Monday, 4 February 2008

Hong Kong's Collective Sale Process - Us learning from them or them us?

Thanks to readers who sent me this South China Morning Post article that led me to read up more about the 'collective sale' process in Hong Kong. You can read that article here (on scribd). While I am still reading up on the enbloc process over in our competing nation, these are some interesting points I've discovered.

  1. They do not have an equivalent of a volunteer-run STB. Rather, they have the Lands Tribunal which comprises of 3 professional judges and sometimes a member who is a qualified surveyor. You can read up more about it here.
  2. The age threshold for buildings for redevelopment, unlike Singapore's 10 yrs, is FORTY years (40. That's 4 times ours.). In fact, the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors has suggested following the Singapore model of 10 years to facilitate urban renewal but the fact remains - 40 years is what the HK government considers to be the age of buildings before it should be considered for destruction.
  3. However, even if your estate is 40 years old, the Lands Tribunal may reject the application for sale, IF it considers the estate to be well-maintained and well-kept. This is because Chapter 545 of the HK law (Land (Compulsory Sale for Redevelopment) Ordinance) Sect 4(2)(a) states that the sale shall be justified "due to the age or state of repair of the existing development on the lot". This means that only if the estate is run down or in a bad state of disrepair, shall the sale be justified and approved. This is radically different from Singapore's approach which completely disregards if an estate has just been upgraded, or is very well kept and maintained.
You can read Chapter 545 Land (Compulsory Sale for Redevelopment) Ordinance here (Enter 540 under 'chapter row' and you should see Chapter 545 in the list. Click on the arrows on the left to open up and read the individual sections etc).

Maybe our own legislators can take a leaf from the HK folks and learn from them. They seemed to have better considered the balance between urban renewal, individual property rights, and the condition of the estate (something wholeheartedly neglected here).