Hong Kong housing

Dozens of blocks in Kowloon City neighbourhood targeted for redevelopment in latest Hong Kong urban renewal push

Officials announce sixth such project in district since 2016 would encompass 32,500 sq ft and affect 500 households, many of whom live in subdivided flats

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 7:19pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 11:57pm

Sitting comfortably on a bamboo chair on the rooftop of a tenement house, Lei Vai-leong, 58, gazed at his hand-picked pictures and hats lining the wall, as well as books on a shelf he installed.

Well-appointed as his little corner is, it and dozens of old blocks in his Kowloon City neighbourhood will have to make way for a new development.

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The Urban Renewal Authority announced on Friday that about 32,500 sq ft between Wing Kwong Street and Sung On Street in To Kwa Wan would be redeveloped alongside other projects under way in the area. The project is the sixth of its kind the authority has launched in the district since 2016.

Wilfred Au Chun-ho, the authority’s director of planning and design, said the synergy of the redevelopments would “enhance” connectivity between the district’s north and south and make the area more “walkable”.

The authority proposed forming a new connection between Wan On Street and Ngan Hon Street, as well as building an underground communal car park to reduce roadside parking, and expanding the pedestrian footpaths.

The plan would affect an estimated 500 households, many of whom live in subdivided flats. It would also affect 50 ground-floor shops in a few eight-storey tenement buildings. Upon the project’s completion in eight to 10 years, the authority expects to provide about 560 residential flats and 46,000 sq ft of commercial floor area.

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Compensation details for those affected have yet to be decided. The authority’s proposed acquisition plan includes cash, rehousing and subsidies. On Friday, it began a two-month period of gathering opinions on the plan.

For the redevelopment to formally commence, the authority must obtain approval from the development secretary. And it has not yet been decided whether the new project would be solely a private development.

Lei is a 40-year resident of his tenement house and owns a flat on the highest floor of the building. He said he enjoyed living there even though water sometimes leaked through the cracks of his ceiling.

“I like living in a tenement house because it’s comfortable. I get to decorate the area and there isn’t much management here,” he explained. “And I wouldn’t be able to find a place like this [flat] on the market that is also affordable.”

I wouldn’t be able to find a place like this on the market that is also affordable
Lei Vai-leong, 58

The owners of the ground floor shops must also find a place to relocate their businesses. Jack Wan, who runs an engineering company, believed he would be unlikely to find another location as ideal as the current one, in terms of rent and area.

Counting this plan, Kowloon City has been home to seven renewal projects over the past five years. It is one of Hong Kong’s oldest districts, and other parts of town are being eyed for urban revitalisation too. When the seven projects are completed, 239,000 sq ft would be redeveloped.

Yet some flat owners have expressed support for the local redevelopment efforts.

Lau Lai-ping, chairwoman of the Incorporated Owners of Nos 96-118 Wing Kwong Street, said her group had tried in the past five years to apply for redevelopment and was previously approached by private developers.

She described problems including water leakage and falling plaster dust from the ceilings as getting worse.

Cherry Lam Yuet-seung, whose family has lived in an adjacent block for three generations, added: “I was always worried that parts of the concrete walls would fall out and hit pedestrians.”