The partnership approach to urban renewal by the land development corporation in Hong Kong
Urban renewal in Hong Kong has a long history. However, the difficulties in land acquisition and rehousing had made most of the Government's urban renewal attempts unsuccessful. Moreover, urban renewal projects often caused citizen protest resulting in years of negotiations between the Government and the affected communities. On the other hand, piecemeal urban redevelopment by individual developers has always resulted in an undesirable "pencil" urban pattern which make long term comprehensive redevelopment more difficult. The Land Development Corporation (LDC) was established in 1988 to promote and facilitate urban renewal by means of utilisation of resources in the private sector (i.e. public-private partnership approach). This dissertation conceptualises that the fundamental causes of implementation problems for LDC's urban redevelopment projects in Hong Kong relate to the Mackintosh's concept of "partnership". Problems and issues arise when there are inequalities occur in the distribution of power among partners in urban renewal partnerships. The LDC's urban redevelopment projects without addressing this critical factor would eventually fail. With the increasing accountability to the urban planning processes, the Hong Kong Government can no longer ignore the significance of "community involvement" in urban renewal. The LDC's partnerships involve different parties such as property owners, private developers and different user categories as well as the Government. Their interaction may lead to conflictual interests through three major issues of partnerships: motivation of partnership, distribution of cost and benefits among the partners and the power relations between the public and private sectors in deal making. It has been possible to address these dilemmas using urban regime theory, the approach underlying this research. In this respect, two case studies of the redevelopment partnership projects examine the difficulties and the role of the LDC in promoting and facilitating urban renewal. In particular this dissertation is revealed that the popularity of the partnership approach faded away as quickly as it had become popular. The most important explanation is that under the existing Land Development Corporation Ordinance, the Hong Kong Government used the concept as an instrument to solve the financial problems in urban redevelopment processes. The Government was not aware of the social dimension of partnership. The concept can be applied in a successful way only if the relationship with private developers and affected residents is redefined. To address the LDC's partnership problems in a comprehensive way, a fundamental redefinition of the existing relationship between different stakeholders is proposed. Firstly, has to be based on the concept of the "Government-led" approach which requires reducing limitations in the current's Land Development Corporation Ordinance, and the successful of urban redevelopment could only be achieved through Government intervention. Secondly, a new Urban Renewal Authority (URA) with much wider jurisdiction, power and resource base than the existing the Land Development Corporation is recommended Thirdly, it is recommended that urban redevelopment must embrace a wider community agenda. This needs to relate physical redevelopment in a more equitable way towards wider economic, social and community concerns. Finally, the dissertation is concluded that the inclusion of community participation in administrative and legislative processes will definitely help to balance power amongst Government, the Land Development Corporation, private developers, and the affected residents in urban redevelopment process.