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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 10:58am
NewsHong Kong

City urged to look at big picture in redevelopment of slum areas

Surveyor calls for visionary approach in place of 'piecemeal' tactics to renew urban slum areas

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 4:25am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 8:13am

It is high time the city ditched its "piecemeal" way of revitalising old areas and focused on the big picture by identifying urban slums for redevelopment, a veteran surveyor says.

The Urban Renewal Authority's practice of sprucing up old Hong Kong building-by-building was singled out by Daniel Lam Chun in his new role leading the body's review of its redevelopment model.

Lam, however, acknowledged that a more visionary approach to renewal would require greater financial and policy commitments from the government - especially after the URA ran up a HK$2.3 billion deficit in the 2013/14 financial year.

He pointed to urban slums in Tai Kok Tsui, Sham Shui Po, Shau Kei Wan and Chai Wan, where residential areas were characterised by dilapidated buildings, serious traffic problems, insufficient community facilities and a substandard living environment.

"What the authority should do is 'urban renewal', not 'building renewal'," Lam, also a member of the URA board, told the South China Morning Post.

"But we can only do the latter, given what the government has committed financially. It is a piecemeal approach and offers no planning gains."

Lam was shedding light on how his steering committee, set up last month, would re-examine renewal schemes and the financial sustainability of the URA, which runs on a one-off government injection of HK$10 billion granted in 2002.

His comments coincide with URA chairman Victor So Hing-woh's call last week for the authority to focus on bigger projects instead of redeveloping small, pencil-like buildings.

So had said bigger projects would allow more flexibility in raising the development density, thereby minimising losses.

But Lam said profitability should not come first if the authority was to do well in improving the community.

That said, the reality was that the government often reminded the URA to be "financially prudent", making it difficult to embark on financially demanding projects, he added.

An example was the redevelopment of the densely populated "Thirteen Streets" area in To Kwa Wan, which might result in a loss of well over the deficits of HK$2 billion that other renewal projects had posted, Lam said.

The "Thirteen Streets" proposal, along with many others put forward by the community-based District Urban Renewal Forum as part of a master plan for Kowloon City district, has yet to be endorsed by the authority or the government since being submitted to the Development Bureau in January.

Lam urged the government to give the mission of urban renewal a target, similar to public housing.

"The government offers the Housing Authority full support to meet its three-year [pledge on the maximum wait for public flats]. It did not ask them to build fewer public flats because of financial stress."



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This article is now closed to comments

What Mr. Lam failed to understand is that URA is not there to help local people, it's there to make money for the government and its executives.
The words on their building says they aim to help people, but when interpretted their way, it's to help a selected few people.
The URA needs to be more inspired and not act like a greedy private developer Soley focused on profits as commercializing old districts
I think experience from all over the world shows that large-scale redevelopment rarely benefits the bottom rungs of society. Old, dense, neighbourhoods are torn down and replaced by nicer, but more expensive and less space-saving apartments (they are more valuable on the market, after all). This does not lead to an improvement in the living quality of today's residents, but rather forces them to relocate further away from workplaces and transportation hubs. Unless redevelopment is done explicitly for the good of the residents and society, rather than for profit, it truly doesn't matter who plans it on whichever scale. The problem isn't the method, it's the motivation.
Buy up huge lots of buildings and use them as hostels.


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