In the first of a three-part series on the review of the urban renewal strategy, Urban Renewal Authority chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen tells Olga Wong the authority is considering offering more options to residents by adopting a more creative approach. The days when elderly residents and small shopkeepers are forced out of their neighbourhoods by urban- renewal projects could be nearing an end as a result of a review of the government's much-criticised renewal policies. The review opens the possibility of introducing a 'shop for shop' and 'flat for flat' compensation option that activists have been calling for. But the man at the centre of the overhaul says that before this can happen, such renewal projects - currently confined to a few buildings in a few streets - will have to cover larger areas. 'I do agree we should do more to help old residents and small-shop operators,' said Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority, which has been accused in the past of destroying communities. 'A district-based approach would allow us to do more to keep people in the area.' Mr Cheung said the authority had started exploring new renewal approaches as the two-year government review of the urban-renewal strategy entered its second stage this month. The current strategy - formed in 2001 - has operated for eight years without a review. The Development Bureau will organise forums and surveys this month to gauge public views, which will form the basis of a clearer direction for a final consensus early next year. The authority has made greater efforts to preserve local characteristics since Mr Cheung took up his job in 2007, but the measures still fall short of meeting public demands for social networks to be retained. Mr Cheung said that if a renewal site were expanded, the authority could set aside an area within or close to it so affordable blocks could be built to resettle elderly residents and small shops. 'I know small shops could shut down if you ask them to move out of the district,' he said. 'We will have to think creatively.' Because of small and fragmented renewal sites, it is difficult for shops already affected to stay during redevelopment projects. Shop operators in 'Sneaker Street' (Fa Yuen Street), Mong Kok, have been promised priority in renting new shops but will have to move out in the meantime. The operators of stalls in the Graham Street wet market are to be allowed to continue their business but they will have to move a few times during the three-phase redevelopment project. 'It will be less disruptive if we can set aside places within the district before the project starts,' Mr Cheung said. Sham Shui Po, To Kwa Wan and Yau Ma Tei were old areas that needed a more holistic renewal approach, he said. The authority's latest figures show that of 18,000 buildings in the city more than 30 years old, 3,600 are classified as in poor condition. Other 'creative' measures being considered by the authority to retain social networks include extending social services for elderly people affected by projects and reserving areas within the project site to set up neighbourhood welfare bodies, so residents who moved out can rejoin their social networks through participating in local activities. 'We are considering expanding our social services,' Mr Cheung said. 'Social workers would continue serving older residents who have moved out,' he said, adding that neighbourhood welfare bodies could be planned as part of the projects' community facilities. In the face of the intensifying public outcry over replacing old buildings with dense high-rises, Mr Cheung said the authority would employ a mixed approach in the future, a combination of redevelopment, rehabilitation, revitalisation and conservation. 'Rehabilitation cannot resolve all problems,' he said. 'Many buildings are already beyond repair. Is it realistic to ask for more public money just to refurbish old buildings without tackling the social problems inside?' The authority did not resist being financially self-sustained, he said, 'but for non-revenue-generating projects, alternative financial arrangements can be sought'.