U-turn on floor area rule for developers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2011, 12:00am

Developers must continue to reveal to buyers how much living space in a building has been offset by adding balconies, sky gardens and other 'environment-friendly' features after a government U-turn.

The requirement had disappeared when the Buildings Department issued a new set of guidelines last month.

There was an outcry from environmental groups, but officials said that the need for such disclosures would be dealt with by a steering committee under the Transport and Housing Bureau which is reviewing practices governing the sales of flats.

The committee's review is not expected to be completed until the end of this year.

However, in a surprise turnaround yesterday, the Development Bureau said in a paper submitted for discussion by legislators that the requirement to reveal 'gross floor area concessions' would be kept in the new guidelines as an interim measure.

Asked if developers would be forced to disclose further information, for example, by breaking down the square footage of common facilities apportioned to an individual flat's living space, a bureau spokesman said no new measures were proposed at this stage.

Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong welcomed the government's change of heart.

However, he questioned whether developers would comply with another guideline which requires they get certificates from the Hong Kong Green Building Council to show a development's environmental efficiency.

'Some developers could escape from the assessment if they are not required to submit the assessment results when they submit building plans to the department,' he said.

But a Buildings Department spokesman insisted that developers would be forced to submit an interim assessment result before starting the construction.

From next month, the amount of gross floor area of living space that can be offset by lobbies, clubhouses and balconies will be capped at 10 per cent.

Until then, developers escape paying government land premiums for most of these facilities but can charge flat buyers for them. As a result, the so-called environmental features had become excessive, accounting for more than 20 per cent of gross floor area in some cases.

A Buildings Department spokesman said there had been an 80 per cent increase in building plans submitted to the department over the past few months as developers rushed to avoid the 10 per cent limit.

Planning ahead

In an effort to beat next month's new rules, the number of planning applications has jumped by this amount: 80%