Action set in shoddy old buildings

Business | Jane Cheung 25 Feb 2021

There will be HK$1 billion set aside to subsidize drainage repairs and improvements in 3,000 old buildings with low rateable values.

"Amid the epidemic people are increasingly concerned about environmental hygiene issues such as misconnections and dilapidation of drainage pipes in buildings," Paul Chan said.

Old buildings have become common breeding grounds for the coronavirus in the past 12 months, and infected residents easily spread the virus to neighbors via a bad environment and vertical transmissions through pipes.

So work on 300 buildings will commence by year's end, with a target to tackle all 3,000 within five or six years.

The Buildings Department and the Urban Renewal Authority will target buildings at least 40 years old. The buildings should carry an annual rental value of less than HK$162,000.

There will not be any means testing in the program, and subsidies should cover around 80 percent of the costs of repairs.

Allowances for buildings with 20 to 200 units will range from HK$120,000 to HK$1 million to repair pipes, public spaces and exterior walls.

A building with an owners' corporation can to the URA for subsidies after work is completed.

For buildings where owners face difficulties in organizing - typically those without an owners' corporation, residents' organization or a property management firm - the department will organize inspections and determine if repairs are needed urgently.

Those with problem pipes and related deficiencies will be issued with drainage repair orders, and if owners cannot conduct work the department will exercise its power under the Buildings Ordinance to carry out work on their behalf. After it is done owners will be billed, and they can apply to the URA for a subsidy. Owners refusing to pay up could face encumbrances.

The department has already issued repair orders on 500 buildings.

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