Developers bid to reverse rules on floor area of flats

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 January, 2011, 12:00am

Developers are making a last-ditch effort to reverse new government rules on floor areas scheduled to take effect in April.

Forget large swimming pools and luxury clubhouses, warned the Real Estate Developers Association. Water and drain pipes will be exposed. Covered walkways and easily accessible car parks could become a thing of the past, it said.

The rules will cap the size of amenities and green features to no more than 10 per cent of gross floor area. And the association's secretary general, Louis Loong Hon-biu, said this could yield more usable space in flats.

But in an interview with the South China Morning Post, the powerful association spelled out, for the first time, its detailed stance and opposition to the rules.

Loong warned that by putting a cap on the size of clubhouses, balconies, bay windows and many other features, the rules would discourage developers from building green and leisure facilities.

'A swimming pool has to come with a water filtration plant room, which will be accounted for in gross floor area,' he said. 'Developers would reconsider whether to build a pool in the first place. If more buildings are devoid of pools, demand for public pools will rise. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department will have to step up its work.'

He warned that pressure on government recreational facilities may increase.

The Development Bureau is fine-tuning the proposal and will issue technical guidelines later this month.

The existing concessionary policy, introduced in 2001, grants exemptions to amenities and green features such as balconies, clubhouses and wide common corridors from the calculation of the gross floor area (GFA) of a private residential estate.

Since developers do not need to pay land premium for most of these facilities but can charge flat buyers for them, these features have become so excessive that they can be more than 20 per cent of the GFA in some cases. Oversized developments have become commonplace across the city.

The revised policy will impose a cap on these features so they add up to no more than 10 per cent of the GFA of an estate.

'There is going to be a period of adjustment. Developers are working out with their advisers and architects to test different combinations. It takes time to know what sort of features are going to be found useful under the new regime,' Loong said.

Apart from swimming pools, some common features might also disappear under the new rules.

'Probably no one will be building bay windows, which will [be down from 50cm to] be 10cm deep only. And what will be the use of a balcony if it's just like a platform on which an orchestra conductor stands?'

Covered walkways could also vanish. 'If it is less than two metres wide, how useful is that? Are they expecting rain in Hong Kong to fall vertically without wind?' he said.

Under the new policy, a prerequisite for developers to get the concessions is that buildings must be constructed 15 metres from the centre of a road to help widen the footpath. Loong said it would result in an uneven street alignment.

'The government should review the whole mechanism. Even if the policy goes ahead, a consultation with the industry should be held in no less than a year after implementation,' he said.

The Institute of Architects' spokeswoman on the subject, Susan Leung So-wan, said it supported the measures, but some facilities that did not increase the size such as covered walkways should continue to be exempted from GFA calculation.