Officials aim to add social services to land sale contracts as plan for elderly centres at prime Hong Kong site gets nod
Legislative Council’s welfare panel gives green light to proposal for two residential service centres and two day care centres on the as-yet unsold site
Lawmakers have endorsed a plan to include four elderly centres on a prime plot at Hong Kong’s former airport site in Kai Tak, with the welfare minister saying that providing facilities for social services could become a regular requirement in government land sales.
The Legislative Council’s welfare panel gave the green light to the plan for two residential service centres and two day care centres on the as-yet unsold site on Monday.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong promised that the Social Welfare Department would weigh into designs for the facilities, so that the developer would not “hide” the centres in any private residential complex to please tenants.
He said his bureau had also been working with the Development Bureau to make space for social service facilities a regular requirement in contracts for government land sales or other development projects.
“In discussions on the centres’ design, the Social Welfare Department was present and gave its opinion,” Law told the meeting.
“We are not going to do whatever a developer proposes.”
The department plans to set up the four centres on a 1.66-hectare residential plot next to the Sha Tin-Central rail link in Kai Tak, off Prince Edward Road East. They are expected to be in use before the end of 2024, providing 200 residential places and 60 day care spots, according to the government plan.
The government had been expected to invite tenders for the site – lot number NKIL 6568 – and one other plot in the first quarter of 2018. With a development potential of 1.44 million sq ft of floor area and more than 1,400 flats, market players consider it a prime site in the Kai Tak development zone.
The land sale contract would require the winning bidder to build the elderly centres. The department would reimburse the developer the cost of construction and furnishings with HK$281.9 million (US$36.1 million) from the Lotteries Fund.
Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, lawmaker of the social welfare sector, said he was deeply concerned about the lack of visibility and accessibility of social service centres in private developments.
“The developers often put them out of sight. Is it because these centres are considered ugly and negative? Are we going to allow the developers to place these centres wherever they want though we are paying for them?” he asked Law at the panel meeting.
Law said developers cared about the location of the centres’ entrances because “ambulances or body removal vehicles may often come, and the public have different ideas about that”.
He told the panel that welfare officials would make their stance clear in talks with developers.
Cheung also called on the government to make the building of social welfare facilities a regular requirement in government land sales.
“These facilities will benefit the residents and make the residential block more attractive, but the government hasn’t developed a system for it,” Cheung said.
But Law said: “We are pretty eager to change the existing planning standards.
“With a new set of standards, it will be easier for us to take elderly care services into account at the early stage of development planning.”
As of the end of January, more than 38,000 senior citizens were queuing for a subsidised residential place, with only about 27,500 available.
The government has reserved 30 sites for elderly centres providing 3,055 residential places and 1,092 day care spots by 2025.