Tougher rules for owner-led projects

To get approval, anyone with at least 20pc share in the property must agree to the redevelopment

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 4:31am

Urban renewal rules for owner-requested redevelopments have been tightened after a project almost fell apart last year because of opposition from a single shop owner.

In a new round of applications launched yesterday, any owner who has a share of 20 per cent or more in the lot must have signed on for the project.

This is in addition to an earlier requirement for upfront agreement from at least two-thirds of the owners.

The rules apply to so-called demand-led projects in which owners approach the Urban Renewal Authority to take on a project rather than the body deciding itself on areas for redevelopment.

The change was made after a development at Pine and Oak streets, Tai Kok Tsui, was almost abandoned in December. A shop owner with a 27 per cent interest in the property rejected the authority's acquisition offer.

The owner agreed to sell after a public appeal by Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, then chairman of the URA, who said he would be disappointed if the redevelopment was made impossible by opposition from one shop.

Demand-led projects must pass two thresholds - first consensus from two-thirds of owners, then agreement from 80 per cent after the authority has offered an acquisition price.

"We learned from past cases that if owners [of larger interests] were excluded [from the first threshold] the applicants were unlikely to achieve the second threshold," the authority's director of corporate and legal services, Pius Cheng Kai-wah, said.

Lawmaker and Sham Shui Po district councillor Frederick Fung Kin-kee said it would be difficult for the owner of a large interest to agree before the acquisition price was announced.

"Instead of just giving up projects that fail to reach the thresholds, the authority should allow room for price negotiation with those owners," he said.

The third round of applications under the scheme began yesterday and will end in September. Applicants must inform all individual owners by letter and by putting up the authority's posters in eye-catching locations.

More applications are expected to be accepted in this round than in the previous two after the authority's new chairman, Victor So Hing-who, described such projects as a way to address the acute housing shortage.

The URA accepted three and four applications, respectively, in the last two rounds.