“PROMOTING THE REDEVELOPMENT OF AGED PUBLIC HOUSING ESTATES”
Deputy President, to improve the living environment of residents in public housing, the Hong Kong Housing Authority (“HKHA”) launched the Comprehensive Redevelopment Programme in 1987 to progressive demolish and redevelop 57 estates among the old public housing and the Government Low Cost Housing completed before 1973. It was because these old estates lacked self-contained facilities and had serious structural problems. Their maintenance costs far exceeded those of newly built estates. Moreover, as most of these estates were located in the urban areas, redevelopment was cost-effective. However, following the clearance of all the blocks in Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate (Area 2) in 2012, the entire programme came to an end. The policy has since been shifted from redevelopment to refurbishment. The Government stated clearly that redevelopment would only be conducted selectively “on an estate-by-estate basis”. I thank Mr LEUNG Man-kwong for proposing the motion requesting the Government to redevelop aged public housing estates, improve the living environment of residents and increase the supply of public housing units, thus giving us the opportunity to express our views on the necessity of redevelopment.
Regarding the public housing redevelopment policy, HKHA has all along followed the four major basic principles in its consideration, as mentioned by Mr CHAN Hok-fung and Ms Judy CHAN just now. So I am not going to repeat it. I very much agree with Mr CHAN Hok-fung’s remark that HKHA should re-examine the priority of these four criteria. With structural conditions placed as the first priority, I believe that the results for the 22 aged housing estates originally identified as having redevelopment potential in 2013 would be different.
Deputy President, buildings in Hong Kong with reinforced concrete structures are designed to have a serviceable life of around 50 years. However, counting from completion, many housing estates are already aged 40 to 70 years. Many of the common facilities are not adequately maintained. In some housing units, there are such cases as spalling of concrete, exposure of rusty steel bars and water seepage from the ceiling. In addition, the residents are ageing. Old estates generally lack elderly care facilities and support. The actual needs of the residents cannot be met at all. In 2018, HKHA completed structural investigation of 42 public housing estates, in which 19 estates without any redevelopment plan were considered structurally safe and not in urgent need of redevelopment.
Deputy President, this year, I have set up a district office in Cheung On Estate in Tsing Yi. The estate is only 33 years old, but every time I visit the district, the residents and kaifongs I met would express their greatest discontent that the facilities in the estate are ageing, with water leakage, spalling ceilings and so on causing a lot of inconvenience in daily life. Telling from this, the nuisance caused to residents of the other older public housing estates can be imagined.
Although housing supply falls under a long-term policy and cannot be achieved overnight, it is precisely because redevelopment takes time that planning should be conducted as early as possible. Now HKHA does not have any list or timetable for the redevelopment of housing estates. If a comprehensive redevelopment plan for aged public housing can be formulated to take forward redevelopment in batches in a phased and orderly manner, I believe it can strike a proper balance among the three aspects, i.e. the waiting time for public housing allocation, unleashing the land potential and increasing the housing supply.
It is undeniable that different redevelopment options have their own constraints. For example, in redevelopment of public housing, if the past rehousing arrangement is adopted, coupled with the preference of many residents for in-situ rehousing, a longer waiting time seems inevitable. If the Government can think out of the box and adopt a new approach to break away from the old impasse, I believe the difficulties can be resolved.
For example, Model Housing Estate, for which there is the most vociferous call for redevelopment, is aged 70 years with only 700 units. If it is redeveloped with a plot ratio of 5 times the original, it is believed that it can provide about 17 000 units with a saleable area of 300 sq ft, increasing the number of units by 23 times. It thus has high redevelopment potential.
Therefore, Deputy President, I support the proposal in the motion for setting a timetable for the redevelopment of public housing and facilitating the collaboration of different housing organizations for conducting redevelopment projects, so as to speed up the pace of redevelopment. Moreover, efforts should be made to tie in with other policy measures, thereby increasing the land and housing supply, especially the supply of public housing, under a multi-pronged approach, so as to meet the short-, medium- and long-term demand of the people of Hong Kong.
I so submit. Thank you, Deputy President.