A government-subsidized housing estate in Hong Kong’s Tai O area can bring down its proposed management fee by up to 10 percent if the owners’ committee changes some preset requirements outlined by the housing authority and replaces security guards with smart systems, according to property management veterans.
The home ownership scheme (HOS) project in a remote corner of Lantau Island has drawn huge criticism over its proposed management fees, with people complaining that the fee is higher than even that charged at some luxury developments at West Kowloon.
The estate, meanwhile, is said to face difficulties in getting staff to come and work at the remote location, resulting in high costs to source qualified security guards.
The only way to lower the property management fee is to cut the staff number, the Hong Kong Economic Journal quoted Ellis Ip Chi-ming, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Housing, as saying.
Homebuyers can change the authority’s rules on property management after they move in and establish their own owners’ committee, he said.
“The owners’ committee… can decide on replacing lobby guards with closed-circuit televisions, which will help save about 10 percent in costs,” said Ip.
Given a buoyant economy and almost full-employment conditions in the labor market, substituting property security guards with smart management systems is likely to become a trend, Ip added.
The management fee for the new subsidized apartments in Tai O has been set at a stunning HK$4.2 (54 US cents) per square foot, which can translate to a monthly fee of more than HK$2,000 for a 428-square-feet unit, the smallest in the estate.
The figure has drawn comparison to the fees charged at luxury apartments in urban districts, which have much better facilities.
Another remote housing estate in Sha Tau Kwok, which has faced similar hiring problems since it opened in 1998, has opted for self-management by its owners’ committee, saving more than HK$1 million over the past five years by installing smart entrance and lighting systems.
That said, such initiatives won’t solve all the problems. Owners at a single high-rise residential development in Peng Chau, for instance, have seen their management and maintenance bills become a long-term burden as few management firms are willing to serve in the remote location, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported.
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