Following is a question by the Hon Lee Wing-tat and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (January 16):
Regarding the removal of unauthorised building works ("UBWs"), will the Government inform this Council:
(a) among some 520,000 UBWs at present, of the respective numbers of new UBWs, UBWs constituting obvious danger to life or property, UBWs constituting a serious health hazard or environmental nuisance and UBWs which do not belong to the category of priority removal, and the districts in which the various types of UBWs are mainly located;
(b) whether it will consider allocating additional resources to remove more UBWs each year, with a view to removing within five years all UBWs with high priority for removal;
(c) given that the Government has already outsourced the inspection and administrative work of large-scale clearance operations, whether the Government has assessed the effectiveness of outsourcing the above work in enhancing the enforcement actions against UBWs, and whether it will consider outsourcing more of such work, so as to further expedite the progress of removing UBWs;
(d) whether, in the past five years, the authorities had assisted owners' corporations ("OCs") in exercising the powers conferred by law to remove by OCs UBWs found in their buildings, and then recover the costs so incurred as civil debts from the owners concerned; if so, of the number of such cases and the results of debt recovery; if not, the reasons for that; and
(e) whether the Buildings Department ("BD") will make a performance pledge that it will, within specified periods, categorise the UBWs cases reported to BD by OCs, issue removal orders in respect of UBWs with high priority for removal, and issue warning notices in respect of other UBWs as well as register such notices against the title of the subject premises in the Land Registry?
The Buildings Department (BD) does not have the exact statistics of existing unauthorised building works (UBWs) in Hong Kong. Since the launch of the strengthened and systematic programme against UBWs in 2001, the BD has endeavoured to curb the emergence of new UBWs and removes about 40,000 UBWs every year. After several years of action, the BD estimates that at present there are still about 520,000 UBWs in Hong Kong.
The reply to the five-part question is as follows:
(a) The BD estimates that there are currently about 520,000 UBWs in Hong Kong, but does not have detailed breakdown figures. If the BD identifies any new UBWs, UBWs posing obvious danger to life or property, or UBWs constituting a serious health hazard or environmental nuisance, the Department will immediately take enforcement actions so as to safeguard public safety and health.
(b) Since the implementation of the current enforcement policy in 2001/02, the Government has further allocated more than $1.3 billion to the BD for taking enforcement actions against UBWs and enhancing building safety. In the light of its past enforcement experience, the BD will maintain the annual target of removing not less than 40,000 UBWs in the future. The BD will be allocated adequate resources to perform the task. The Department will continue with its multi-pronged approach in handling UBWs, including immediate removal of dangerous and new UBWs, identifying target buildings for the annual large-scale operations to remove UBWs on external walls, and enhancing public awareness on the problems of UBWs and owners' responsibilities to safeguard building safety through publicity and education programmes.
(c) Under the outsourcing arrangements adopted since 2001, the BD has hired consultants to assist in the inspection and administrative work related to the demolition of UBWs. Up to 2007, through the outsourcing arrangements, a total of about 9,000 target buildings of large-scale removal operations have been inspected and about 280,000 UBWs have been removed. The BD considers the progress appropriate. The BD will review from time to time the modus operandi and mode of outsourcing arrangement with a view to enhancing the efficiency of action. Nevertheless, the BD has no intention to increase the proportion of outsourcing work at present. As mentioned above, the BD will continue to adopt the annual target of removing not less than 40,000 UBWs in future and will make use of the outsourcing arrangement to assist in handling the problem.
(d) The Government has all along been encouraging and assisting owners' corporations (OCs) to properly maintain their own buildings, including the removal of UBWs. District Offices and the Property Management Advisory Centres of the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) organise workshops, training courses and seminars on building management and maintenance. They help owners and OCs to understand the powers and responsibilities conferred under the Building Management Ordinance and advise on matters relating to building management. Also, the BD, the HKHS and the Urban Renewal Authority offer various loans and subsidy packages, and provide financial and technical support to help those OCs in need of assistance to maintain their buildings, including the removal of UBWs. Whether OCs would claim removal charges subsequently from the owners concerned by way of civil debt is up to the individual OCs. The Government does not have the number of such cases and information on the result of such claims.
(e) The BD has formulated the performance pledges in respect of monitoring building safety and tackling UBWs as shown in Annex.
After carrying out screening and inspections, the BD will, as soon as possible, in accordance with the existing policy against UBWs, issue removal orders against UBWs which belong to the category of priority demolition and Warning Notices (WNs) to UBWs which fall outside the category of priority demolition. There are numerous types of UBWs and the scale and number involved in various cases are different. The time required to handle them varies. As such, the BD has not made any performance pledges in respect of time required for issuing removal orders and WNs, and registering WNs with the Land Registry.
Ends/Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Issued at HKT 15:11
Annex to LCQ14