrat James To Kun-sun said he was receiving more and more complaints from homeowners. 'We need more measures to deal with this. The Housing Society could organise seminars to teach them about compulsory sales and how to protect themselves,' To said, adding some agents used dishonest tactics to persuade owners to sign sales contracts.

Lam said legislators were welcome to refer complaints to her and she would talk to officials about enforcing laws to protect homeowners.