Plans to make it easier for developers to acquire old buildings where they already own most of the units are being challenged by an alliance of apartment owners and an urban-planning pressure group.
The objectors - including a man forced by the Lands Tribunal to sell a shop for HK$8 million after he turned down an offer of HK$16 million - say the planned measure would rob people of their flats.
They also say the proposal would pre-empt a review of the Urban Renewal Strategy, which covers the future of the Urban Renewal Authority. Public consultation will last until next year.
Legislators today will discuss the Development Bureau's proposal to allow a developer to take over certain types of building after acquiring 80 per cent, instead of 90 per cent now.
The proposal covers land lots with all units but one acquired - where the remaining unit makes up not more than 20 per cent of the total - industrial buildings more than 30 years old and residential blocks over 50 years old.
The government says this would help speed up revitalisation of ageing areas. But the objectors liken it to an 'Article 23 law for property sales', a reference to the unpopular national-security law shelved after protests.
Victor Sin Ho-yuen said yesterday that he had lost his 1,000 sq ft soya-sauce shop in Causeway Bay to developer Fineway Properties in March. He turned down a HK$16 million offer in 2006 because he was afraid the money would not get him another similar-sized unit in the area, and the developer took the case to the Lands Tribunal.
Midway through the wrangle, the financial crisis struck and the developer halved the offer, which the tribunal endorsed.
Mr Sin said the developer claimed at the hearing that the shop, which was newly renovated, was so run down it had to be demolished.
'Once in court it's a matter of how much you can spend to get good lawyers and surveyors to argue for you,' he said. 'I doubt the policy will give small-flat owners a fair price.'
As well as the drop in value, the legal battle had cost him almost HK$4 million in fees and the developer's costs.
Icarus Wong Ho-yin, a member of pressure group People Planning, said the law should only apply to cases where the owners were missing or the flats were held by investors who did not live there but asked for a very high offer.