Flat owners furious as plan to redevelop is hit by height limit

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 January, 2011, 12:00am

Homeowners who banded together to sell their low-rise apartment blocks to a developer say their plans are being stymied by a building height restriction imposed by the Town Planning Board.

About 50 angry owners of Kai Tak Mansion in Kowloon Bay who attended a press conference yesterday accused the government of giving them false hope.

More than 80 per cent of the 328 owners of Kai Tak Mansion had invited developers to bid to use the law of compulsory sale to acquire the four, six-storey blocks, which are more than 50 years old.

'After three years of searching, last year we finally found a developer who is willing to pay what we asked for,' said David Chung Siu-kong, an owner representative.

'But the height limit came as a shock and defeats the developer's building plan. We are afraid the developer will dump us.'

Wong Sun Hing, a developer with a mainland background, was the fourth company that approached them, and agreed to pay each owner at least HK$4 million. A 10 per cent down payment has been paid.

The developer, which could not be reached yesterday, planned to replace the existing four blocks with a 45-storey residential tower.

However, town planners have capped the height limit at 110 metres - almost halving the height of the proposed tower - to prevent any new structure from restricting views of the former Royal Air Force quarters, a historic site behind the apartments now used as an arts school.

'My mother has already spent the down payment on a new flat nearby, where she can use the lift instead of walking up the stairs,' said Wong Wai-ling, in her 40s. 'If the deal falls through we won't know what to do.'

The law of compulsory sale allows the majority owners to force the sale of the remainder once they have acquired 80 per cent ownership of a building older than 50 years.

The rule typically enables a developer to knock down a building by buying flats over time and chasing out the remaining minority.

Owner-representative Chung said that when the government lowered the threshold to 80 per cent last year the owners had become hopeful that their building could be redeveloped more easily.

Surveyor Charles Chan Chiu-kwok said the site would still have potential with a 110-metre height limit, since the existing blocks were only about 20 metres high. 'It is still profitable to developers, but the homeowners would have to lower their asking price,' he said.