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DEVELOPMENT

Elderly face 3-year wait for care home places as developers' incentive scheme flops

Not a single unit for elderly is built under 2003 policy offering tax breaks to developers, with waiting lists longer than they were 10 years ago

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 4:59am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 10:10am
 

Poll

  • Profit-driven developers: 45%
  • Government's poor design: 48%
  • Society's bias against the elderly: 5%
  • Others (please comment): 2%
30 Dec 2013
  • Profit-driven developers
  • Government's poor design
  • Society's bias against the elderly
  • Others (please comment)
Total number of votes recorded: 282

A decade-old government scheme giving tax breaks to developers who build care homes for the elderly has been a total failure.

Investigations by the South China Morning Post revealed that not a single care unit has been built under the scheme. And the city's old and needy are now waiting even longer for housing than they were 10 years ago.

A total of 29,763 elderly were waiting for a subsidised nursing place at the end of November, with queuing time now at an average 36 months. The average wait was 30 months when the scheme was launched in 2003.

The scheme gives property developers a waiver on land premiums for nursing homes that are incorporated into their private sector housing projects. But developers say the scheme has failed because demand is likely to fall in projects in which care homes are built.

Care homes would also reduce the value of other properties within the development and and increase the cost to construction companies.

Real estate professor at the University of Hong Kong, Chau Kwong-wing, said the scheme should be overhauled.

He said: "It's not attractive at all. It's meaningless to waive the land premium of the care home as the facility has a negative impact on new developments."

And surveyor and lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen, who was general manager of the sales department of Henderson Land from 2005 to 2009, said: "No matter what incentives are given, adding a nursing home in a private residential project would reduce the price of flats. It sounds cold-hearted, but it's the reality."

Tse said operating a care home was not a profitable business given the difficulty in recruiting nursing staff and the huge investment required for medical facilities.

The incorporation of care homes into private developments also imposed constraints on designing an estate and increased construction costs.

For example, he said the developer would have to build a separate entrance to the care home " to address the concerns of home owners".

Kenneth Chan Chi-yuk, chairman of the Elderly Services Association of Hong Kong, asked: "Where can the elderly go if residents in every district say 'no' to nursing homes? It's saddening to see the selfish side of Hongkongers and it's actually a kind of discrimination."

Campaigners for the elderly said the provision of care home facilities should be made compulsory in new developments, wherever necessary. They said this was even more important given the city's rapidly ageing population, which would become an increasing problem in the next decade.

While the government encourages the elderly to keep living at home, the lack of day care services and the poor accessibility of old buildings has forced many families to put elderly relatives into care facilities.

But the Labour and Welfare Bureau confirmed to the Post earlier this month that no care home had been built using the scheme. Under it, developers who provide quality care homes, capped at 5,400 square metres, are exempted from paying land premiums and are free to lease, sell or operate the homes at the going rate.

In return, the homes should not be vacant for a period of more than a year and the developers must pay for construction and the cost of basic utilities.

Elderly Commission chairman Alfred Chan Cheung-ming, criticised developers for being concerned only about profit and the government for its poor planning. He said: "While developers should bear the social responsibility, the government should plan early and request that developers provide care homes in their own space as a land sale condition."

He added that the government should force MTR Corporation, in which the government is the major shareholder, to provide care homes in its projects.

A spokeswoman for the Labour and Welfare Bureau said two care homes have been incorporated into two private estates in Tai Kok Tsui and day care centres would be provided in two other private projects in Tuen Mun and North Point. These were not done under the scheme.

The Real Estate Developers Association said it had no mandate to influence members' decisions regarding such initiatives.

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This article is now closed to comments

sipsip1238
For those who actually hate the elderly or think that the elderly doesn't deserve respect or additional care, think of this, however much of a burden they are, many built the very same city that you live and sleep in right now; and one day, you will grow old too...
And for everyone else, please consider giving a helping hand whenever you see an elderly in need or if you can offer a little donation where possible. Chinese new year is coming, how about carrying a few more red pockets with you when you go out and just give some elderly person pushing a cart a "Gong Hey Fat Choi"
joyalsofi
" '.. It's saddening to see the selfish side of Hongkongers and it's actually a kind of discrimination.' "
Luckily for those doing the discriminating, age is not one of the conditions that is covered by the Discrimination Ordinance. Maybe that needs to change and soon.
newgalileo
I simply don't understand the attitude of so-called Chinese people in Hong Kong. Maybe something escapes to me but do I read correctly other tenants are opposed of having a nursing home in the complex? I always thought Chinese were so proud of their "respect" for the elderly. So, "not in my backyard?" Weird.
cheechee129
It is well recognised that the city is facing the aging population problem. It does not only imply the shrinkage of work force labour, but also a rise in demand in elderly caring service and government spending on medical service. In fact, the nursing place cannot be built by overnight. It needs a comprehensive planning for development because it requires investment in medical facilities and training in qualified nurses. Obviously, the financial incentivities provided by the government to the property developer is hardly attractive which turns out none care homes for the elderly have been built. It is time for the government to revise its strategy. I agree that the government should include this as a land sale condition. The perception of fall in demand of projects with care homes for elderly built will be reflected in the bidding price. So the government is not going to ask the property developers to bear extra cost.
rpasea
"While the government encourages the elderly to keep living at home, the lack of day care services and the poor accessibility of old buildings has forced many families to put elderly relatives into care facilities."
.
Providing nursing care at their own homes is a better solution for those not requiring full time medical support. This would be a much faster solution than asking developers to address what is clearly a social need. Govt is the only party with the resources to address this need.
superdx
Private elderly care homes are expensive, anywhere in the world. You need registered nurses, lots of full time staff and medical facilities as well. This all adds up to cost. In Hong Kong, not only is land at a premium, but personnel trained to care (professionally) for elderly is almost non-existent. Public hospitals already lack such resources, and the pay there is not too bad. There's no way for a private enterprise to be motivated financially to undertake such a scheme. It would be a loss from day one, and only the rich could afford the fees that would be necessary to run such an operation.
The only way to move this forward is for the government to either subsidise the running costs, or build the facilities themselves as an extension of public care.
For private developers who might want to do this, it would be an act of charity only, and our local billionaires aren't known too well for frequent generosity.
johnyuan
Affordable housing and elderly housing can easily be incorporated in private developments. All such social accommodations can be set as a bid requirement for land. Unfortunately, government has been most reluctant to do so. It fears no or low bids on land. In the long run, at the end Hong Kong government inevitably not only has to provide social accommodations and pay for them but finding land and appropriate location get increasingly more difficult and not easier.
.
The administration under Donald Tsang which had even suspended building public housing in giving every resource for luxury flats unavoidably to be accused of aiming at maximizing the government coffer for its officials’ pension fund. Sure there were surpluses year after year at his watch. It’s a job poorly and shamefully done.
.
I advise CY Leung to take immediate action on putting social accommodations for all new housing developments as a condition to any land sale or property redevelopment. Hong Kong’s severe propensity in social stratification causing so much social problems must come to an end. Hong Kong shouldn’t linger on its refugee culture that citizen only looking after oneself. It is a backwater and not a modern city. Nothing to be proud of.

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