Social worker to aid evictees for developer

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 June, 2011, 12:00am


First they upset people. Now they are looking for a social worker to try to soothe them.

In an unlikely marriage of interests, Richfield Realty, a developer widely criticised for tactics used to drive residents out of their homes, is looking to hire a social worker to counsel the very people it has displaced.

The development company confirmed yesterday that it is seeking to hire a social worker for its team. An advertisement for the job says the worker will be counselling people, specifically the elderly and those on low incomes.

The advertisement adds that the social worker will keep records of meetings with residents, and give the company reports. The advertisement does not say whether minority owners of buildings are likely to be consoled by the knowledge that their intimacies and opinions might be reported back to their tormentors.

In a statement, Richfield explained its decision by saying: 'Richfield very often comes across people who require special assistance, such as the elderly. They generally lack information about services and measures provided by the government. Therefore Richfield plans to hire a social worker additionally in order to understand their needs.'

April last year marked an exponential increase in the acquisition of pre-1960 buildings after the government passed a law enabling compulsory auctions if 80 per cent of owners agreed to sell - not the 90 per cent required before. The Buildings Department estimated at the time that 4,000 buildings could be affected by the change.

The move was seen as controversial because it favoured developers rather than minority owners who had been living in the buildings for a long time. It also sparked a rush among the acquisition companies working for developers to try to reach the new 80 per cent threshold to force the buildings to auction.

Richfield is one of many companies that has been criticised for heavy-handed methods of achieving this goal.

In October, the South China Morning Post reported that the company had created an atmosphere of intimidation by hanging large red banners over targeted buildings.

The company also played on fears about the structural integrity of older buildings after the collapse of a residential block in Hung Hom in January last year.

Four people died when the five-storey building, more than 50 years old, collapsed. Shortly afterwards, Richfield began displaying photos of cracked concrete in some of its shopfront acquisition offices.

Richfield is by no means the only company that is employing unorthodox methods to get minority owners out. Homeowners have complained of acts of random vandalism occurring after acquisition companies move into buildings.