LCQ9: Conservation of Wing Lee Street

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kwok-him and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (December 15):


     The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) publicly proposed "an alternative implementation concept for conserving Wing Lee Street" (the alternative implementation concept) on March 16 this year for reference by the Town Planning Board (TPB).  At its meeting on March 19 this year, TPB rejected URA's application in relation to the Master Layout Plan for the Staunton Street/Wing Lee Street Development Scheme submitted earlier by URA, but it agreed that preservation of all the tenement buildings at Wing Lee Street as proposed in the alternative implementation concept was the right direction. It has been nine months since URA announced the alternative implementation concept, but TPB has not yet decided on the way forward for Wing Lee Street, and the affected residents have not yet received any compensation or rehousing offers from URA. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the progress to date of the alternative implementation concept proposed by URA, and whether the Government and URA still intend to achieve "complete preservation" of Wing Lee Street;

(b) given that the Chairman of URA announced to the media in September this year a series of special measures for assisting the tenants and property owners of Wing Lee Street, whether it knows the timetable for launching these special measures, and whether URA will continue to offer voluntary acquisition to the property owners at Wing Lee Street; and

(c) whether it knows when TPB will consider and decide on the planning for Wing Lee Street; whether TPB will re-consider the planning for the other two development sites under the Staunton Street/Wing Lee Street Development Scheme, apart from Wing Lee Street?



     The Staunton Street/Wing Lee Street redevelopment project (H19) is one of the 25 redevelopment projects announced but yet to be commenced by the former Land Development Corporation, which the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has taken over upon its establishment in 2001. The URA has undertaken to give priority to the commencement of these 25 projects. H19 covers Sites A, B and C, and Wing Lee Street is at Site A.

     The URA commenced H19 in 2003, the planning parameters for which were revised after legal proceedings took place. As a result, it was not until 2008 that the URA issued acquisition offers for the project. During this period, there were strong community demands for the conservation of buildings with architectural interest and the local culture. In response, in November 2008, the URA proposed a conservation-led redevelopment approach for implementation of this project with a view to preserving the terrace ambience of Wing Lee Street, through abandoning the original high-density development, giving up on high-rise buildings, and only demolishing some of the old tenement buildings which were proposed to be rebuilt as buildings with similar height and form. Under this approach, the plot ratio of the whole project was reduced from 8 as permitted under the Planning Brief to not more than 4.5.

     In response to the views of the local community and the public, in March 2010, the URA proposed an alternative concept to implement the conservation of Wing Lee Street, that is, to adopt a "complete conservation" approach. This new concept was supported in principle by the Town Planning Board (TPB).

     My reply to the three-part question is as follows:

(a) In view of the support from TPB and the generally positive response of the community, the URA has not changed its "complete conservation" implementation concept for Wing Lee Street.  This concept is also supported by the Development Bureau.

     According to this implementation concept, as follow-up, URA would provide the TPB with supplementary information, namely, information on the conditions of the existing buildings at Wing Lee Street, the costs involved in rehabilitating these tenement buildings and the special measures adopted by the URA to assist owners and tenants at Wing Lee Street. Later on, the TPB would consider how to amend the approved H19 Development Scheme Plan in order to conserve Wing Lee Street within Site A. Meanwhile, the URA would continue to negotiate voluntary acquisition with all the affected owners within the project. The URA would also continue to make compensation/rehousing arrangements for the affected tenants in line with its prevailing policy. Up to end-November 2010, the URA has successfully acquired 12 out of the 24 property interests at Wing Lee Street. There is another property owner who has just accepted the URA's acquisition offer and sale and purchase for this case is under way. The URA has also completed or is in the process of completing compensation/rehousing arrangements for some nine affected tenants.

     As a "complete conservation" approach will be adopted for the buildings at Wing Lee Street within Site A of the redevelopment project, and given that some owners wish to conserve their buildings on their own and are reluctant to sell to the URA, the Development Bureau has indicated to the URA that it is inappropriate to go about conserving Wing Lee Street through invoking the Lands Resumption Ordinance.

