Proposal to convert old factories into temporary homes will not be practical

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2012, 12:00am


I refer to the report (''Convert factories into flats for poor'', June 26).

Property tycoon Henry Cheng Kar-shun has criticised the government's Community Care Fund, saying that it provides 'piecemeal' solutions.

However, his proposal to convert unused factories into interim housing is equally ill-conceived.

Factories were not designed for living. They do not contain enough toilets or kitchens. Nor were they built to provide privacy and comfort.

To make factories habitable would cost an obscene amount of money. What is more, the areas surrounding the unused factories are ill-suited as residential areas. There are few parks, markets or public places to gather in.

It is not enough to provide a roof over your head for the underprivileged; the government must also provide them with a practical way of living.

Another issue with converting factories into homes is transport. Residential areas, by design, are located near major transport routes to facilitate the movement of citizens.

Industrial areas, also by design, are located away from major transport routes to minimise the nuisance to citizens. If industrial buildings are converted into homes, how will residents travel and get to the places of work?

Also, factories are in industrial zones. How can families live in such unsuitable areas? Industrial areas are even more polluted than the rest of Hong Kong. Factories produce smog and industrial waste. The toxins would be detrimental to the well-being of the residents in these converted factories.

Even worse, the high volume of lorry traffic would pose a danger to families, especially those with young children. This is a problem in residential areas, but it would be even more serious in industrial areas simply because there are far more lorries.

All these problems aside, Mr Cheng's plan would have merit if taken further. Instead of converting unused factories, the government should demolish them and rezone the area around them. Other than providing a wholesome environment for the needy, constructing new apartment buildings would help many more people.

Old factories are at best about 10 floors high. Apartment buildings, however, have no limit in terms of height. Instead of helping dozens of families per building, the government could help hundreds.

Ho Kam-tong, Yuen Long