Inflated flat sizes set to be punctured

HONG KONG: Proposals to tackle developers who inflate the size of flats by including green features and common areas were announced by the chief executive.

The government proposes forcing developers to use saleable area — which excludes bay windows, air-conditioning plant rooms and other common facilities — as the only basis for listing the price per square foot.

It also proposes shrinking the size of bay windows in flats and capping the size of green facilities to enhance a flat's efficiency ratio and to improve neighbourhood ventilation by controlling the scale of residential developments. A flat's efficiency ratio is decided on by dividing saleable area by gross floor area.

The proposals, which have been opposed by developers, are welcomed by green activists. But the Hong Kong Institute of Architects is disappointed that bay windows — taking up more than 5% of a flat's area and increasing the indoor temperature — have not been removed from the policy offering gross floor area concessions to developers.

Flat sales practice is confusing under existing policy, as developers announce flat prices in terms of both saleable area and gross floor area. The per-square-foot price in terms of gross floor area, often used by developers, appears cheaper as gross floor area includes bay windows and other common facilities shared by owners. Prices expressed in saleable area appear more expensive, as they include only balconies and utility platforms. Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said on Wednesday, Oct 13 that the housing bureau would set up a steering committee to consider regulating the sale of new flats by law, including requiring price lists to be expressed in saleable area only.

The bureau will also require developers to specify each common facility counted as a flat area..

A revised Development Bureau policy would impose a cap on green features and amenity facilities that are exempted from the gross floor area calculation. Developers are not required to pay land premium for most of these facilities but currently charge buyers for them.

The new policy proposed on Wednesday, aiming to avoid oversized developments and which would be applied to building plans submitted after March next year, would reduce the thickness of prefabricated walls by half, cut the size of bay windows by 80% and reduce clubhouse area from 5% of domestic areas to 2.5%.

Only half of the car parking space would be exempted if these are sited above ground. Full exemption would only be granted when underground parking space is considered infeasible.

In the case of Lohas Park in Tseung Kwan O, the building height would be reduced by about two storeys and the efficiency rate of a flat would rise from 76% to about 80% under the new policy. — South China Morning Post
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