“Compulsory inspections of old buildings every five years is already foreseen by the law. The problem is that it is not being done,” the Secretary of the Land, Public Works, and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT), Raimundo Arrais do Rosário said in a response during a debate in the Legislative Assembly (AL) yesterday.
His answers were formulated in reply to Mak Soi Kun’s written interpellation on the deterioration of buildings that are more than 30 years old, by proposing that they be subject to compulsory inspections.
The majority of the edifices in question concern low-rise buildings up to 25 metres, and usually lower than seven-storeys high, which the legislator claimed are in a “chaotic situation” and exist as a “time-bomb” ready to explode at any time.
According to legislator Ng Kuok Cheong, there are currently some 4,600 buildings in Macau that are more than 30 years old. Of these, some 3,000 are low-rise buildings.
One of the responses of the Secretary concerned the ways the government could enforce and apply measures, such as financial sanctions, to encourage property owners to abide by the law.
“Resorting to the general regulation of urban construction would be one way of doing this,” the Secretary said in a response to legislator Au Kam San.
“We have the financial resources, but we depend on the owners’ requests. In addition, we also have the problem of illegal constructions, which we cannot ignore,” the Secretary added.
In line with the policy on the maintenance of old buildings, and the related fund created in 2007, the government provides up to 30 per cent of the total amount necessary to pursue renovation work.
The remaining 70 per cent falls under the responsibility of property owners and property users.
“In 2009 or 2010, we conceded some MOP120 million through the [building maintenance] fund. But last year, we only allocated some MOP20 million, because we are waiting for the requests,” the Secretary said.
Rosário added that the government is open to negotiating the percentage which it can make available from the fund, but said that it won’t pay the total maintenance costs.
“The government won’t pay 100 per cent. Building owners and users have to co-participate. I already gave a clear response in that regard. For a private property, it is not correct that the government pays 100 per cent,” he claimed.

Whose responsibility?
“According to the current legislation, the owner can pursue renovation work in his or her own house, but in order to renovate the façade, they need to get the approval of two tiers of the general assembly of building users,” the Secretary recalled.
The problem of responsibility as it relates to the regular inspection of old buildings boils down to two fronts, the management of common areas of condominiums and a lack of a centralized ‘voice’ to be channelled through the general assembly of building users.
“The government has been encouraging meetings of general assemblies of building users, but if there is no definition about a compulsory rule in that regard, we should not advance with it. We should work for both the low and high-rise buildings to create their own assembly,” suggested legislator Ho Iong San.
Essentially, several legislators agreed that the problem concerns the agents who should be held responsible for requesting the inspection, and that the matter could be smoothed out if the general assembly of building users was enacted on a compulsory basis.
“It is important to encourage the association of building users to create a general assembly,” said Angela Leong On Kei, adding that “the government should also create conditions for enabling regular inspections of those buildings.”
Ella Lei Cheng agreed that the question in Macau “has to do with the common areas and the individual parts of a building,” suggesting that the government should “define complementary measures to advance the matter.”
Following in that line, legislator Fong Chi Keong recalled that the law on the administration of the common areas of buildings will be enacted in less than a year from now, asking “if it could be used” for the purpose of facilitating the inspection work.

Raising awareness
Linked to the problem of creating efficient mechanisms for building maintenance, is the question of promoting the bill and raising awareness of the importance to pursue regular inspections in order to avoid hazardous situations to residents.
“We all agree that it is necessary to enhance the work of raising awareness,” Rosário said.
At the core of the question, illegal constructions, which are typically found in old districts of Macau, remain a problem, because they hinder people from seeking support, technical or financial, from the government.
“Currently, we send more than a 100 notifications per year and we act immediately when there is an immediate threat from illegal constructions to residents,” said the Director of DSSOPT.
In reply to Ella Lei Cheng about the government’s capacity to comply with more regular requests for inspections, Rosário said that there is enough technical personnel, claiming that “all we need is a registered engineer.”