Controversial Richfield Realty is planning to hire a social worker to counsel residents whose homes it is taking over. Hundreds of social workers are up in arms and have launched a Facebook campaign against it. They are right to be angry.
Richfield is among several developers and acquisition companies accused of using heavy-handed tactics to pressure residents of old buildings to sell their homes. The companies' efforts have intensified since the government last year lowered the ownership threshold for forced auction of buildings older than 50 years from 90 per cent to 80 per cent. Ostensibly passed to help speed up urban renewal, it has triggered a gold rush for developers and acquisition firms.
Instead of rundown buildings in old districts, they are often targeting those with high market value in places like Mid-Levels and Ho Man Tin. These buildings may be old but are well-maintained. They add authenticity to their neighbourhoods. Longtime neighbours are being disturbed. People with no intention of moving are being forced to think about it.
Having a home should promote peace of mind, but now, woe to those being picked on by greedy developers and their lackeys.
Now, to soften the blow, Richfield offers social workers. To do what, exactly? Will the counsellor help those who already agreed to sell, or take on people who are refusing and try to convince them to change their mind? If the social worker gains useful private information from residents, will it be passed on to Richfield?
It's an intolerable conflict of interest. Richfield should be told to stop. More to the point, the government should revise the law and rethink its purpose.