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URA widens rehab schemes for 165 buildings

A total of 165 more residential buildings became eligible for assistance under the Urban Renewal Authority's two rehabilitation schemes as the URA today (Wednesday) announced an extension to cover 20-year-old buildings in the urban area.

The announcement came as the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr. Michael Suen, visited the URA's rehabilitation and redevelopment projects in Tai Kok Tsui and listened to the views of small owners and residents.

In April last year the URA started two schemes, an extended rehabilitation incentives trial scheme and a rehabilitation loan and grant scheme, that offer assistance to an estimated 540 buildings of 30 years old and above in five years' time. So far 82 buildings comprising 8,170 units either have joined the schemes or are in the process of application to join.

In view of the good response, the URA has decided to extend both schemes to 'younger' buildings so as to encourage owners' corporations to undertake preventive measures before their buildings suffer too seriously from lack of proper maintenance. The extension brings the building age criterion in the URA schemes in line with that of the Building Management and Maintenance Scheme to be commenced by the Hong Kong Housing Society next month.

The URA will soon issue invitations to the owners' corporations for them to join the schemes.

To cope with increased demand under the extension, the URA has allocated an additional amount of $23 million to the original budget of $230 million for both schemes.

Simultaneously the URA announced that with immediate effect, buildings without a statutory order for repair from the Buildings Department would be given an extra option of joining the incentives trial scheme. Previously these buildings would qualify only for the loan and grant scheme.

A URA spokesman said the changes have been made in the light of practical experience in the past nine months and also in co-ordination with the joint efforts between the URA and the Housing Society to promote a stronger culture of building care.

Under the extended incentive trial scheme, the URA provides a subsidy of 10 per cent in kind or the equivalent of $3,000 per flat to the total rehabilitation cost of a building. The subsidy is mainly in the form of quality paint for exterior wall protection and beautification, drain pipes and roofing materials.

Under the loan and grant scheme, the URA provides interest-free loans of up to $100,000 per flat to be repaid in five years and in the case of genuine hardship grants of up to $10,000 per flat. The loan and grant scheme is designed for buildings to undergo voluntary rehabilitation work without a statutory order.

A total of 13 banks currently offer preferential mortgage terms for flats in buildings that have successfully undergone rehabilitation work under the URA schemes. The Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation has also recently decided to raise the mortgage cover of flats in rehabilitated buildings to 85 per cent of the valuation.