Elderly fear they cannot meet cost of home repairs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2007, 12:00am

Yeung Kwai-fong is supportive of the latest mandatory building inspection scheme.

But the 77-year-old only has one worry: she may become a victim of the project.

The retired seamstress owns a flat in a 40-year-old building in Shek Kip Mei that is plagued by water leaks and poor maintenance.

She borrowed HK$3,900 from the Hong Kong Housing Society to fix the inside of her apartment last year.

'The building is old and I know we owners should inspect it and do some maintenance work to it sooner or later,' she said.

'But I won't have enough money for it, for I also have to repay the loan in 36 instalments for my own refurbishing works.'

Her comments came as the government submitted the consultation paper to the Legislative Council's planning panel yesterday, outlining a plan to require buildings over 30 years old to be inspected every decade.

The Housing Society will subsidise the cost of the first building inspection and provide interest-free loans and grants to eligible owners.

But Ms Yeung said as the new proposal did not increase the amount of subsidy or grant given to needy owners, they would face the same problem of not having enough money to finance the maintenance work.

'I have only got HK$80,000 to HK$100,000 of saving which I use for food, medical consultations, the repayment of the loans and other things. I will not have much left for a big renovation project in the future,' she said.

Kwok Chi-yin, 75, who lives alone in a 40-year-old Sham Shui Po building, echoed her worries about spiralling costs.

'If I had the earning power, it would not be a problem to borrow government money to pay for the repair work,' he said.

'But for people who are retired, where can we get the money to repay the government?' he asked.

Iman Fok Tin-man, of the Society for Community Organisation, said elderly flat owners, especially those living in old buildings, would have real difficulty paying the amount required for big repairs.

'Many of the old buildings do not even have owners' corporations, which complicates co-operation among the owners as well,' she said.

She suggested the government provide more subsidies to the owners in need.

The activist added that extra resources could be allocated to allow social workers to help residents of old buildings to form owners' corporations.