Civil servants' old quarters 'good for 19,000 flats' if redeveloped

Anthony Cheung says estates dating from 1950s can be put to better use to ease housing demand

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 4:45am

The city should make better use of old sites occupied by civil servants' co-operative housing, which can be redeveloped to generate 19,000 medium-sized flats, the housing chief says.

Redeveloping those sites would improve the ageing estates while providing more flats in the light of an acute demand for housing, proponents say.

Eleven of the 238 estates have been redeveloped, and Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung is facing calls to speed up work on the remaining sites.

Cheung took a call on a phone-in radio show yesterday on the issue. The caller, who claimed to be a civil servant, said about seven of the 20 flats in his Pok Fu Lam estate, which did not have lift access, had been vacant for a long time.

The caller blamed high land premiums for slowing down redevelopment work and urged the government to step in with help.

"Estates built by the co-operative societies face high vacancy rates. Their land was not put to the best use and should be better used," Cheung said in response to the complaint. He stopped short of suggesting how the sites could be released for redevelopment.

The 227 estates that have yet to be redeveloped are tipped to provide 963,000 square metres of domestic gross floor area, able to generate more than 19,000 flats of 500 sq ft, figures from Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po show.

The Civil Servants Co-operative Building Society Scheme was launched in 1952 to house government employees. It ended in the mid-1980s.

Under the scheme, the government granted land to civil servants at a concessionary premium - usually at a third of the market value - to build flats through co-operative societies.

The owners cannot sell their properties unless at least 75 per cent of society members agree to dissolve the society and all members agree to sell the site and to pay a land premium - defined as the difference in the value of the lot before and after redevelopment.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Ann Chiang Lai-wan asked Chan to request the Urban Renewal Authority redevelop the estates.

Chan said most of the estates were properly managed and in good condition. "They are not the priority projects of the authority."

Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung, a real estate specialist at City University, said the chances of redeveloping the estates were low.

"The sites are privately owned. Any redevelopment will require consensus from every single owner," he said.