URA Embraces Innovation to Breakthrough Challenges Creating Quality Living Environment in 20 Years of Urban Renewal
The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has been improving the standard of housing and the built environment of Hong Kong by carrying out urban renewal for the past 20 years, since its establishment under the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance in 2001. The URA commemorated its 20th Anniversary today (19 November 2021) which marked a key milestone in urban renewal, bringing forth urban regeneration on all fronts to improve the living environment of older areas, thereby creating quality, environmentally-sustainable and liveable homes.
The 20th Anniversary Commemoration of the URA took place at Central Market, where phase one of the restoration and revitalisation work has recently been completed. The Commemoration was officiated by the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Honourable Mrs Carrie Lam, and was attended by over 100 guests. They included past Chairmen and members of the URA Board, previous Managing Directors of the URA, members of the Executive Council and the Legislative Council, officials from Government bureaux and departments, and representatives of District Councils, statutory bodies including the Property Management Services Authority and the Antiquities Advisory Board, professional bodies and joint venture partners.
Speaking at the occasion, the Honourable Mrs Carrie Lam, said, “The URA’s achievements in regenerating old urban districts have been widely recognised over the past 20 years, with many completed projects becoming the iconic landmarks of the city. They include early projects such as Citywalk in Tsuen Wan and the URA’s single, largest-ever redevelopment project, the Kwun Tong Town Centre Redevelopment Project. In addition, with the continuous advancement of the implementation model, the conventional building-by-building redevelopment process has been evolved to become a district-based “planning-led” approach in which through restructuring land uses, the projects will design more effective transport network, pedestrian facilities and green open spaces, strengthening the overall planning effectiveness of the projects.
In respect to building rehabilitation, the URA is also the Government’s major partner in the implementation of various building rehabilitation subsidy schemes,which have been improving the living environment for residents through building rehabilitation. It is worth noting that the URA staff do not only assist the owners of old buildings in carrying out repair works, but also serve the residents in the old districts in the most sincere and caring manner.”
Meanwhile, the URA rendered its full support by taking on the new missions in response to the Government’s housing initiatives implemented in its current term. Mrs Lam added that the URA has been pioneering in housing projects, such as providing “Starter Homes” units in its redevelopment projects, taking forward the redevelopment of buildings under the Civil Servants’ Co-operative Building Society Scheme, and the successful implementation of the redevelopment of Tai Hang Sai Estate in conjunction with the Hong Kong Settlers Housing Corporation Limited.
To mark this special occasion, the achievements made by the URA in the past 20 years in regenerating old districts by way of Redevelopment, Rehabilitation, pReservation and Revitalisation (the 4Rs) were featured. The URA also showcased the adoption of a comprehensive and holistic approach to address the crux of urban decay, as well as the launch of a number of strategic studies and enhancement in the implementation models to achieve the long-term goals of strengthening urban renewal effectiveness in improving the overall environment of old districts and the living condition of residents.
Since 2001, the URA has implemented a total of 72 projects involving about 1,500 dilapidated buildings and benefitting over 35,000 residents, along with the provision of more than 24,000 new residential units upon redevelopment. With regard to building rehabilitation, apart from providing financial subsidies and technical support to property owners to take forward rehabilitation work, the URA has also assisted the Government in the implementation of various building rehabilitation subsidy schemes, administering applications by the owners in an integrated manner. To date, the URA has provided subsidies to owners of over 280,000 residential units for organising building maintenance works.
Looking ahead, Mr Chow Chung-kong, Chairman of the URA, said, “The URA will remain committed to its mandate of urban renewal for many more 20 years to come. To meet the challenges that will arise in the future, the URA lays down three principles. First, the URA shall adopt a forward-looking approach to do its utmost to make the best and full use of resources for urban renewal. Second, we shall break down barriers, making the impossible possible. Third, we shall embrace technologies to make Hong Kong a more livable, sustainable and smart city while at the same time, actively realising the goals of reducing carbon footprint and creating a green and livable environment in the course of urban renewal in response to the Government’s call to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050.”
To address the aggravating problem of “double-ageing” in urban districts and buildings, Mr Chow added that the URA has formulated forward-looking strategies and implementation models for urban renewal, while embracing the application of technologies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness when mapping out urban renewal solutions.
Moreover, facilitating property owners to undertake regular maintenance and repair works for both the interior and exterior areas of their buildings will be the focus of work of the URA in the future, along with promoting the adoption of preventive maintenance, to alleviate urban decay by prolonging the lifespan of buildings.
In respect of preservation and revitalisation, the URA has over the years preserved and revitalised 60 buildings with historical and cultural value, while maintaining the local characteristics for public enjoyment. Among these initiatives, the URA has invested $500 million in preserving and rehabilitating the Grade-3 historic building of Central Market. With its completion of phase one restoration and revitalisation works, it has been in operation since its soft-opening in August. The Building has emerged as a vibrant recreational and community space with a wide range of activities for public participation and as a place for materialising innovative ideas. The Central Market is expected to come into full operation upon completion of the phase two of rehabilitation works in the third quarter of 2022.