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URA issues acquisition offers for Queen's Road East project

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) issues offer letters to owners affected by the Queen's Road East redevelopment project today (Tuesday) to acquire their properties by private agreement. Affected owner-occupiers of domestic properties will be offered $3,736 per square foot on a saleable area basis.

An URA spokesman said that the total redevelopment cost is estimated at about $160 million, including about $80 million for purchasing the 18 property interests and rehousing the affected tenants in the project.

According to an URA occupancy survey conducted earlier, the project will affect about 40 households comprising about 120 persons.

"The owners will have ample time to consider our offers and to accept them within the next 60 days," he said.

Purchase offers of the URA for owner-occupiers of domestic properties are based on Government's Home Purchase Allowance policy that links the level of compensation to the open market value of a notional seven-year-old replacement flat in a similar locality.

The purchase offers also include an incidental cost allowance, where applicable, as an incentive to encourage owners to sell their domestic properties to the Authority within a 60-day period. This allowance serves as a subsidy for the removal and various expenses normally incurred in the purchase of a replacement flat.

Having considered Government's latest rate of ex-gratia removal allowance, the URA's incidental cost allowance for owner-occupied domestic property is set slightly higher at $1,040 per square metre (or about $97 per square foot) of the saleable area or, in any event, not less than a lump sum of $96,000. For domestic property that is either tenanted or left vacant, the allowance is $73,250.

As for non-domestic property, the purchase offer will include its market value plus an ex-gratia allowance. The allowance for tenanted or vacant non-domestic property is 10% of its market value or one time the government rateable value, whichever is higher. The allowance for owner-occupied non-domestic property is 35% of its market value or four times its rateable value, whichever is higher.

A building in single ownership is valued either on its existing use value plus ex-gratia allowances applicable for individual shops and domestic flats or on its redevelopment value plus an ex-gratia allowance of 5%.

The Authority will also extend its Maintenance Cost Reimbursement Scheme to the project to cover those registered owners who agree to sell their properties to the URA. The scheme will apply to works undertaken in accordance with statutory orders for maintenance and repairs made under the Buildings Ordinance, the Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance and the Lifts and Escalators (Safety) Ordinance issued after the project was first announced by the Land Development Corporation on 2 January 1998. 

While the rehousing policy for the tenants affected remains basically unchanged, adjustment will be made to the terms of cash compensation so as to encourage the eligible tenants to opt for rehousing, which is a more direct and practical way to improve their living condition.

"The acquisition and compensation policies of the URA, including the incidental cost allowance for individual projects, are kept under constant review and, where necessary, adjusted to best meet the objectives of urban renewal," the spokesman said.

Briefings for both owners and tenants on details of the URA' policies and procedures will be held shortly. URA staff will give personal attention to each individual case of affected owner and tenant. Residents can contact URA officers at the URA Neighbourhood Centre in Wan Chai Road or call the URA's hotline at 2588 2333 for any enquiries they may have.

The URA has also designated an urban renewal social service team operated by the Methodist Centre to provide counselling service and practical assistance to residents who encounter personal or family problems during the redevelopment process.

The project will be a residential development of about 50 domestic units with some retail space. It is expected to be completed in about 5 years' time.