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  • Sep 3, 2014
  • Updated: 4:00am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 3:18am

Buildings officials fail residents in dilapidated neighbourhoods

Having failed to prevent the fatal collapse in Ma Tau Wai more than three years ago, the Buildings Department is now going overboard with the unsafe structures at an old tenement in To Kwa Wan. And having failed to redevelop earlier this old and dilapidated neighbourhood, the Urban Renewal Authority is finally being forced to act.

What was the department thinking when it just gave a week's notice to dozens of families to vacate their homes at a block in Kai Ming Street and told them they would not be allowed back home for at least five months? After the residents fought back and an angry chief secretary intervened, Buildings Department bureaucrats changed their tune. Maybe the balconies do not need to be demolished immediately, a spokesman said. That can wait. Instead inspectors will stabilise the balconies and probe the main structure for danger signs. The residents still have to leave after the court issued a closure order yesterday, but they will be allowed to return after several weeks.

No doubt Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's intervention was what prompted new URA chairman Victor So Hing-woh to make a quick site visit. This raises hope that the URA will work to compensate residents here and in nearby blocks so they can be redeveloped. Several district councillors believe the vast majority of residents will be happy to take the money and let the rundown neighbourhood be redeveloped.

The real scandal is that such old neighbourhoods with dilapidated and dangerous buildings should have been redeveloped years ago, but were not. The URA seems to have forgotten what it is for. Under So's predecessors, including the embattled Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, it has been in bed with favoured developers, which naturally prefer prime sites with real profit potential. So they prefer stylish old neighbourhoods like Lee Tung Street, Wan Chai, and around SoHo. The vibrant neighbourhoods in SoHo can and have attracted flat buyers and investors, and do not need the URA.

The system has failed the residents of To Kwa Wan. Now that the ineptitude and callousness of the authorities have been exposed, let's hope they will do the right thing.

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johnyuan
3.
Podium design must be reconsidered. It has not only reduced open space for roads or recreation spaces for the wellbeing of our living, it has been found some years ago that podiums are heat islands that can increase surroundings by 5 degree in temperature. I would write into law the maximum coverage allowable. It drains a lot of energy to get comfortable and pay for by the podium tenants in the commercial and the affected tower residents above. The maximum economic value is to government and property developers only.
hars
To answer your previous posting:
Donald attends daily mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 37 Garden Road.
It is difficult to verify one's knowledge. Very often, the issue is not only true or false alone, but also right or wrong. We need wisdom to discern our thoughts and intentions, and wisdom is the gift of God.
Sin means that we are no longer facing God (disoriented), the original Hebrew meaning.
We have a duty to educate the young with charity (unconditional love), as the Jesuits have taught Donald at Wah Yan College.
Best regards,
.
johnyuan
Thank you. It is St. Joseph and not St. John. I remembered wrong.
.......
Let me agree with you on many teachings by various relgion groups. The issue I have raised which you have ignored is why Donald Tsang could have behaved so unreligeious way? A fair question. I hope you will not spend more time to follow my postings on it because you may mislead yourself into irrelvant issues unproductivly -- I don't expect you to drop preaching and start explaining.
Byebye
Donald Tsang's lack of action has nothing to do with God or religion. His lack of action is merely a form of "in denial" and he used such to escape the important and difficult issues he needed to face in his capacity as CEO of HKSAR. Unfortunately he did not do anything, and now he can wash his hands off it and is enjoying life. Lets face it, the present CEO and his present government servants need to handle this with priority.
johnyuan
Yes, yes, yes. God helps those who help themselves. No anti-religion intended. What a mess and I am deeply sorry for CY Leung.
BTW, both Tsangs did time at School of Government at Harvard funded by public. The schooling seems to be useless.
John Adams
Agreed - the URA should not be motivated by profits
johnyuan
Neither the property developers nor Hong Kong people should be motivated by profits. It is shameful we are blind to let Hong Kong grows into such a money culture at the expanse of the environment. The younger generation (in their 40s) never know how livable urban Hong Kong once was. What you don't know wont hurt you? Really primitive thinking.
rpasea
I agree with the comment that many of these areas should have been redeveloped years ago. One of the limiting factors in redeveloping older sections of Hong Kong is govt's policy on plot ratios thus limiting the re-development potential. If a site has maxed out its plot ratio, a redevelopment would mean the same gross floor area would result so buying out existing owners at "market rates" for political reasons and then having a new development also at market rates does not bode well for a profitable exercise.
The URA, as an arm of govt, could have the authority to increase the plot ratio for redevelopment of these sites thus introducing a profit factor for developers. Increase the plot ratio and eliminate the 100% site coverage to 15 meters currently allowed would result in a more vertical city with increased open space at ground level, an enhancement that HK desperately needs.

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