Residential units in Wan Chai’s so-called Blue House cluster will come onto the rental market soon as a huge renovation project undertaken by a non-governmental organization is nearing completion.
Renovation of the almost-century old tenement buildings, which got their name due to their colorful facades, is about to be finished by St. James’ Settlement (SJS).
This could result in the units coming onto the rental market as soon as August, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
Blue House, a Grade 1 Historic Building erected in 1922; Yellow House, a Grade 3 Historic Building built in 1928; and Orange House, a 1958 building yet to be classified, are commonly referred to as the Blue House cluster.
According to the SJS, the refurbished units of Blue House will be rented out at market rates. People wishing to rent the refurbished units must have some background in community activities.
Twelve units will be offered for rent this year, while the rest will be rolled out after the external scaffolding is removed early next year.
Suki Chau Hei Suen, Group Project Officer of SJS, said the first unit from the Yellow House is expected to be available for moving-in in September.
Chau said the fees to be levied will be called royalties instead of rent, as the two parties will be regarded as partners, rather than landlord and tenants.
SJS will seek opinions from the Wan Chai District Council members before deciding on the fees.
William Leung Hoi-fung, a branch manager at Midland Realty, said rentals of the Blue House should not be compared to those of “Tong Lau” in the district, as the refurbished units come with lifts.
Leung believes Blue House units could command rents in the HK$40 and HK$50 per square foot range.
As those who can afford such rents have plenty of other choices in Wan Chai, Leung says the units in the Blue House cluster might appeal largely to foreigners, who might have a bigger interest in traditional architecture.
District Councilor Kenny Lee Kwun-yee said the Blue House units should be priced at least 20 to 30 percent lower than comparable units, as the project is not meant for profit-making, but rather an effort to enhance the buildings’ cultural value.
The SJS must lower the rents in order to lure artists and those who have an interest in culture, Lee added.
The Wan Chai District Council is set to meet in late July to discuss the project. Seven or eight tenants of the old Blue House have already been allocated flats in the refurbished Yellow House.
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