The epidemic has raised the public concern on environmental hygiene, including the condition of drainage pipes of buildings. The Financial Secretary just announced in the Budget that $1 billion would be earmarked to launch the Building Drainage System Repair Subsidy Scheme (DRS) in collaboration with the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) to provide financial assistance to owners of old buildings of relatively low rateable values in carrying out drainage investigation, repair or upgrading works, with a view to jointly creating a safe and healthy living environment. In this blog post, I have invited a colleague from the Buildings Department (BD) to give a briefing on the scheme.
Over 3 000 private buildings to be benefitted
Ms YAM Pui-man, Crystal, Building Surveyor of the BD, says the DRS will focus on private residential or composite buildings aged 40 years or above with relatively low average rateable values. Apart from accepting applications from owners who can coordinate the requisite works by themselves, the BD will select buildings whose owners have difficulties in coordinating the works by themselves, (such as “three-nil” buildings) on a risk basis and exercise its statutory power to carry out the requisite works in default of the owners. The DRS covers works related to investigation and repair of common drains, as well as adjoining branch pipes not located within individual flats, in order to improve the overall function of drainage systems. It is expected that the DRS will benefit more than 3 000 buildings.
Enhanced support with dedicated funding
There are currently various government subsidy and loan schemes providing financial assistance to owners for repairs and maintenance of their properties. Many owners’ corporations have coordinated the works on their own to join schemes like the Operation Building Bright 2.0 (OBB 2.0), which subsidise as well works on common drains. However, given the wide scope of maintenance works covered and the cap on the subsidies, the support provided to needy owners under OBB 2.0 would inevitably thin out. With dedicated fund, the newly proposed DRS seeks to enhance support for owners in repair of common drains of their buildings. Subsidy of the DRS will be provided on a “per-building” basis, and cover 80% of total cost of the works for the eligible buildings, subject to a cap to be determined by the number of domestic units therein. The owners will not be required to undergo means test, or to live in the properties concerned.
DRS expected to accept applications in May
The Development Bureau will consult the Legislative Council Panel on Development on the DRS and discuss the implementation details with the URA next month. The DRS is expected to open for invitation from May, and eligible buildings will be selected for drain-related works. Our target is to commence common drains investigation or repair works for 300 old buildings within 2021.
“Health check” on external drainage pipes of buildings
Amid the epidemic, many building owners are concerned about the “health” condition of the drainage systems of their buildings. The Government therefore launched a 24-month special measure through the Anti-epidemic Fund in June last year under which the BD has engaged consultancy firms to inspect the drains at the external walls of some 20 000 private residential or composite buildings exceeding three storeys across the territory. As of January this year, about 3 500 buildings have been inspected, and drainage pipes of some of the buildings were found defective, such as leaking, broken or misconnected. The BD is now studying the consultants’ reports, and will take action, as appropriate, according to the Buildings Ordinance, such as serving drainage repair orders requiring the owners to carry out repair works.
Owners should take primary responsibility for the proper maintenance of their properties. Drainage systems, if properly maintained and in good condition, can effectively prevent gases and airborne infectious viruses in the pipes from entering the premises. I hope that the DRS will be launched as soon as possible to provide assistance to needy owners, so as to ensure the “health” of their drainage systems and to create a better living environment.
28 February, 2021Back