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Staunton Street/Wing Lee Street project begins property acquisition

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) today (Thursday) issued offer letters to owners of 71 property interests in 24 old buildings affected by the Staunton Street/Wing Lee Street project in Central & Western District. Eligible owner-occupiers of domestic properties will be offered $9,986 per square foot of saleable floor area.

The total development cost of this project is estimated to be $1.06 billion, of which acquisition and rehousing cost is about $510 million.  
The acquisition offers for domestic properties are based on the Government's Home Purchase Allowance (HPA) policy in which HPA is the difference between the market value of the acquired property and that of a notional seven-year-old flat of similar size in a similar locality. In addition to the market value of the acquired properties, eligible owner-occupiers will receive the full HPA amount whereas owners of tenanted and vacant domestic properties will receive a supplementary allowance (SA) up to half of the HPA.

A spokesman for the URA said: "As in previous projects, the URA has appointed seven independent valuation firms for the valuation of the unit rate of the notional seven-year-old flat."

For a building in single ownership, it is valued either on its existing use value plus relevant allowances for shops and domestic units in the building or on its redevelopment value plus 5% as ex-gratia allowance, whichever is higher.
Apart from cash compensation, the URA has decided to extend the "Expression of Interest in Purchasing Arrangement" pilot scheme to this project so that owner-occupiers of domestic properties can express to the URA their interest in getting an opportunity to purchase a new flat in the new development at market price when the project is offered for sale. "This is designed for those who will have a need to move back to the same location for personal reasons such as to maintain their social networks," the spokesman said.

Affected owners will have ample time to consider the URA's offers and to accept them within the next 60 days.  Owners will also receive an incidental cost allowance (ICA), where applicable, as an incentive for them to accept the offers within the 60-day period.  The current ICA for owner-occupied domestic property is $109,500 or $100 per square foot ($1,080 per square metre) of saleable floor area, whichever is higher. For domestic property that is tenanted or vacant, the ICA is $85,900.
For non-domestic properties, the acquisition offers to eligible owners will include an ex-gratia allowance on top of the market value.  The allowance for tenanted or vacant non-domestic property is 10 per cent of its market value or one time the government rateable value, whichever is higher.  The allowance for owner-occupied non-domestic property is 35 per cent of its market value or four times its rateable value, whichever is higher.

Eligible shop owners who occupy the shops and shop tenants will enjoy an additional Ex-gratia Business Allowance (EGBA) up to three times rateable value (roughly equivalent to 36 months' rent) payable at the rate of 0.1 time rateable value for each year of continuous occupation of the premises up to a maximum of 30 years, subject to a minimum amount of $70,000 and a maximum of $500,000. This allowance is intended for alleviating the possible business loss due to redevelopment.

To ensure proper use of public resources and discourage speculation, the URA has conducted a freezing survey on 21 March 2003 to ascertain the occupancy status of the properties. The URA has assessed eligibility of the owners and tenants to the allowances payable accordingly.  According to URA's policy, those owners who purchased residential properties within the development site after the freezing survey will not be eligible to HPA or SA while owners of single-owned building would not be entitled to the 5% ex-gratia allowance on top of redevelopment value. As for owner-operators and tenant-operators who purchased or leased their properties after the survey, they will not be able to enjoy EGBA.

Upon completion of the property acquisition, the URA will make ex-gratia payment or rehousing arrangement for the tenants concerned, if eligible.

Measuring about 38,300 square feet (3,560 square metre), the project stands on a site with 24 old and dilapidated post-war buildings where some 130 households make their homes.
The Authority has commissioned an urban renewal social service team staffed by professional social workers of the St James' Settlement to provide counseling service and practical assistance to those residents who may encounter personal or family problems. Affected residents may call them on 2857 1606 for assistance. Interested parties may also contact the URA's Neighbourhood Centre on Ground Floor 27A Gage Street in the Central, or call the URA hotline at 2588 2333 for any enquiry they may have.

The URA and the social service team will hold briefing sessions to the owners and tenants respectively on the arrangement for acquisition, compensation and rehousing.

The project is expected to complete in 2013/14. According to the Planning Brief endorsed by the Town Planning Board, in addition to a public open space of about 6,730 square feet (625 square metres), a total floor area of about 232,500 square feet (21,600 square metres) is permissible for residential and commercial use.