First three blocks chosen for free makeover

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2012, 12:00am

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Three rundown buildings in Sham Shui Po and Tai Kok Tsui will be the first to be redeveloped under a pilot scheme in which homeowners invite the Urban Renewal Authority to rejuvenate their blocks. The HK$1.5 billion project - fully funded by the Development Bureau - will cover 290 flats, including subdivided units and street-front stores.

The three sites were among 25 applications submitted to the URA last year to request redevelopment under a so-called demand-led programme, which requires most of the owners to give their consent.

The Tai Kok Tsui site is bordered by 13-31 Pine Street and 87 Oak Street, while the Sham Shui Po sites are at 205-211 and 229 Hai Tan Street.

One owner in Hai Tan Street says he looks forward to having the building upgraded.

Kwan Chiu-hong, 79, bought his 590 sq ft flat more than 40 years ago. 'Walking up the stairs is proving too difficult at my age.

'It would be nice to live in a place with a lift,' Kwan, who lives on the fourth floor with his wife, said yesterday.

Initial criteria under the scheme require at least 67 per cent of owners to support redevelopment.

The building must be in a dilapidated condition and the site must cover at least 400 square metres.

The applications were also judged on the potential impact of redevelopment on the local area, such as more open space, rather than on profitability. A submission receives higher priority if renewal brings urban planning gains.

The three old buildings met those criteria, URA chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen said, but 17 other submissions failed the requirements.

The URA will meet flat owners soon and make them a redevelopment offer of either financial compensation or the allocation of a public housing flat of similar value.

At that stage, at least 80 per cent of owners must accept its offers for the project to proceed.

Tenants who do not qualify for financial compensation or public housing but who are in difficult circumstances will be offered rehousing on compassionate grounds.

Cheung said the authority would try to accept all eligible applications.

However, it would depend on the number of projects the URA has on hand and on the amount of resources available.

Chui Pak-kin, 68, has been living in a 500 sq ft flat at 13-31 Pine Street in Tai Kok Tsui for 50 years. Chunks of cement often fall from the constantly leaking ceiling, he said.

'I'd really like it if [the building] can be redeveloped,' Chui said. 'I'd like to move out of this area, to somewhere quieter and safer.

'All I want is a non-leaking roof over my head - it doesn't really matter exactly where.'

He said the whole building was renovated five years ago, with each tenant chipping in HK$30,000.

But the building was so old that it seemed like renovations could not make a difference any more, he said.

Chui said he preferred to receive a new flat rather than a cash payout.

He said he would not miss the neighbourhood and community, because most of the old original owners and neighbours had died and he was not acquainted with the new tenants.

The next round of applications for demand-led redevelopment will be accepted between June and August.