22 October 2016
Legislators accuse the Urban Renewal Authority of trying to bypass board members on the sales arrangement for De Novo. Photos: TVB, HKEJ
Legislators accuse the Urban Renewal Authority of trying to bypass board members on the sales arrangement for De Novo. Photos: TVB, HKEJ

Legislators slam URA over plan to let singles buy Kai Tak flats

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) is under fire over its plan to allow single persons to buy flats at its new housing project in the former Kai Tak airport.

Four URA non-executive directors, representing different political parties, have written to URA chairman Victor So Hing-woh, requesting for a special board meeting to discuss the sales arrangement at the De Novo public housing estate, Ming Pao Daily reported on Thursday.

The directors included legislators Ann Chiang of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Wu Chi-wai of the Democratic Party, Alice Mak Mei-kuen of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions and Dennis Kwok Wing-hang of the Civic Party.

The four lawmakers slammed the URA management for “hiding” the proposed changes to the sales arrangement at De Novo under the “Any Other Business” item on the agenda of the recent board meeting, calling the move unethical and an attempt to bypass board members.

Opening the subsidized flats to singles would contradict with the spirit of the government’s subsidized housing policy, which is to help low-income families acquire a home of their own.

A URA spokesperson confirmed that it has received a letter from some board members calling for a special meeting, which can be held within seven days.

Meanwhile, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) confirmed having received a public enquiry in July suggesting that single persons could be facing discrimination if they are not allowed to purchase a flat at De Novo.

The commission has subsequently written to the URA asking for more details on the restrictions on buyers, including the reasons why singles are reportedly not allowed to buy flats in the estate.

In a written reply to the EOC dated Aug. 19, the authority said the application requirements had not been finalized and it would consider relevant regulations under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance.

At a board meeting on Tuesday, the URA management proposed to allow singles to purchase De Novo flats with discretion.

They will be subject to the same restrictions as households, namely an income not exceeding HK$60,000 a month and assets worth no more than HK$3 million, according to the proposal.

Lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said while URA is authorized to fine-tune sales arrangements of its projects, the changes being proposed are contradicting the principles of subsidized housing, considering that those who make HK$60,000 a month are among the top 5 percent of employees in Hong Kong.

The HKFTU’s Alice Mak said the URA only brought up the changes verbally towards the end of the meeting, without any written information.

Ann Chiang of the DAB described the handling of the issue by the URA management as “terrible”, noting that the matter was only placed under the “Any Other Business” item of the board meeting.

The Development Bureau said sales arrangements for De Novo were within the power of the URA, requiring no prior approval from other government agencies.

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