Operation Building Bright improves living environment of residents (with photos/video)

     The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, visited Kwun Tong Mansion, a building more than 50 years old and renovated with subsidies granted under the Operation Building Bright (OBB) scheme, in the company of the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, and the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, today (November 20).

     Both the exterior and common areas inside Kwun Tong Mansion have taken on an entirely new look after the renovation, which has taken more than a year to complete.

     Mrs Lam learnt that before the renovation works, different parts of the building had varying degrees of dilapidation, such as spalling of concrete or plastering in internal and external walls, blockage or seepage in drainage pipes, and water seepage through the roof. The living environment was not very desirable and the dilapidation could even have brought about potential risks to the residents.

     "I am pleased to learn from representatives of the owners' corporation (OC) that the residents are happy with the result of the renovation works," Mrs Lam said.

     As a special measure amid the financial tsunami, the OBB scheme was jointly launched by the Development Bureau, the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) and the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) in 2009 with a total allocation of up to $3.5 billion. The allocation comprises a government injection of $3.2 billion and contributions of $150 million each by the URA and the HKHS. It aims to achieve the dual objectives of creating more job opportunities for the construction sector and improving building safety.

     More than 3,000 old buildings have been granted subsidies to carry out repair and maintenance works since the launch of the OBB scheme and the living environment of more than 150,000 households has thus been significantly improved.

     The scheme has created more than 48,700 job opportunities for the construction sector. As a result, the unemployment rate in the decoration and maintenance fields has dropped to 4.3 per cent, from over 21 per cent when the scheme was launched.

     Kwun Tong Mansion is one of the many buildings that have benefited from the scheme. The renovation works started in 2013 with a grant of about $9.9 million from the scheme and technical assistance from the URA.

     With the completion of renovation works for subsidised buildings in the coming two to three years, the scheme will accomplish its mission. The Government and relevant organisations will continue to render support to property owners in need to carry out repair and maintenance works through other schemes.

     Mr Chan said the Government attaches great importance to the concern in the community on suspected bid-rigging in some building maintenance projects.

     "We hope to draw reference from the experience of the URA in implementing the OBB scheme and other assistance schemes, and examine measures to minimise bid-rigging in building maintenance projects through enhanced technical support for property owners. We will announce details in due course," he said.

     He said the URA and the HKHS have endeavoured to assist property owners in minimising the risks of bid-rigging in recent years. For example, the OBB scheme has implemented new tendering arrangements since 2013 to ensure an open, fair and competitive tendering process, and enable property owners to identify a reasonable and practical offer from various bids. The URA and the HKHS also arrange independent consultants to provide evaluation of maintenance costs for reference by owners of buildings participating in the OBB scheme, so that they can assess whether the tender prices are comparable with market levels before selecting the suitable tender.

     Mr Lau said, "With an aim of assisting property owners in discharging their building management duties, arranging repair works properly and eradicating the acts of bid-rigging, the Home Affairs Department (HAD) has been actively collaborating with relevant departments, organisations and professional institutions to launch various publicity and educational programmes in 18 districts to provide information to OCs and property owners on matters relating to building management and maintenance, and prevention of corruption and crime."

     He added that the HAD has, through the Building Management Professional Advisory Service Scheme, engaged property management companies (PMCs) to strengthen the assistance to owners of old buildings (especially "three-nil" buildings) in forming OCs, applying for maintenance subsidies, commencing maintenance work and following up on tendering. In addition, the "AP Easy" Building Maintenance Advisory Service Pilot Scheme has been implemented to offer in-depth and tailor-made professional advice to the OCs without PMCs to carry out maintenance projects.

Ends/Friday, November 20, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:50