In his latest budget, the Financial Secretary said that the Government will make good use of resources and invest for the future to enhance people’s quality of life, with a view to building Hong Kong into a better place for living and working. The Development Bureau will spare no efforts in this respect. Last year, the Chief Executive announced in the Policy Address that the Government will earmark $3 billion for “Operation Building Bright 2.0” (OBB 2.0) in the hope of facilitating proper and timely maintenance and repairs to enhance building safety, extend the useful life of buildings, slow down urban decay and improve the living conditions of the community. I would like to introduce details of the operation here.
I attended the first of a series of mass briefings organised by the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) earlier for property owners introducing to them information on building repair. I also visited a building aged more than 50 years to learn more about how the property owners organise repair and maintenance works for their buildings.
Providing subsidies to carry out repair and maintenance works
In the company of URA colleagues, including the Director of Building Rehabilitation, Mr HO Chi-wai, Daniel, I visited Golden Mansion in Mong Kok. The last refurbishment works for this 52-year-old building were carried out in 2005. The structure of the building was in good condition; but some loose concrete and rendering were seen on the external walls. Due to defective water-proofing membranes, signs of water seepage were found in some locations within the building. Electrical wiring in some corridors also needed to be made good. After the building was served with a statutory notice for mandatory building inspection in 2013 by the Buildings Department, it received technical and financial assistance through the Mandatory Building Inspection Subsidy Scheme to complete the prescribed inspection the following year. The inspection results show that some areas of the building need be repaired, the owners’ corporation is now proactively preparing for the repair works for the building’s common areas.
Golden Mansion is among the first round target buildings of OBB 2.0. I told the owners’ corporation that once OBB 2.0 rolled out later this year, eligible owners may apply for subsidy under OBB 2.0 for repair and maintenance works. For prescribed inspection and repair works under the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme (MBIS) in the common parts of a building, all eligible owner-occupiers (except elderly) will be subsidised 80 per cent of the cost subject to a cap of $40 000 per unit. Eligible elderly owner-occupiers aged 60 or above will be subsidised 100 per cent of the cost subject to a cap of $50 000 per unit. In addition, cost for prescribed inspection and repair works for the private projecting structures covered under the MBIS may obtain 50 per cent subsidy subject to a cap of $6 000 per unit.
The vice chairman of the owners’ corporation, Mr MOK You-gang, said that OBB 2.0 was good as there were many elderly living in old buildings and the financial assistance would be of great help to them. Agreeing her husband, Mrs Mok added that she hoped more help and professional advice could be provided to owners in undertaking repair and maintenance works. Mrs YUEN living on the top floor of the building took me to see the water seepage problem in her flat. I hope that the living environment of Mrs YUEN and other homeowners of old buildings can be improved upon completion of repair works at their buildings.
Focus on buildings aged 50 or above
At present, there are now more than 5 000 private residential and composite buildings aged 50 or above in Hong Kong, many of which in need of repair. Incidents of building disrepair in recent years have highlighted the importance of timely building inspections and repairs.
I am sure all will agree that it is the responsibility of owners to carry out proper maintenance and repair works of their buildings. However, the Government recognises that some owners, especially those of aged “three-nil” buildings (viz. buildings without owners’ corporations, owners’ organisations or management companies), though willing, may have genuine difficulties in carrying out prescribed inspection and repair works under MBIS due to their lack of financial means, technical knowledge and/or organisation ability. It is against this backdrop that the Government has made tremendous efforts to roll out OBB 2.0.
The OBB 2.0 has three key features – (a) adopting a risk-based approach, focusing on older residential and composite buildings aged 50 years or above and with relatively low average rateable values; (b) focusing on safety-related works thus subsidies be primarily used for inspection and repair works under MBIS, and (c) focusing on the groups that are most in need thus subsidies be primarily be granted to owner-occupiers in eligible buildings only.
“Smart Tender” helping combat bid-rigging
Besides financial concern, we also recognise occasional reports on bid-rigging may make property owners worry their buildings’ repair works may fall prey to criminals. In this connection, relevant government departments and related agencies including the Police, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Competition Commission and the URA have made substantial efforts to combat bid-rigging to defend the rights and interests of property owners.
In future, buildings joining OBB 2.0 will have to use the “Smart Tender” Building Rehabilitation Facilitating Services (“Smart Tender”) offered by the URA. With the help of the URA, Golden Mansion has also joined “Smart Tender”. Mr HO introduced that under “Smart Tender”, an independent professional consultant which will advise on cost estimate and technical matters would be engaged for the owners participating buildings. Participating buildings can procure the contractors through an electronic tendering platform free from interference. A DIY tool-kit offering practical guidance to owners in undertaking building repair and maintenance works will also be provided to participating buildings. Besides, URA will deploy designated staff to follow-up on tendering matters and closely liaise with the owners’ corporations to help owners to take forward the repair works.
Seeking support from LegCo
A total of 10 mass briefings were conducted by the URA between March 2 and early April, introducing building rehabilitation-related information to owners of old buildings, including the details of OBB 2.0 and the "Fire Safety Improvement Works Subsidy Scheme". Last Friday, many local residents attended the first mass briefing held at Yau Tong Community Hall, demonstrating their willingness to contribute towards proper maintenance of their own buildings. Approval for the $3 billion funding proposal of the OBB 2.0 is being sought in the context of the Appropriation Bill for 2018-19. We hope that the Legislative Council will support the funding proposal so that we can start inviting application under OBB 2.0 as early as practicable.
4 March, 2018Back