Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung and a reply by the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr John C Tsang, in the Legislative Council today (January 9):
In his letter to the Panel on Planning, Lands and Works of this Council dated March 8, 2001, the Secretary for Planning and Lands indicated that the Administration would propose a series of recommendations to the Urban Renewal Authority (URA). Regarding the work of URA, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the progress of each recommendation mentioned in the above letter; how the Administration urges the URA to implement the relevant recommendations, and how it will deal with situations in which the URA decided not to implement the recommendations;
(b) whether it is aware of the progress of the work of the URA and its future plan; and
(c) whether the Government and the URA will regularly report to this Council on the progress of urban renewal; if so, of the timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
In our letter of March 8, 2001 to the Legislative Council Panel on Planning, Lands and Works, we undertook to do the following:
(a) we would recommend to the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) that its acquisition offer should be more favourable than the Government's land resumption offer as an incentive to flat owners to sell their properties to the URA;
(b) we would recommend to the URA that priority should be given to the 25 uncompleted projects of the Land Development Corporation (LDC);
(c) we were prepared to recommend to the URA that, in respect of the 25 uncompleted projects of the LDC, the acquisition offers of the URA should have regard to the fact that the residents in these project areas had waited for redevelopment for quite some time;
(d) we would suggest to the URA that the removal allowance for flat owners should not be less favourable than that offered to flat owners in the Tsuen Wan project;
(e) we would suggest to the URA that, under the proposed flat-for-flat exchange scheme, at least 1.2 times the number of flats in proportion to the number of participating owners should be provided for allocation;
(f) we would recommend to the URA that the cash compensation for tenants of cubicles and bunk beds should not be less favourable than that currently offered to tenants by the LDC; and
(g) we would be prepared to discuss with the Housing Authority and the Housing Bureau the residents' proposal that the income and assets test for applicants for a flat under the Home Ownership Scheme or a loan under the Home Purchase Loan Scheme should be more flexible in the case of tenants affected by URA redevelopment projects.
In April 2001, we made these seven recommendations to the then Chairman of the LDC, who is now the Chairman of the URA. We are staying in close touch with the URA management on the implementation of the urban renewal programme.
The current position on the recommendations is as follows:
(a) as regards recommendation (a), the URA has decided to adopt the Government's policy of using a seven-year-old flat as the basis for calculating the Home Purchase Allowance payable to owners of domestic properties; the URA will also offer an incentive for owner-occupiers and owners of tenanted flats to cover removal costs and expenses related to the purchase of a replacement property; details of the incentive will be announced prior to the implementation of each project;
(b) as regards recommendation (b), the URA plans to include all 25 uncompleted projects of the LDC in its first draft five-year corporate plan;
(c) as regards recommendation (c) on the acquisition offers of the URA in respect of the 25 uncompleted LDC projects, the matter is still being considered by the URA;
(d) as regards recommendation (d) on removal allowance for flat owners, the issue is still being considered by the URA;
(e) as regards recommendation (e), the URA is still considering the proposed flat-for-flat exchange scheme;
(f) as regards recommendation (f), the URA is considering cash compensation for affected tenants as an alternative to rehousing; in cases where cash compensation is paid, the amount will be similar to that offered by the LDC; and
(g) as regards recommendation (g) on income and assets test, the Administration is still discussing with the Housing Authority.
We consider that the seven recommendations are reasonable and practicable. The URA has not set any policies which contradict any of the seven recommendations. I have no reason to believe that the URA has intention of contradicting these seven recommendations. Like Members and residents in older urban areas, we see urban renewal as a priority. However, the URA is a new independent statutory body. It has its unique culture of operation. Its senior management have also just been appointed. The URA should be given a free hand to get on with its work. We will continue to monitor developments closely. I believe the URA will make every effort to achieve the urban renewal targets set by the Government.
Concerning part (b) of the question, we are generally aware of the work of the URA. At the end of November last year, the URA submitted an application to the Administration for approval to implement a few "early launch" projects. The Financial Secretary has now approved these projects and the URA can begin implementation immediately. At the same time, the URA is preparing its first draft five-year corporate plan and the first draft annual business plan for the Financial Secretary's approval. We are also aware that the URA has set up four district advisory committees and is now tendering for the services of social service teams.
Concerning part (c) of the question, the Administration and the URA have attended from time to time meetings of the Legislative Council Panel on Planning, Lands and Works and case conferences concerning the URA and the urban renewal programme. Since the establishment of the URA in May last year, the Administration and the URA have met with Members four times. This is a good mechanism in providing Members of this Council with first hand information regarding the work of the URA. We are prepared to continue attending meetings as and when requested by Members of this Council.
End/Wednesday, January 9, 2002