Shopkeepers worried by selling-off proposal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 July, 2003, 12:00am

When Chung Yat-ming heard of the Housing Authority's plan to sell its assets, he feared for the future of his clock and watch repair business in Lok Fu Shopping Centre.

But Mr Chung said he believed the authority's management had a 'human touch', citing the rent concessions it had approved in the past few years.

His monthly rent has dropped from $5,800 in 1997 to a post-Sars level of $2,800.

He said the authority had shown leniency when it came to enforcing its rules, as its officials had allowed him to store equipment outside his shop area.

Mr Chung said he believed it was this kind of treatment that had enabled him to stay in business for 20 years.

'When shopping centres become monopolised by private interests, these good things will disappear,' the 44-year-old said. 'They will only care about monetary benefits.'

Fellow shop owner Leung Chi-kin, 48, was lost for words when he heard the news. He is having trouble making ends meet, even though his monthly rent is only $3,000.

Since starting his toy and stationery business a year ago, he has held out for a change in the business environment but his hopes have been shattered by the sell-off plan.

'People are already having problems surviving and I doubt whether any private developer will be able to secure tenants with an expected rise in monthly rent,' he said.

'The Housing Authority only cares about balancing its books after the sales of public housing were suspended.'

He said his prospects were bleak as he would find it difficult to get back into the job market.

'If I could find a job it would probably be better than staying here,' Mr Leung said. 'But I was laid off from a garment factory two years ago and my skills are no longer wanted. Now I am in a real dilemma.'