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23,000 flats to go in final estate sale

Michael Ng

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Housing Authority stands to rake in HK$7 billion after it releases 23,000 public housing flats in the last phase of the Tenants Purchase Scheme.

After this, there will be no further sales under the scheme, said Secretary for Housing, Planning and lands Michael Suen.

At Wednesday's Legislative Council meeting, the housing chief said the authority had completed sewerage inspections of five public housing estates listed under Phase 6B of the scheme, as it had pledged to do after the SARS outbreak in 2003.

"Inspections for the five estates under Phase 6B have largely been completed and repairs are now underway.

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"The estates concerned will be offered for sale after completion of repair works. The exact launch date is yet to be determined," said Suen.

The housing estates, which contain 23,451 units, comprise Cheung Fat Estate in Tsing Yi, Fu Shin Estate in Tai Po, Long Ping Estate in Yuen Long, Nam Cheong Estate in Sham Shui Po, and Tsui Lam Estate in Tseung Kwan O.

Earlier estimates by surveyors indicated the sale of all flats would raise HK$7 billion for the department, greatly easing its financial situation.

The authority is desperate to raise cash, especially after its HK$32 billion Link REIT listing was stalled because of an impending case to be heard in the Court of Final Appeal.

Democratic Party lawmaker Yeung Sum asked Suen whether the authority would put more public housing estates under the Tenants Purchase Scheme.

"In my understanding, more than 70 percent of public housing tenants welcome the program and are willing to purchase their flats. Will the government reconsider adding more estates to the scheme if the property market keeps flourishing?" he asked.

But Suen said the Housing Authority will stick to the decision it made in November 2002 and terminate the scheme after the sale of the five estates under Phase 6B because it has already put into the scheme all appropriate public housing estates available.

"Even if we put the older estates up for sale, the tenants may not be very interested in buying them," he said.

"And if we add the recently built public housing estates to the scheme, it would be unfair to other homeowners if they are sold to tenants at a concessionary price because the designs of these flats are similar to those of the Home Ownership Scheme or private housing estates."

Some lawmakers are also angered by the authority's practice of including slopes near the estates into the deeds of mutual covenant, making buyers in the scheme liable for costs of future slope maintenance and renovation.

"The authority does not designate the shopping arcades and carparks in the estates to those buyers, but requires them to take on responsibility for nearby slopes," said lawmaker Tam Yiu- chung, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

michael.ng@singtaonewscorp.com

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END


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