"Operation Building Bright" to create many job opportunities (with video)

The Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, noted today (February 26) that "Operation Building Bright" will create a large number of job opportunities for the construction industry within a short period of time to reduce the impact of the financial tsunami on Hong Kong's employment situation.

The Financial Secretary announced yesterday (February 25) in the 2009-10 Budget that $700 million would be earmarked for "Operation Building Bright”.  Together with the allocation of $150 million each from the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) and the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), a total of $1 billion will be used to assist owners of about 1,000 dilapidated buildings to carry out building repair works.

Mrs Lam, together with the Chairman of the HKHS, Mr Yeung Ka-sing, and the Chairman of the URA, Mr Barry Cheung, introduced the operation at a press conference today.

It is a large-scale campaign that can reap quick benefits, Mrs Lam said.

"We hope to create a large number of job opportunities for the construction industry, especially in the field of repair works, within the shortest period of time.  According to our estimation, the campaign will create 10,000 jobs for construction and maintenance workers as well as related professional technicians, among others, in the next two years," she said.

The Development Bureau will consult the Legislative Council's Panel on Development in March and apply for funding from the Finance Committee at the end of April.  With support from the Legislative Council, the operation can be officially launched in May at the earliest, and jobs can be created from the middle of this year.

Mrs Lam said: "'Operation Building Bright' is a one-off measure with a specific target and purpose.  We believe that building maintenance is basically the responsibility of building owners.  As in the past, we will push ahead with building maintenance through legislation and various support schemes to ensure building safety in Hong Kong, and to provide a quality living environment for  the public.

"In order to reap 'quick' benefits, there are two major characteristics of 'Operation Building Bright'.  First, it is 'building-based'.  Once a building is selected as a target building, all the owners of the building will be subsidised without the need to undergo asset or income means tests.  Second, it targets buildings having difficulties in co-ordinating repair works, such as buildings without owners' corporations .  Relevant government departments will get directly involved in these cases, i.e. the Buildings Department (BD) will serve statutory repair orders.  If the orders are not complied with, the BD will directly arrange contractors to carry out repair works."

"Target buildings" of the pperation should meet four criteria:

1. The buildings are residential or composite buildings aged 30 years or above;
2. The buildings concerned comprise no more than 400 residential units;
3. The average rateable value of the residential units does not exceed $100,000 for buildings in urban areas or $76,000 for buildings in the New Territories; and
4. The buildings lack maintenance or are in dilapidated condition, requiring maintenance or repair works.

Owners of eligible target buildings (including residential or commercial units) are not required to undergo asset or income means tests.  A grant amounting to 80% of the cost of repair, subject to a ceiling of $16,000, will be provided.  Elderly owner-occupiers aged 60 or above can receive a grant to cover the full cost of repair of common areas, subject to a ceiling of $40,000.

The grant should first be used on repair works in common areas relating to improvement of building structural safety and sanitary facilities, such as repair of building structure and external walls, repair of drainage pipes, etc.  After covering the cost of such works, the remaining grant may be used for other repair and improvement works in the common areas, such as improvement of fire safety facilities of buildings; removal of unauthorised building works; maintenance or improvement works for slopes and retaining walls; improvement works to alleviate water seepage problem, etc.

Target buildings will be divided into two categories: buildings with owners' corporations and buildings without owners' corporations.  It is estimated that some 500 buildings each from the two types of target buildings will benefit from the operation.

Members of the public can call the HKHS at 2839 7180 or the URA at 2588 2333 for enquiries.  Relevant information has also been uploaded onto the webpages of the DEVB (http://www.devb.gov.hk/), HKHS (http://www.hkhs.com/) and URA (http://www.ura.org.hk/).

Ends/Thursday, February 26, 2009
Issued at HKT 17:56



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