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URA achieves significant progress in acquisition projects

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has made significant progress in the acquisition of old and dilapidated properties for its three redevelopment projects in Wan Chai, Sham Shui Po and Tai Kok Tsui.

Since acquisition offers were first made to all registered owners on 28 March, the URA has succeeded in reaching agreements with about 80 percent of the owners in the Johnston Road project in Wan Chai, 72 percent in Fuk Wing Street/Fuk Wah Street project, Sham Shui Po and 52 percent in Cherry Street project, Tai Kok Tsui.

Overall, there are a total of 416 property interests in the three project areas and the URA has secured agreements to acquire 259 of them, representing an average sign-up rate of 62 percent.

The three projects are the first ones launched since the new Urban Renewal Ordinance was enacted to speed up Hong Kong's prolonged and formidable struggle against urban decay.

URA Managing Director, Mr. Billy Lam, said he felt very encouraged by the response rate so far.

"I would say that we have successfully taken the first step. It may be a small step in the context of the URA's mission to redevelop about 2000 old buildings over the next 20 years but it is a very important first step in guiding us to the way ahead," Mr. Lam said.

"The positive response clearly shows that we have hit the right note with the majority of the property owners by the reasonableness of our offers and the fairness of our negotiation process," Mr. Lam remarked.

For those who have not yet accepted the acquisition offers, most of them are continuing active negotiation with the URA.

"I would strongly urge these owners to make up their minds as soon as possible so that we can move forward together without delay on Hong Kong's massive redevelopment programme. Obviously, the URA cannot wait for them indefinitely," Mr. Lam said.

Asked if the URA would raise their offers, Mr. Lam said: "Our offers have proved to be reasonable and acceptable to most of the owners. I see no reason why any changes should be made."

There are also a small number of cases involving either untraceable owners, and title or probate problems. This makes negotiation impossible and would necessitate the invoking of resumption action under the Land Resumption Ordinance. 

An URA spokesman emphasised that the Authority's acquisition policy did not end with the owners signing on the dotted line. "We aim to be helpful to the owners all the way by being flexible in offering them the amount of cash deposit, helping them to arrange bridging loans, providing market information and arranging visits for them to view HOS flats etc," the spokesman said.

Whenever the flats are occupied by tenants, the URA would undertake to ascertain their rehousing eligibility for public rental flats or an ex-gratia payment in lieu of rehousing. The URA has commenced this process for tenants who lived in the tenanted properties sold to the Authority. So far, the URA has registered 42 families in this category.