(b) In view of the historical background and the uniqueness of H19, the URA announced in September 2010 the following three special measures to assist the owners/tenants at Wing Lee Street:

     (1) Measures to improve the living environment of those tenants whose landlords do not want to sell

     (i) The URA will rent out to affected tenants the flats in the URA rehousing block at No 466, Des Voeux Road West, at a rate comparable to the public housing rental rates.  For instance, the URA will charge rental at around $1,800 for a 330-square-foot unit. The URA will also provide a six-month rent-free period and offer removal allowance for each tenant household. Take the example of a three-person household, the allowance will amount to about $7,400. If the tenants are allocated public housing units or they eventually move out from No 466, Des Voeux Road West, the URA will provide them with another removal allowance. The URA will also reimburse them for the rentals they have paid for their stay at No 466, Des Voeux Road West, up to a maximum of six months' rent or 25% of the amount of rental they will have paid;

     (ii) The URA will provide a "Home Environment Improvement Allowance" ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 for every tenant household who opts to stay at Wing Lee Street to improve their living environment. The URA will also provide them with an allowance equivalent to two months of their current rental to support them in finding temporary accommodation elsewhere when their flats are under renovation; and

     (iii) The URA will also provide a relocation allowance to tenants who opt to move elsewhere. For example, a three-person household will receive about $7,400. These tenant households may also receive an allowance ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 for improving their living environment.

     (2) "Special Rehabilitation Allowance" offered to property owners participating in the conservation of Wing Lee Street

     (i) The URA will provide a "Special Allowance for Rehabilitation of Common Areas" to the property owners at Wing Lee Street. If the owners agree to carry out rehabilitation, the URA will provide a subsidy up to half of the total rehabilitation cost. The owners of buildings in single ownership can draw a maximum subsidy up to $200,000;

     (ii) As regards those buildings at site which are jointly held by the URA and other individual owners, the URA will liaise with the owners concerned to undertake rehabilitation work of the common areas of the buildings. The URA will offer them the "Special Rehabilitation Allowance", subject to a maximum subsidy of $200,000 per building. The amount of allowance receivable by each owner will be calculated on a pro-rata basis according to the proportion of undivided shares the owner holds; and

     (iii) In addition, owner-occupiers who succeed in applying for the allowance mentioned above will be eligible to apply for a "Home Environment Improvement Allowance" ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 per household.

     The URA has been undertaking preparatory work for relocation of Wing Lee Street tenants to No 466, Des Voeux Road West, over the past few months.

     When making the earlier announcement, the URA indicated that the measures mentioned above would not be implemented until the TPB were to decide to invoke the town planning procedures to seek the agreement of the Chief Executive in Council to refer back the Development Scheme Plan of H19 for excision of Wing Lee Street from the boundary of the plan. On the basis of the "people-oriented" approach, the Development Bureau has urged the URA to implement the above-mentioned measures as soon as possible to give early comfort to the affected tenants of Wing Lee Street, and without waiting for the completion of further deliberation and related procedures for revision of the Development Scheme Plan by the TPB. In other words, the URA will relocate those tenants who wish to move to No 466, Des Voeux Road West, as soon as possible. As for those tenants who do not opt to move to No 466, Des Voeux Road West, but who want to apply for the "Home Environment Improvement Allowance", the URA will issue the allowances as soon as possible.

     Nevertheless, under prevailing policy, the URA will continue to approach the owners for voluntary acquisition before Wing Lee Street is excised from the H19 Development Scheme Plan. The URA will also explain to them the above-mentioned special arrangements for assisting owners to rehabilitate their old buildings. Once the TPB decides to excise Wing Lee Street from the H19 Development Scheme Plan and completes the gazetting procedures, the URA will stop acquiring the properties at Wing Lee Street.  

(c) To facilitate the TPB's review of the H19 Development Scheme Plan, the URA has provided information on the structural conditions of the existing buildings at Wing Lee Street, the costs involved in their rehabilitation, as well as the special arrangements to assist owners and tenants of Wing Lee Street. The Planning Department (PlanD) is consulting the departments concerned and considering the relevant information. PlanD will make a submission to the TPB for consideration in early 2011 and it is expected that the scope for consideration will be confined to Wing Lee Street at Site A of H19, the reason being that the Metro Planning Committee of the TPB had, when deliberating on the project on March 19, 2010, indicated that the proposed use and development parameters of the other two sites (that is, Site B and Site C) outside Wing Lee Street were acceptable and that there would be no need to revisit the planning requirements of these two sites.  In fact, it is in the public interest as well as in the interest of most of the owners and tenants of H19 that the project, which is a redevelopment cum conservation project, be completed as early as possible.

Ends/Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:14