Government proposes additional billion dollars for Operation Building Bright

The Financial Secretary proposed to allocate a further $1 billion for Operation Building Bright (OBB) in his 2011-12 Budget Speech yesterday (February 23). The proposal marks a successful conclusion to this one-off measure introduced in early 2009 which seeks to alleviate the unemployment situation in the construction industry in the wake of the financial tsunami.

The Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, today (February 24) said, "We anticipate that the additional allocation will enable financial assistance be made available to all owners' corporations which have applied for financial assistance from the Government to carry out the necessary building repair works in the second round of the OBB, as long as their applications met the requisite eligibility criteria. Including the new allocation of $1 billion, the budget of the OBB totals $3.5 billion. We forecast that the campaign will eventually provide financial assistance for the repair and maintenance of over 3,000 buildings aged 30 years or above and create more than 60,000 employment opportunities related to the construction industry."

In May 2009 the Development Bureau, in collaboration with the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) and the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), launched the OBB to provide financial assistance for owners of dilapidated buildings to carry out repair and maintenance works. The OBB aims to achieve the dual objective of creating more job opportunities for the construction sector as well as improving building safety.

As at mid-February 2011, the OBB has provided assistance to owners of more than 1,900 old buildings. A large number of old buildings have been undergoing repair, creating nearly 16,000 employment opportunities. To date, repair work to some 200 buildings is almost complete while more than 500 buildings have repair work underway.

The second round of the OBB was open for applications from owners' corporations of Category 1 target buildings from October to December 2010. More than 500 applications involving over 800 buildings were received. With such an enthusiastic response from owners' corporations, the number of applications has greatly exceeded the quota that can be catered for with the remaining funds of the original $2.5 billion OBB budget.

In addition, after the collapse of the building at No. 45J of Ma Tau Wai Road, the Buildings Department launched a special territory-wide operation to inspect more than 4,000 private buildings aged 50 or above. Some of these buildings have been selected as Category 2 target buildings, with repair works to be undertaken by the Buildings Department.

The Administration will consult the Panel on Development of the Legislative Council on the proposed allocation of the additional $1 billion for the OBB in March, and then seek approval from the Finance Committee for the additional funding. We expect that financial assistance will be made available to all eligible applicants in the second round of the OBB.

As with the first round of the OBB, the HKHS and the URA will conduct a computer ballot to determine priority in processing applications for eligible Category 1 target buildings received in the second round.

Mrs Lam said: "Through the OBB, government departments, supporting agencies and property owners have all gained valuable experiences in technical matters in respect of co-ordination of building repair works and tendering process, etc. The Government, together with the HKHS and the URA, will continue to provide support to property owners in need to further enhance building safety in the territory."

Employment in the decoration, repair and maintenance trades dropped significantly from the peak of 21.7% following the financial tsunami to most recent 4.7%.

Ends/Thursday, February 24, 2011
Issued at HKT 19:54