Cubicle flats may be closed down today
The government will apply for a court order today to close units in an industrial building in Tai Kok Tsui that have been turned into illegally partitioned flats.
This is expected to be the first in a string of similar actions to stamp out illegal subdivided flats and clearing the occupied cubicles has been a taxing affair.
Social workers said the efforts in Tai Kok Tsui had been complicated by the landlord continually taking in new tenants up till just over a week ago. Up to three households remain in the partitioned cubicles at the building on Larch Street, which will be shut by police today if the court approves the government's application.
Around eight households are moving into government temporary shelters or hostels for singles, with another three living with friends or relatives. Most of them have moved into subdivided cubicles and rooms in other private tenement buildings.
In the past two months, social workers from both the Buildings Department and NGOs have been helping tenants apply for government subsidies and find alternative housing. Most of the 60-odd households in the building have moved out.
'We managed to pull through this time,' said Chan Siu-ming, a social worker with the Society for Community Organisation, adding it was a close call. 'But we can't cope with pulling out all our resources each time - the system will be overtaxed.'
Chan urged the government to develop a better placement method to help displaced tenants.
The Community Care Fund's one-off relocation allowance programme for subdivided cubicle tenants was also implemented for the first time; 35 applications were approved.
Chan said illegal housing in industrial buildings was an indication of the serious shortage of public housing. He said the government needed to understand that people living in these places were either not eligible for public housing or were still in the queue. Chan said without government relocation allowances, many tenants would not even be able to afford subdivided flats in private buildings, as those tend to be more expensive than factories and usually required bigger deposits.
Chan also said the operation had been messy, as the landlord - who rented the space from the building's owner - was still taking in new tenants just a week ago.
A spokeswoman for the Buildings Department said the owner was issued orders in September to discontinue residential use, as the space is only meant for industrial use. The department may take action against the owner for violating orders.
Legislator Lee Wing-tat said the landlord who sub-leased the partitioned units should be punished.
'[The landlord] is definitely wrong here, and should be held accountable,' he said. 'The government should find out where he violated the law, and make sure he is sued.'