Special fire regulations to smooth conversion of flats
A set of fire-safety requirements will be tailor-made for Hong Kong's Housing Department so it can convert 744 vacant flats under the Home Ownership Scheme into hostels, the government said yesterday.
The Fire Services Department, the Housing Department and the Home Affairs Department held a special meeting to discuss how to draw up the special fire-safety rules for public blocks.
The Fire Services Department said it would work out the details, and proposals would be discussed at an inter-departmental meeting soon.
It will consider the layout of the Home Ownership Scheme flats when drawing up the safety requirements.
But Chris Law, a veteran architect, said the government proposal was unfair. 'The authorities should have a common guideline so everyone who wants to convert their building into guesthouses knows what they can do to upgrade their fire-safety facilities,' he said.
Mr Law said the requirements should be extended to allow owners of industrial or old buildings to upgrade them into guesthouses.
Bernard Lim Wan-fung, of the Chinese University's Architecture Department, said it would not be too difficult to upgrade fire-safety facilities, adding that the idea of converting Home Ownership Scheme flats into guesthouses should work and be able to attract foreign tourists, especially young backpackers,
'Imagine, you can stay in a typical Hong Kong flat and have an idea of how the people of this city live. This must be very exciting for many foreign tourists. The authorities have to install sprinklers in all the units, but the technical issues should be resolved easily,' he said.
Professor Lim said to make the guesthouses attractive, facilities such as car parks, gymnasiums, restaurants, lounges, TV rooms and internet services should be added to the premises. More bathrooms should also be installed.
Betty Ho Siu-fong, vice-chairwoman of the Conservancy Association and a town planner, said the government would not have many difficulties in changing the land use.
But she said that such a change would mean an over-supply of community services in the districts, such as schools, clinics, youth centres and centres for the elderly.
A Town Planning Board spokesman said it had not received the Home Ownership Scheme flat-conversion application and that the case would normally take two months to proceed.