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Submission of views on mandatory building inspection scheme urged

The Government is heartened by the active public participation in various discussion forums on the proposed mandatory building inspection scheme, although it is a little bit disappointed with the level of written submissions received so far, the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, said today (January 11).

At the annual dinner of the Asian Institute of Intelligent Building, Mr Suen revealed the Government's thoughts on some of the views received so far during the consultation period for the proposed mandatory building inspection scheme. Mr Suen was pleased to note that the public were much more aware of the importance of proper building care than before, citing the results of a telephone poll conducted by a political party last November.

The poll indicated that over 70% of the respondents supported the Government's proposal to require owners of buildings aged 30 years and above to inspect and maintain their buildings regularly. Over 60% of the respondents agreed that their properties would benefit from proper maintenance through an enhancement in value.

"The poll results echoed an important community consensus we obtained in our first stage Public Consultation on Building Management and Maintenance, that is, owners have the responsibility of keeping their buildings in good repair and meeting the costs for the necessary maintenance works," Mr Suen said.

He said that it would not be fair to reach deep into the public purse and expect the Government and tax payers to take up the owners' role.

Noting that there had been public concerns that through the implementation of the proposed mandatory building inspection scheme, the Government might relinquish its role in ensuring building safety, Mr Suen reassured that that there was absolutely no basis for such a negative sentiment.

"Let me say this for the record. The Government is committed to ensuring the standards of new buildings in regard to safety and health, and in our enforcement against building defects and unauthorized building works" Mr Suen said.

"Indeed, a total of $830 million has been allocated to the Buildings Department for a period of five years to remove over 180,000 unauthorized building works and to step up enforcement action," he added.

To address the concerns about the level and types of assistance rendered to owners and owners' corporations in discharging their responsibility under the proposed mandatory building inspection scheme, Mr Suen assured that the Government was well aware of the importance in providing appropriate assistance to elderly owners of old and dilapidated buildings with little other means.

"In this respect, we have solicited the support of the Hong Kong Housing Society and the Urban Renewal Authority to complement the efforts of the Government by providing technical and financial assistance to such owners in need to carry out building management and maintenance.

"In the light of public comments received, we will carefully examine in conjunction with the Housing Society and the Urban Renewal Authority how we can further strengthen the assistance to such owners, without compromising the principle that it is the owners' ultimate responsibility to upkeep their properties," he said.

"It appears that another important issue in the minds of owners is the quality of service providers for building inspection and repair works.

"In this connection, the Buildings Department will put in place a host of measures to ensure the standard and quality of service providers are kept at a satisfactory level," Mr Suen said, adding that these measures included promulgating guidelines and standards of building inspection and maintenance, conducting audit checks on reports submitted by service providers, publishing a guide for owners on building inspection and rectification, and soliciting the agreement of non-government organizations to publish advisory fee levels for building inspection.

"Besides these measures, I believe another crucial issue is for the providers of inspection and maintenance service to win the confidence and trust of building owners through concrete action," he added.

"On this score, I shall count on the industry and relevant professional bodies to establish such a trust with their clients.

"We are confident that the proposed mandatory building inspection scheme is a right step forward. Upon the conclusion of the consultation period, we will carefully analyze the public views received.

"Against the backdrop of an improving but still weak building care culture, we know we are faced with a challenging and arduous task. The Government will continue to work hand-in-hand with building owners, professionals, academics, and other concerned parties to take forward the mandatory building inspection proposal," Mr Suen said.

Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Issued at HKT 21:00