The Ministry of Land Management yesterday convinced another 13 White Building families to accept compensation packages and vacate the site ahead of a major redevelopment project, leaving just 28 holdouts who continue to reject the terms.
After a closed-door meeting with Land Management Minister Chea Sophara, the 28 remaining families said they were still looking to get higher prices for their apartments, with ministry spokesman Seang Lot saying he was confident the holdouts will be convinced soon.
“I am fully confident the remaining 28 families will not take a long time, and will probably sign the contract either this afternoon or tomorrow,” he said after the meeting.
The iconic but dilapidated structure is slated to be demolished and replaced with a 21-storey mixed use building that will be developed by Japanese firm Arakawa Co at a cost of around $70 million.
Of the 21 floors, 12 will be for Arakawa to sell privately, three will be used for parking and one will be for commercial use. Five floors of the new building had been set aside for residents who chose to return after the redevelopment, though so far, no residents appear to have taken up the offer, preferring instead to take payouts.
But building resident Em Buny, one of the remaining holdouts, said the government compensation offer of $1,400 per square metre was too low to find a new apartment in the city, despite her 48 square metres fetching around $67,000.
“My original demand was $3,000, and then we lowered it down to $2,000 per square metre,” she said, adding Sophara said yesterday no higher price would be entertained. “He told us if we talk about price, there was no point in talking.”
Fellow resident Chin Neath signed off on compensation for her 9 square metres five days ago, but only because she feared she would be forcibly evicted if she did not take the money.
“My neighbours told us that the ministry would clear our houses if there were only 10 families remaining, so I was very scared,” she said.
However, food vendor Srey Mao, who has a unit on the ground floor, lucked out. She said she was asked to sign over her 5 square meters, which would have fetched her only $7,000, but was secretly promised an additional $15,000 if she accepted compensation.
“I know it’s still hard for me to buy a house, but what can I do?” she said.
Hue Chenda, deputy director of the ministry’s housing department, was quick to defend the bonus, saying it was paid on compassionate grounds, and did not reflect policy.
“Because we know this family, [one is] disabled and it is very difficult to earn a living [for them],” he said, adding that some residents could start moving out as early as June 6.