Government urges community support for proposed mandatory building inspection scheme

The Government was confident that the public would support its proposals outlined in the second-stage public consultation on mandatory building inspection as the proposals were based on the community consensus obtained in the first-stage public consultation, the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, said today (November 30).

Addressing the Healthy Building Conference organised by the Construction Industry Institute, Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Mr Suen said that since the launch of the public consultation last month, the community had, in general, supported the steps being taken in the pursuit of sustainable and healthy buildings.

The Government recently launched a second stage public consultation on mandatory building inspection, engaging the community in the discussion on the implementation details of the proposed mandatory building inspection scheme, window safety enhancement options and support measures.

"We have responded to community concerns over the need to provide financial and technical assistance to owners in discharging their building maintenance responsibility, and to ensure the quality and standard of service providers," Mr Suen said.

The Government has adopted five principles in drawing up the proposed scheme:

(1) The mandatory proposals should cover essential safety items only in order to ensure public safety, and yet without causing undue burden on owners;

(2) The proposals should be easy to understand and to comply with;

(3) While owners have the ultimate responsibility to upkeep their buildings, appropriate assistance should be made available to owners in need, in particular those elderly owners with little means;

(4) A host of support measures should be introduced to ensure the quality and standard of service providers; and

(5) The mandatory proposals should be easy to administer. The Government should follow the "Big Market, Small Government" approach in order to minimise the cost of compliance to be borne by the community as a whole.

The proposed mandatory building inspection scheme and window safety enhancement options will not only improve the living conditions of individual building owners but also bring a new face to the city.

Building owners will also benefit from the likely increase in their property value and reduction in insurance premiums for their buildings. More than 7,500 jobs could be created annually for the relevant industries.

Apart from building care, Hong Kong needed the joint efforts of Government, academia, building profession, construction industries and members of the community to work hard on both the construction and control fronts to achieve a more healthy and quality built environment, Mr Suen noted.

Turning to building control, Mr Suen said that building safety was Government's top priority.

"Our stepped-up enforcement action against dangerous and unauthorised building works (UBW) in the past few years demonstrate our resolve in this regard," he added.

The Buildings Department has adopted a host of rigorous building control measures and programmes to tackle building defects and UBWs. It has removed about 124,000 of these in the past three years and issued about 5,000 statutory orders to require owners to repair their buildings. A total of $830 million has been allocated to the Buildings Department for a period of five years starting from 2006-07 to remove more than 180,000 unauthorised structures, improve building safety and increase enforcement efforts.

The Buildings Department has also launched the Co-ordinated Maintenance of Buildings Scheme to assist building owners to repair their buildings and remove UBWs.

Under this scheme, the Buildings Department co-ordinates the efforts of six other government departments and works closely with the Hong Kong Housing Society to assist owners in carrying out building maintenance works. Since the launch of this scheme in 2000, more than 300 buildings have been restored to a healthy state.

Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Issued at HKT 18:52