20pc in subdivided flats face life on streets
One in five families living in subdivided flats in the city's rundown districts could become homeless under a government crackdown, a coalition of concern groups has warned.
The activists urged the government to rehouse affected residents in public rental flats, and said they would camp outside the polling venue for next weekend's chief executive election to demand action from Hong Kong's next leader.
The coalition said members visited 200 families living in partitioned flats in Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, and To Kwa Wan last month and found that 20 per cent faced eviction because of the government crackdown on illegal building works.
The crackdown was triggered by public concerns after the fatal fire in Mong Kok last November, which left nine people dead. The victims were found collapsed on a stairwell shared by two blocks in which flats had been subdivided into tiny rental dwellings.
Labourer Raymond Ho said his family of four had lived in a partitioned flat in Sham Shui Po for five years, and although it was dangerous they had no other option but to pay the HK$3,000 monthly rent for their 90 square foot flat.
'The fire exit has been sealed off and converted into a flat. Of course we are afraid. We want to move but we can't afford to rent elsewhere,' Ho said. 'The rents for an average partitioned flat of about 100 square feet have risen to up to HK$5,000 a month. That would eat up almost half of our monthly income.'
Mrs Chan, 53, said she and her husband had twice been forced to move out of partitioned flats because of illegal conversions and the same could happen again because of the crackdown on the illegally subdivided Tai Kok Tsui factory building that is now her home.
She said the family might have to sleep on the streets after this month because she could not find another place to live.
Unionist lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung said demand for the flats was unlikely to abate.
'An inadequate supply of public housing has meant that demand for partitioned flats will remain high, and accordingly pushed rents higher and higher,' Leung said.
'It is not good enough just to clear all illegal partitioned flats and drive residents away. We should have a co-ordinated policy to ensure those evictees can find a decent place to live.'
Coalition spokesman Chan Wai-lim said: 'The government is not solving the problem, but making the life of needy families harder.'