Following is a question by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Michael Wong, in the Legislative Council today (February 28):
To take forward the Tonkin Street/Fuk Wing Street Redevelopment Project, the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has, since September 2014, made efforts through private negotiation to acquire property titles from owners of 81 affected properties. Early last year, upon having successfully acquired 54 or 67 per cent of the property titles, the URA made an application to the Secretary for Development under section 29 of the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance (Cap. 563) for invoking section 3 of the Lands Resumption Ordinance (Cap. 124) to resume the remaining property titles under the Project which have not yet been acquired, so that the ownership of such titles would revert to the Government (compulsory resumption of property titles). Some property owners who have rejected the relevant acquisition offers made by the URA have criticised that such a move of the URA is tantamount to robbing people of their properties. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the following details concerning the redevelopment projects in respect of which the URA applied, in the past decade, for compulsory resumption of the relevant property titles before it had acquired through private negotiation 80 per cent of the total number of the affected property titles (set out one by one in a table):
(i) project name and site area,
(ii) the number and percentage of the property titles under the project that the URA had acquired before making the application,
(iii) the number of property titles under the project acquired through compulsory resumption and the total amount of compensation or ex-gratia allowances paid to the owners concerned, and
(iv) if the authorities approved the application, the relevant justifications;
(2) of the criteria adopted by the authorities for deciding whether or not to approve the URA's applications for compulsory resumption of property titles; whether they will consider amending the law to provide that before making an application for compulsory resumption of property titles under a redevelopment project, the URA must have respectively acquired specified percentages of the total numbers of property titles (i) in the whole project and (ii) in each lot/each building under that project, so as to take care of the interests of the property owners of different lots/buildings; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) whether it knows if there were past cases in which the URA implemented redevelopment projects in collaboration with the affected owners; if there were not, whether the URA will consider adopting this approach when implementing redevelopment projects; if there were, of the details of such projects (including the project name, site area and number of affected property titles), and whether there were owners who discontinued the collaboration in the course of implementing the projects; if so, of the projects concerned and the reasons for their discontinuing the collaboration; and
(4) as it was reported that the Managing Director of the URA had earlier indicated that the restriction of "having to acquire the property titles expeditiously" was one of the reasons why most of the redevelopment projects implemented by the URA had recorded losses, of the details of such a restriction?
Under section 29 of the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance (URAO), the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) may make an application to the Secretary for Development (SDEV) requesting him to recommend to the Chief Executive in Council the resumption of land required for the implementation of the URA's redevelopment project pursuant to the Lands Resumption Ordinance (LRO). Generally speaking, land resumption shall cover the entire lot, including the private titles to the affected land which have been transferred to the URA, in order to extinguish all and any rights and interests in the land concerned which include those illegal occupiers of the common areas of the buildings on that land.
Even though the URA can apply for resumption of land for redevelopment pursuant to the URAO, for every development project, it will always make best efforts to make acquisition offers to the owners concerned through negotiation for acquiring their property titles before land resumption by the Government. Neither the URAO nor the LRO has laid down a percentage of property titles successfully acquired by the URA through negotiation which must be achieved before an application for land resumption can be made. When the URA considers that its acquisition exercise has entered a mature stage and it is difficult to make further acquisition, it will consult the District Council concerned to listen to the views of local community. After that, the URA will request the SDEV to initiate the process and consider putting up a proposal to the Chief Executive in Council for resuming the land necessary for the relevant redevelopment project pursuant to the LRO. This will ensure acquisition of all the titles for early commencement of rehousing and redevelopment.
After consulting the URA and the Lands Department (LandsD), my reply to the four-part question is as follows:
(1) Over the past 10 financial years, there were a total of 10 projects in respect of which the URA had acquired less than 80 per cent of the property titles concerned and resumption of land was approved. Please see the Annex for details.
When examining the relevant proposal for land resumption, the Chief Executive in Council will consider in accordance with the legislation whether the resumption of land for the development project concerned is in the interest of the public. All relevant information concerning the land resumption, including the progress of the development project, objections, outstanding interests to be resumed, as well as compensation and rehousing arrangements, will be submitted to the Chief Executive in Council for consideration.
(2) As the percentages of successful acquisition of property titles through negotiation by the URA vary in different projects due to a number of factors, such as owners' preference, market situation, location of the project, distribution of ownership, how the property is occupied, problem of title defects and proportion of untraceable owners, etc, it is difficult to give a general percentage in this regard. For this reason, it is not appropriate for the Government to lay down a specific percentage of the total number of property titles successfully acquired under a project which must be achieved before an application for compulsory resumption of property titles can be made.
(3) Except for the conservation cum redevelopment project at Nga Tsin Wai Village, Wong Tai Sin (Note), the URA will in general invite tenders from private developers to implement redevelopment projects as joint-venture partners. Upon completion of the projects, units will be sold in private market. This mode of operation will ensure that the URA has sufficient resources to commence new redevelopment projects, carry out other works such as buildings rehabilitation and preservation, and take forward urban renewal in a sustainable manner.
Note: The Nga Tsin Wai Village (NTWV) project at Wong Tai Sin is a conservation cum redevelopment project jointly undertaken by the URA and the property owner. The NTWV project was a project announced in 1998 but which had yet to be commenced by the former Land Development Corporation. Before the establishment of the URA in 2001, most of the interests of the properties in NTWV had already been acquired and owned by a single owner. In view of public concerns about the conservation of NTWV and with the support of the District Council, the URA intervened, undertook the project jointly with that single owner, and announced the commencement of the related work in 2007.
To enhance the efficiency of urban renewal, the URA will investigate the feasibility of various development approaches and evaluate the financial implications of these approaches under the Yau Mong District Planning Study which is now underway.
(4) As provided by section 29 of the URAO, the URA should, within 12 months after the authorisation for a development project is granted, make an application to the SDEV requesting him to recommend to the Chief Executive in Council the resumption of land required for the implementation of the URA's redevelopment project pursuant to the LRO. In this connection, what Mr Wai Chi-sing, Managing Director of the URA, said in a newspaper interview earlier on means to say that given the above statutory time limit for land resumption, the URA needs to commence the work on acquisition of property titles as soon as possible after the authorisation for the project is granted. That said, it was interpreted by the press as "a limitation that property titles needs to be acquired as soon as possible".
Ends/Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Issued at HKT 15:00