URA may offer more subsidised units, financing under question

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Urban Renewal Authority (URA) is considering an increase in its supply of subsidised flats. A To Kwa Wan project may be next.

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) may consider selling more subsidised sale flats (SSF) again if it identifies suitable redevelopment projects, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po (陳茂波) said during a Legco Panel on Development meeting on Tuesday.

The URA launched its first SSF project, De Novo in Kai Tak, last year in response to the chief executive’s suggestion in the 2015 Policy Address to increase the supply of subsidised flats. Over 95% of the flats in that development, the first SSF project initiated by the URA, have been sold, Chan said..

The development secretary also claimed that other SSF projects may be on the URA’s future agenda, although this would depend on decisions of the statutory body’s members. To Kwa Wan’s Ma Tau Wai Road and Chun Tin Street may be next in line, Chan revealed.   

As for the continuation of the 2011 demand-led redevelopment strategy, under which the URA can undertake redevelopment under new forms such as joint applications by building owners, officials responded with greater caution. When asked whether the strategy would be abandoned or not, new URA Managing Director Wai Chi-sing (韋志成), also in attendance, said the strategy may be put under review.

In the past, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) has claimed that a review of the strategy is needed to take account of the increasing complexity of projects and to ensure that the self-financing URA could operate sustainably.

Financing under the microscope

At the panel meeting, the Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung (張超雄) criticised the URA, for adopting a “money first” instead of a “people first” approach to redevelopment.

Chan defended URA stating, “How URA operates needs to be viewed from a comprehensive and long-term perspective, and the coming redevelopment projects require large amount of resources”.

Attendees heard that, until 31 March of this year, the URA recorded a net asset value of HK$29.5 billion (including the HK$10 billion capital injection from the government). This was an increase of HK$4.5 billion compared to the previous year.