Fire victims burned out of homes face bleak prospects

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2011, 12:00am

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The threat of homelessness still looms over some residents displaced by last week's deadly Mong Kok fire.

The blaze in Fa Yuen Street on November 30 left nine people dead and 34 injured. Five people are still in hospital, with three in critical condition.

Families of those who died will receive charitable donations of HK$300,000; those affected by the fire will receive HK$60,000 or more.

More than 120 people affected by the fire have moved into interim housing on the Shek Lei Estate. However, not all are eligible for compassionate rehousing or public housing. Many will be forced to move back into subdivided flats once the three months of interim housing is up, as that is all they can afford.

'I'm not sure where we'll go after three months - we'll be trying hard to hang on to Shek Lei Estate because I'm not moving back to Fa Yuen Street,' said one man, who lived with four family members in a 100 square foot subdivided flat. His family is not in line for public housing.

'We can't go back there - we can't live in a place where so many people have died. We won't move back there,' he said.

At a Legislative Council meeting yesterday, pan-democrat lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung said: 'Many of the fire victims are not eligible for public housing or compassionate rehousing. So what will happen to them after the three months is up? Move back to similar subdivided flats?

'Most people live in subdivided flats not because they want to - they just don't have much choice.'

Leung asked the government to consider adjusting its housing and land policies to enable more people to apply for public housing, and to build more public rental flats.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the secretary for development, said letting those living in subdivided flats go to the front of the queue for public housing would be unfair to those who have been waiting patiently in line.

'To allow fast-tracking will cause other problems - like people moving into unsafe subdivided flats as a way to get public housing faster,' said Lam. Subdivided flats were the product of a combination of problems, she said, not something that public housing alone could solve.

Legislators at yesterday's meeting blasted the government for giving perfunctory answers to concerns they raised about fire safety. They accused it of glossing over the dangers of cubicle flats and old buildings, which the government vowed to address after a deadly fire in a subdivided building in Ma Tau Wai in June.