Wrinkles in Hong Kong's first luxury retirement community

Three-year delay in Hong Kong's first luxury housing estate for elderly announced after Leung takes back land for support facilities

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 January, 2013, 3:21am

A pioneering upmarket housing project for well-off retirees has been delayed for three years, hot on the heels of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's policy speech announcement that he was scrapping plans to help provide on-site support facilities.

The setbacks for the "joyous living" scheme, together with a lack of measures in Leung's speech to address the problem of an ageing society, has disappointed the welfare sector.

Marco Wu Moon-hoi, chairman of the non-profit making Housing Society which is behind the project, said the development at Tin Shui Wai, Yuen Long, would not be ready until 2018, three years later than scheduled.

He blamed the delay on the ecologically sensitive location next to Hong Kong Wetland Park.

It meant the Housing Society was bound by strict rules by the Environmental Protection Department to avoid disturbing migratory birds - a special method of pile-driving has had to be used and work has had to be suspended during the migratory season.

While Leung's policy address made no mention of delays, he said an additional plot earmarked for a wellness centre and training centre for the care industry was being reallocated by the government.

It would now be used for more housing or a hotel since "the society has been unable to identify partners".

Explaining Leung's comments, Wu said: "Because of the construction delay in the retirement housing, organisations that had been interested in bidding for the operation of the centres changed their minds."

The project was Hong Kong's first luxury housing initiative devoted to the elderly. The society has since added a second project in North Point which is now due to be finished first, in 2015.

The Tin Shui Wai site will yield 950 units, and residents will pay a lump sum of several million dollars for the right to live there rather than monthly rental fees. Even without the wellness centre, residents will still enjoy a range of tailor-made services.

Leung's speech fell short of the welfare sector's expectations when it came to tackling the problems of an ageing society.

Christine Fang Meng-sang, chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, said Leung had failed to provide a blueprint for a support network allowing old people to remain living in their own community - instead of being sent to elderly homes run by private companies whose standards of care varied.

"I'm disappointed that Leung said only that there would be bigger quotas for subsidised places in elderly homes. Nothing was said on how to provide more retirement housing," Fang said.