Buildings need regular check-ups just as humans do. Early detection of building defects and proper maintenance can ensure the safety of occupants and the general public. With upholding building safety being one of its key priorities, the Development Bureau (DEVB) has adopted a multi-pronged approach to assist members of the public in building a sweet home through enforcement, provision of support, promotion and publicity. This time, colleagues from the DEVB and the Buildings Department (BD) are going to introduce the building rehabilitation schemes and the work on upholding building safety respectively. The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) will also interview property owners who have benefitted from the subsidy schemes.
Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme (MBIS)
Structural Engineer of the BD, Ms HON Ka-kwan, Kelly, says that in upholding the principle of “prevention is better than cure”, the BD has implemented the MBIS, under which owners of private buildings aged 30 years or above, upon receipt of the BD’s statutory notices, are required to appoint a registered inspector (RI) to conduct inspection of common parts, external walls and projections (such as balconies) or signboards of their buildings, and supervise the requisite repair works after the inspection.
About 7 000 reports received on building defects annually
The BD generally addresses the problems of building dilapidation by conducting proactive inspections in large-scale operations and following up on reports from the public. For each of the past three years, the BD has received about 7 000 reports on building defects. It would issue advisory letters and, where necessary, repair or investigation orders to property owners upon identification of building defects.
Funding allocation of more than $19 billion over the past five years
We understand that it is no easy task for property owners to co-ordinate large-scale maintenance works among themselves. With this in mind, the Government has allocated more than $19 billion to implement various subsidy schemes for building maintenance over the past five years. Assistant Secretary (Building) of the DEVB, Mr WONG Chiu-yeung, Cedric, says that these schemes cover prescribed works under the MBIS, including common parts (such as external walls), drainage systems, fire services systems and lifts, as well as subsidise needy owners to undertake maintenance works for their flats. We have invited the URA to administer the above-mentioned subsidy schemes in an all-in-one approach, providing technical and financial support for property owners. To this day, these schemes have benefitted around 7 700 buildings as well as their residents and shop owners, in addition to 7 500 households and 4 000 lifts.
“Operation Building Bright 2.0” and “Smart Tender”
General Manager (Building Rehabilitation) of the URA, Mr WONG Se-king, Peter, says that many property owners have encountered difficulties arising from the “three shortfalls”, viz. lack of organisational capabilities, insufficient knowledge of building rehabilitation and lack of financial reserves, in arranging building rehabilitation works. The URA has provided various schemes, with financial assistance and technical support for property owners. For example, financial assistance will be offered to eligible owners through the “Operation Building Bright 2.0” (“OBB 2.0”) to help them comply with the requirements of the MBIS. More than 2 500 buildings have participated in the “OBB 2.0” with about $330 million of subsidies approved, subject to the progress of works.
The URA also provides the “Smart Tender” services for building rehabilitation cases under the “OBB 2.0”. Apart from arranging independent professionals to provide professional advice and technical support, the URA has also put in place an electronic tendering platform with a view to attracting more works consultants and contractors to submit tenders. As tenderers’ identities are kept anonymous until the opening of tenders, the risk of bid-rigging can be minimised.
Giving property owners a clear direction
Kam Ling Court in Western District has participated in the “OBB 2.0” and used the “Smart Tender” services. According to Mr CHOW, the Chairman, and Ms LAM, the former Secretary of its Owners’ Corporation, Kam Ling Court is aged about 60 years, and most of its owners are elderlies. When they received the statutory notices served under the MBIS, they had no idea how to proceed. Thanks to the financial and technical support provided under the “OBB 2.0” and the “Smart Tender”, as well as the URA’s briefing session, they have been given a clear direction on maintenance works, enabling them to select an appropriate working proposal and contractors. Before rehabilitation, there were pieces of render falling from the external walls of their building, with broken windows in the corridors and electrical wiring needing to be re-organised. After rehabilitation, the building has taken on a new look. Not only the owners have been given financial assistance, but neighborhood relationships are also improved.
Launching the third-round application of the “OBB 2.0”
The third round of the “OBB 2.0” is now open for applications. In view of the actual situation and demand, we have specifically relaxed the application criteria by lowering the age limit of buildings from 40 years or above to 30 years or above, so as to widen the number of beneficiary buildings. Interested property owners may visit the URA’s Building Rehabilitation platform (brplatform.org.hk/en) for details or call the Building Maintenance Assistance Schemes hotline at 3188 1188 for enquiries.
Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Needy Owners (BMGSNO)
In addition to common parts of buildings, the URA also provides assistance to eligible applicants under the “BMGSNO” to subsidise the costs of repair and maintenance works on internal structural aspects of private residential flats. With the Government’s injection of $2 billion into the scheme, the URA has granted approval-in-principle to about 7 500 applications, with around $320 million released or committed to be released.
Ms WONG, an owner-occupier of a residential flat in Sha Tin, says that there were previously serious water seepage problems along the windowsills of her flat; thankfully, she participated in the URA’s BMGSNO, and the case officer helped her a lot with great consideration and patience. With the completion of the repair works, she can now enjoy peace of mind even under typhoon strikes.
In addition to the comprehensive support from the URA, the BD will also continue to strengthen publicity and education among property owners and members of the public, so as to enhance public awareness of building safety. “Living in peace and working in contentment” is a common aspiration of all people in Hong Kong. To ensure personal and public safety, members of the public should bear in mind to check their buildings on a regular basis and carry out repair and maintenance works in a timely manner.
30 April, 2023Back