Eviction fears behind rogue laundry

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 January, 2005, 12:00am

Tenants dry clothes outside estates rather than risk demerit points, say councillors

Fear of earning demerit marks - and ultimate eviction - is forcing public housing residents to dry their clothes on streets outside their estates, councillors say.

'People have taken to the streets to dry their clothes rather than have three marks deducted for violating estate rules,' Shamshuipo district councillor Tracy Lai Wai-lan said.

Under the Marking Scheme for Tenancy Enforcement in Public Rental and Interim Housing Estates, tenants can lose three marks for drying clothes in estates' public areas. Tenancies can be terminated when 16 marks are accumulated.

District councillors raised the issue yesterday after the Ombudsman delivered a savage criticism of government departments for failing to act on residents' complaints about washing being dried in public places in Sai Kung.

The councillors identified several estates where drying clothes in public spaces was common.

Ms Lai said that at one of them in her district, Fu Cheong Estate, residents dried their clothes and blankets in nearby streets because not enough sunlight shone into their apartments and they were not allowed to dry clothes in the estate's public areas.

'They hang their blankets and clothes in places the sunlight reaches, including handrails of bridges and fences outside the estates. I think it affects the district's image,' she said.

She supported the marking scheme but said it had not solved the laundry problem.

'They are not drying clothes in the estate but in the streets,' Ms Lai said. 'The government should plan specific areas in estates where people can dry their blankets regularly, particularly during winter and summer storage. Many residents cannot afford laundries.'

Wong Tai Sin district councillor Chui Pak-tai said some residents in his area were drying their clothes outside their estates to avoid breaking the law. But he said the situation was acceptable and the council had not discussed the issue.

'Since wind and sunlight come from the north, they choose the area facing north for drying,' he said, adding that Choi Wan Estate and Pak Fung House were major black spots.

Lee Cert-quinn, the Housing Department's chief housing manager [support services], denied the marking scheme had caused public housing residents to dry clothes in the streets.

'Even if there are clothes drying on street fences, it would be unfair to blame public housing tenants because the clothes may not belong to them,' he said.

Mr Lee said that in summer, his department opened estate spaces, including basketball courts, for people to sun their blankets and clothes.

Sai Kung district councillor Gary Fan Kwok-wai said: 'The problem has existed for a long time and residents have developed a habit of drying clothes on the streets.'

He said Metro City and The Pinnacle residential buildings near Po Lam MTR station were laundry trouble spots.