Conversion of Industiral Bldgs to Loft Apartments (Nov 2002)
The Hong Kong SAR Government Planning Department initiated the Hong Kong 2030: Planning Vision and Strategy to develop the future long term planning policies for Hong Kong. As part of this policy study, the Government has suggested the possible conversion of under-utilized industrial buildings for use as loft apartments.
Based on the comments received, the Government has further examined the issues and feasibility of converting industrial buildings into loft apartments. The findings have been discussed at various consultation sessions and meetings with the stakeholders, including the real estate industry as well as the professional bodies.
It is understood that there is no definitive policy decision yet on this proposal and the Government is considering to undertake a pilot project, and also look at the issues of financial feasibility as well as implementation / enforcement.
The Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP) would like to express support to the undertaking of a pilot project as a means to assess the feasibility of the conversion concept, and to test out all the relevant technical issues for resolution.
The HKIP expresses appreciation that the loft apartment concept has demonstrated that a more flexible and innovative perspective could be undertaken by the Government towards the use of buildings and land use planning. This approach towards land use planning and re-use of the buildings should be further promoted.
Specifically, the HKIP would recommend the Government to consider the following suggestions:
Ÿ The proposed conversion of the industrial buildings into loft apartment provides an alternative route, in addition to the conventional redevelopment, to the owners to maximize the uses of the industrial buildings. This flexible approach towards the renewal and re-use of our built assets is supported by the HKIP. Of course, the choice and development decision will be subject to the investment decision of the owners and market forces.
Ÿ Although there are concerns from the real estate industry that this policy may create adverse impacts on the currently slow residential real estate market, the HKIP understands that the conversion can only be undertaken for buildings that meet certain criteria (ownership, location, land use impact, environmental impact, etc). Moreover, the timing of the converted buildings entering the real estate market may spread over a period of time. The Government should present more information on the estimated number of ‘potential’ conversion and number of flats to be created over certain time span.
Ÿ The HKIP suggests the Government to encourage the conversion to cover a wider range of specialty uses such as artist studios, home offices, exhibition galleries, etc.
Ÿ The pilot project should be undertaken based on a partnership between the owners and the Government. Interested owners could apply to nominate their buildings as a pilot project. The Government can carry out a detailed project design exercise to bring the conversion project to building plan approval stage. Through this process, the specific issues and the economics of the conversion project can be fully assessed and tested. Throughout this pilot project process, the various bureaux and departments in the Government should render their policy and operation support to the pilot scheme.
Ÿ Based on the pilot project, the Government should then undertake additional consultation before proceeding to formulating the final decision on the proposal of allowing conversion of industrial buildings into loft apartments.
Public Affairs Committee
Hong Kong Institute of Planners
4 November 2002