Officials plan to help poor move out of factory flats
Scores of families living illegally in subdivided flats in Tai Kok Tsui's industrial buildings have been advised to move out for safety reasons by welfare officials.
The residents, who receive welfare and rental subsidies from the Social Welfare Department, said, however, that they could not afford to live elsewhere.
The department contacted about 20 families, and warned them against living in industrial buildings not approved for residential purposes.
'I used to live in Cheung Sha Wan, but the landlord raised the rent to HK$2,000,' said a middle-aged man who moved into one of the factory-converted flats in Tai Kok Tsui.
'And there was no way I could afford it. Low-incomers like me.'
'I'm worried about safety issues for sure, but it's all I can afford.'
Unionist lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung urged the government to increase rental subsidies for those living on social assistance, and to speed up the construction of public housing.
A welfare department spokesman confirmed officials had asked the residents to leave as soon as possible due to safety concerns.
The department would help the residents to move out, the spokesman said.
Also, the department is keeping an eye on changes in the private property market, and would adjust rental subsidy limits accordingly, the spokesman said.
The rent of illegally converted housing in factory buildings is cheaper than those of subdivided flats in old residential buildings.
About seven industrial buildings in Tai Kok Tsui have been identified as having subdivided flats.
A building on Bedford Road contains as many as 46 rental units, according to grass-roots organisations which help the poor.
Each of the city's older factory areas such as Kwun Tong, Tai Kok Tsui and San Po Kong have between 10 and 20 such buildings, and many are dangerous, according to the Society for Community Organisation.
Many of the flats breach the building ordinance, land lease agreement and fire safety rules.
The government, however, said it was hard to monitor the situation, let alone control it.
The organisation has suggested converting empty factory buildings into feasible housing for the poor to alleviate the housing shortage.