Mon, Feb 21, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Hau meets urban renewal officials in Hong Kong

LEARNING LESSONS:Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin said he wanted to set up an urban renewal company to increase affordable housing

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff Reporter, in HONG KONG

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) arrived yesterday in Hong Kong for a five-day inspection tour on urban renewal and public housing projects.

Hau met Barry Cheung Chun-yuen (張震遠), chief of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), a semi-governmental organization established in 2001 to accelerate the urban renewal process, to learn from the territories experience in remodeling old apartments and how to seek cooperation from reluctant residents.

Discussing the housing issue in Hong Kong, Cheung said offering more housing units for the growing population and renewing old apartments remained a major priority, adding that of 42,000 privately owned apartments in Hong Kong, about 16,000 were more than 30 years old.

With HK$10 billion (US$1.28 billion) in government funding, Cheung said the URA had launched about 50 projects to remodel more than 500 old apartments since its establishment, helping relocate more than 30,000 residents.

To increase residents’ cooperation, the URA offered compensation worth at least twice the market price of their properties, in addition to the provision of temporary accommodation and relocation assistance, he said.

About 3,600 dilapidated buildings remain in Hong Kong, many cubical dwellings partitioned with thin wooden walls or steel mesh, which many working poor and single men call home.

Statistics from the URA show that there are still more than 11,000 people living in tiny cubicles that are less than 46.5m2 with a monthly rent ranging from HK$600 to HK$2,000, and many were reluctant to move despite the poor living conditions because of the apartments’ advantageous locations.

Visiting some of the URA’s model cage homes, Hau said Taipei could face a similar problem if it failed to address skyrocketing real-estate prices and he promised to speed up the urban renewal process during his term.

In Taipei City, about 34 percent of buildings are more than 30 years old.

Hau said Taipei City Government was looking to establish an urban renewal company to speed up the implementation of his policy of increasing the number of affordable housing units throughout the city to 50,000 over the next four years.

Hau said government investment would account for more than 50 percent of funding for the planned company so the city government would still be able to exercise its authority and accelerate the process.

Hau will visit more public housing projects in Hong Kong today, before heading to Singapore tomorrow.

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