New strategy urged on illegal structures
Patsy Moy and Susan Schwartz
Lawmakers last night urged the government to offer more professional and financial support to homeowners and speed up the removal of about 30,000 unauthorised structures across the territory.
Democratic Party legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip said many old buildings did not have an owners' corporation to organise repair and removal works and this had slowed down the clearance.
But it would only create unnecessary panic to building owners if the government simply issued warnings without providing further support, he said.
'Many tenants and owners of old buildings are elderly people who are ignorant and do not know what to do,' he said.
'Instead of issuing warnings alone, the government should provide them with professional support, such as helping them to find the professional to do the job.'
Cyd Ho Sau-lan, of the Frontier, said that to speed up the operation the government should pay the removal costs and then charge flat owners.
Chan Kam-lam, of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, said more staff should be deployed to the Buildings Department to carry out inspections.
The government has recently proposed increasing penalties for substandard or dangerous building structure by four to six times, but some critics say that is not enough and call for laws requiring regular maintenance.
Existing penalties include a maximum fine of $25,000 and up to three years in jail.
The proposals are among a package of amendments to the Buildings Ordinance to be introduced for Legco approval in October.
Individual property owners may also be prosecuted if they fail to co-operate with their building's management committee to remove unauthorised structures.
Architects and surveyors have called on the government to introduce compulsory building maintenance because the Buildings Department lacks the manpower to check all potentially dangerous buildings.
This year the department began a $57 million crackdown to inspect and remove 90,000 illegally built ledges outside ageing blocks, mainly in Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan and Shamshuipo.
The number of reports of dangerous buildings received by the department rose from 3,658 in 1997 to 6,671 last year. There were 1,110 cases in the first three months of this year.