To cater for a growing population and support economic development, a large number of building developments were completed in the 1970s to 80s. According to the statistics of the Buildings Department, as of end-2018, over 6 800 of the 35 400 private domestic buildings in Hong Kong were aged 50 years or above. In the face of Hong Kong’s ageing buildings stock, it is an important livelihood issue to encourage owners to carry out proper building repairs and maintenance to ensure building safety and enhance the living environment.
Injecting resources to strengthen support
The Government has been working in collaboration with partner organisations such as the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) and the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) to introduce a number of building rehabilitation programmes, namely, the Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners, Operation Building Bright 2.0, Fire Safety Improvement Works Subsidy Scheme and Lift Modernisation Subsidy Scheme, to provide financial and technical assistance to building owners in need to carry out repair works. Such schemes have been well-received by building owners throughout the years. We are actively exploring the idea of injecting new resources to enhance individual schemes to provide more targeted assistance in a more flexible way to benefit even more owners of old buildings.
Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners (BMGSEO)
Last week, Mr IP Kam-shing, Jacky, acting CEO and Executive Director of the HKHS, and I paid a visit to an elderly couple living in Harmony Garden in Siu Sai Wan. The flat owners, Mr LAM Kam-tan and his wife, told us about the BMGSEO-subsidised repair works carried out in their house, including repainting the ceiling and walls, installing window grilles and replacing window locks, converting the bath into a shower, replacing the worn-out toilet bowl, drain pipes and the switch box. Mr LAM lauded the simplicity of the application procedures, and said that HKHS staff had offered assistance to them. They have made use of the full grant of $40 000 received under the scheme to substantially improved their living environment. I feel so happy for them.
Reviewing the schemes to provide more targeted assistance
Launched in 2008, the BMGSEO will provide a maximum grant of $40 000 to eligible elderly owner-occupiers to carry out repair works for their buildings. The scope of works may cover general repair works for the external walls and common areas of a building, as well as common problems in a domestic premises, such as concrete spalling, water pipe damages and water seepage. So far, the scheme has benefited about 26 000 elderly owner-occupiers since it was launched.
The Government has received some suggestions for improvement ever since the launch of the scheme. For instance, some suggested that the grant provided should be adjusted upward in the face of the rising cost of works over the past ten years; some said that with the elderly often need to maintain a greater reserve for times of need given their lack of a stable stream of income, the asset limit of the scheme may also be raised, while some thought that there might be other owner-occupier groups that were in need of help apart from the elderly owners. We are checking the surplus of the scheme and other details and will draw from experience with a view to devising more targeted assistance for building owners in need.
Operation Building Bright 2.0 (OBB 2.0)
The Chief Executive announced in the Policy Address 2017 that the Government had earmarked $3 billion to implement OBB 2.0. Working in partnership with the URA, the Government has been providing technical and financial assistance to owner-occupiers of domestic buildings aged 50 years or above which are of a relatively low average rateable value in carrying out the prescribed inspection and repair works under the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme. It is expected that OBB 2.0 will benefit 2 500 buildings. Ended in October last year, the first round of applications was well-received by target buildings.
Second round application to start next year
The inspection and repair works under the first round of applications have commenced progressively. The second round of application is scheduled for the third quarter of 2020. We are studying the experience gained from the first round of applications and the public opinion and considering if there is room for improvement regarding the details and other arrangements of the second round application. We would also consider how to benefit more owners in need and further protect public safety on the premise that the building maintenance market will not suffer from unbearable workload which will in turn lead to price hikes or even that the quality of works be affected.
Fire Safety Improvement Works Subsidy Scheme
Apart from structural safety, enhancing fire safety of old buildings is also critical in protecting lives and properties. In mid-2018, the Government partnered with the URA to launch the Fire Safety Improvement Works Subsidy Scheme by devoting $2 billion to subsidise owners of old composite buildings to undertake fire safety enhancement measures as required by the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance (Cap. 572). The community response of the scheme is very positive and encouraging and it is expected that the scheme will benefit more than 2 000 old composite buildings. The Government is closely monitoring the use of funds under the scheme and actively considering increasing funding to provide financial assistance to more owners in need.
Lift Modernisation Subsidy Scheme (LIMSS)
As with buildings and fire safety installations, lifts in buildings are also prone to ageing and daily wear and tear. At present, there are about 68 000 lifts in Hong Kong and their timely repairs and maintenance are conducive to safeguarding public safety. The Chief Executive announced in the 2018 Policy Address the launching of a $2.5-billion LIMSS to offer financial incentive and appropriate professional support to building owners in need to encourage them to carry out lift modernisation works by installing new specified safety devices or carrying out complete replacement of lifts which have not been equipped with these safety devices, so as to enhance lift safety.
Implemented by the URA, the first round of applications for LIMSS just closed on 1 August and the response was overwhelming. About 1 200 applications involving some 5 000 lifts have been received. We are actively exploring to secure additional funding for the scheme to benefit more building owners in need and improve the related supporting services.
Quality building management
Besides timely repairs and maintenance, proper building management is also essential. The Home Affairs Department has been offering assistance to building owners to discharge the responsibilities of building management through the provision of support, publicity and education. Under the Building Management Professional Advisory Service Scheme (BMPASS) rolled out in 2011, property management companies are commissioned to provide one-stop professional advisory and support services to eligible building owners, in particular those of “three-nil” buildings. The scheme, now in the third phase, has reached out to about 3 800 buildings territory-wide to help them form or restart about 500 owners’ corporations (OCs). Many in the community suggest regularising the BMPASS and the idea is now put under active consideration by the Government.
The physical condition of a building is highly dependent on public participation in its proper maintenance. Hong Kong is facing a challenge of ageing building stocks, strengthening building rehabilitation has become a matter of great urgency. The Government attaches great importance to the maintenance and repairs of old buildings and is willing to make reasonable commitments by devoting further resources to provide owners with more appropriate assistance to benefit more needy owners and better meet the needs of society.
29 September, 2019Back