A controversial law that facilitates redevelopment of old buildings by private developers is likely to be passed tomorrow with the majority of lawmakers indicating support, although others are making an attempt to defer the measure's effective date by a year.
Lawmakers from the pan-democratic camp and independent Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee have indicated they would propose amendments to the government proposal, which would allow developers to seek compulsory sale of a building after acquiring 80 per cent of the property interests in it, down from the present 90 per cent.
Among the several amendment items, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said only deferral of the law's effective date by a year would be acceptable.
Speaking on a radio programme, the minister rejected criticism that the proposed law would rob people of their property: 'It's a situation of the majority versus the minority, instead of a developer acting against the minority owners,' she said.
If the law failed to pass, it would not be tabled again in the remainder of her term, she added.
Democrat legislator James To Kun-sun said the government should hold off on the measure until a mediation mechanism to settle disputes over acquisition prices - which the government had agreed to explore - was in place.
His party would also propose restricting the measure to industrial blocks, confining affected buildings to those with a repair order, and mandatory mediation between property owners and developers before a compulsory sale was considered.
The measure, to be introduced under the existing Land (Compulsory Sale for Redevelopment) Ordinance, would in its present format be confined to three types of buildings: those with all units but one acquired; any blocks older than 50 years; and industrial blocks outside industrial zones that are older than 30 years.
In the past few months, several homeowners forced to sell their flats under the existing law have come out in protest, saying they were not happy with the sale price determined by the Lands Tribunal.
Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors spokesman Dr Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung said auction prices determined by the tribunal in past cases were reasonable as owners received compensation equivalent to about 2.5 times the value of their property, on average.
'I don't think the majority owners would sell their flats to the developer if the price was too low,' Poon said, adding that an independent surveyor looked at each case.
He said a lower threshold would affect the interests of investors as their bargaining power would be weakened.
A total of 21 compulsory sale orders were issued and one case has been dismissed since the ordinance came into effect in 1999. Most owners were paid at least double their property's value, except those in Tai Yuen Street and McGregor Street during the financial crisis in early 2009.
The highest compensation went to owners of Chun Fai Terrace on Tai Hang Road, who were paid six times their property values in 2007.
The law will take effect on April 1 if the proposed amendments fail to win majority support in Legco.
The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Liberal Party, Professional Forum and Economic Synergy support the government proposal.
The Federation of Trade Unions and non-affiliated legislators such as Samson Tam Wai-ho and Paul Tse Wai-chun said they had not decided whether to support the move for a one-year deferral.