THE Democratic Party is considering a new urban renewal initiative which it believes will ease private sector redevelopment of slums and protect the interests of owners. Under the proposal, anyone who acquired a majority stake in a property could seek a court order for the whole property to be put up for sale, provided redevelopment yielded significant public good. The idea comes from Legislative Councillor James To Kun-sun, the Democratic Party's spokesman on urban renewal. Mr To was inspired by company law, which compels minority shareholders in a company to sell their stake to one who has acquired 95 per cent of the shares, provided the offer is fair and reasonable. Mr To, a solicitor, said he understood the importance of private property rights, but believed the 'compulsory sale' idea could be applied to property acquisition if there were proper safeguards. According to his proposal, which is being vetted by his party, anyone who has acquired, say, 80 or 90 per cent ownership of a property could seek a court order for the whole property to be put up for sale by open bids. The applicant would then have to satisfy the court that redevelopment of the property would yield significant public good. By requiring the whole property, not just the remaining stakes not owned by the majority owner, to be put up for sale, it is hoped the interest of the minority stake-holders would be protected. The majority shareholder would have the greatest incentive to bid, but he or she could be out-bid. Whether the whole site is bought by the majority owner or someone else, the interest of the minority owners would be enhanced because they would obtain the maximum value from selling their stakes. The proceeds would then be distributed in proportion to the market values of the stakes. Mr To believes his proposal would make it easier for developers to acquire full ownership of properties that were dogged by the problems of multiple-ownership and individual owners holding out for an exorbitant price. At present, property developers face frustrating negotiations with owners of the last remaining units, because redevelopment cannot take place while owners refuse to sell their property. Mr To plans to formally float his proposal in a motion debate on urban renewal when Legco resumes.