Mediation subsidies for flat disputes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 December, 2010, 12:00am

A system to help flat owners facing compulsory sale for redevelopment to resolve disputes with a developer will go into effect next month.

It is a follow-up to a new law that allows developers to seek compulsory sale of older buildings after acquiring 80 per cent of the property interests in it. The law used to require 90 per cent or more.

Yesterday, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor told lawmakers the pilot mediation system, lasting a year in the first phase, would subsidise owners to take disputes to mediation.

'We will afford the upfront cost of setting up the system and subsidise the owners for mediation services, before they have to go to the Lands Tribunal to resolve the conflicts,' Lam told lawmakers during a Legco motion debate seeking a review of the law's operation. 'We have never forgotten the small property owners.'

She emphasised the government's effort in educating the owners of their rights and issuing guidelines to restrict developers' land-acquisition tactics, but most lawmakers in the debate sounded unconvinced of the merits of the law, which took effect on April 1. It affects buildings aged 50 years or more.

Independent Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who raised the motion, said the mechanism for acquiring old buildings lacks transparency. 'Owners of old buildings are unable to negotiate with the developers on a more equal footing,' she said. 'I do not mean to scrap the law, but there should be better protection of the owners' rights.'

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong came to the government's defence. Member Chan Kam-lam said lowering the acquisition threshold to 80 per cent could speed up redevelopment of old districts.