A new framework to take forward urban renewal

The Government has provided the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) with the necessary legal and institutional framework to take forward the urban renewal programme, the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr John C Tsang, said today (November 27).


"The URA will need to work creatively and sensitively in partnership with residents, developers and professionals to make the urban renewal programme a success," Mr Tsang told the members and guests of the Hong Kong Institute of Real Estate Administration at the institute's annual dinner.


"The URA has been tasked with a gigantic and difficult mission," he said.


"We believe that the urban renewal process should seek to maximize the benefits to the community by improving the living environment, upgrading community facilities and creating employment opportunities.


"At the same time, every effort should be made to minimize the adverse impact on people who are affected by these redevelopments."


"To keep the adverse impact to a minimum, we have identified a host of measures in our recently published Urban Renewal Strategy entitled 'People First - A Caring Approach to Urban Renewal'."


"This document highlights Government's policy of placing in the first place the well being of the people. The URA is required to follow the guidelines set out in the Urban Renewal Strategy when preparing its draft 5-year Corporate Plan," he said.


Some of the principles embodied in the Strategy are:


* Owners whose properties are acquired or resumed for redevelopment should be offered fair and reasonable compensation;


* Affected tenants should be provided with proper rehousing; and


* There should be active public participation in the decision-making process. To make this last principle operational, social service teams would be set up to help affected people deal with problems arising from redevelopment and social impact assessments would be conducted by the URA as part of the project approval process.


These features put together may not necessarily provide the perfect solutions, but the Government is certain that they will help to identify mitigating measures for the URA to reduce the adverse impact of redevelopment and to help the affected people adapt to a new environment, Mr Tsang said.


Earlier in his speech, Mr Tsang pointed out that there are basically three improved measures in the URA model based on the experiences of the Land Development Corporation model.


"Firstly, the land assembly procedure under the URA model has been streamlined. The URA can now request Government to resume land without going through a protracted acquisition process.


"Secondly, the URA will have more rehousing resources at its disposal to accommodate affected tenants. The Hong Kong Housing Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society have both agreed to be rehousing agents for the URA. Each agency will provide 1,000 public rental units in each of the first five years of URA's operation for rehousing tenants affected by URA's redevelopment projects.


"Thirdly, financial and non-financial arrangements will be put in place to enhance the viability of URA projects. The principal objective is to encourage private sector participation and to provide for a self-financing urban renewal programme in the longer term," he said.


End/Tuesday, November 27, 2001