• Wed
  • Oct 22, 2014
  • Updated: 1:02pm
CommentInsight & Opinion
LEADER

Hong Kong needs strategy for safe buildings

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 August, 2013, 3:11am
 

Indignation is to be expected when people are forced out of their homes, no matter what the reason. The occupants of a dilapidated building in To Kwa Wan are understandably upset that their flats were declared too dangerous to live in and have to be partly demolished. Worse, they were only given seven days to move out, after they ignored a maintenance order. One has to ask why residents and officials did not take more steps to avert the crisis.

The six-storey tenement building became structurally unsafe because for years the balconies were enclosed and subdivided into cubicles. It is among the 4,500 old blocks identified in safety checks prompted by the collapse of a tenement on Ma Tau Wai Road that killed four people in 2010.

The government has since erected emergency support to shore up the first-floor balcony, while ordering the owners to report on the structural integrity of the building. But high costs and the lack of a management committee to follow up meant no action was taken. Eviction could have been avoided had the residents attached higher importance to the safety threats and had government departments actively followed up on compliance at an early stage.

The residents are now lobbying the Urban Renewal Authority to rebuild the entire block. They have vowed to stay put, though the eviction deadline is today.

It's regrettable that the authority is being urged to step in at the last minute. The case underscores the lack of an overall strategy to tackle building safety. Redevelopment may be an option that pleases many, but it may set a bad precedent of rewarding owners who ignore maintenance. Many old buildings face similar problems. The authority has to justify why priority should be given to this case and avoid sending the wrong message, one that would encourage non-compliance.

The inspection of thousands of buildings is just the first step to improving building safety. It does not help if flat owners turn a blind eye to enforcement. It is done for their or for tenants' safety; it is their responsibility to take good care of their flats.

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This article is now closed to comments

johnyuan
The URA should stay out of eviction business. It's past and its current reputation lends poor credibility of its bulling tactic. If the building is legally identified as unsafe, eviction should be immediate and carry out by the Building Department with police assistance when necessary. URA stays out for your own good and the safety of the to be evicted.
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The caption should be 'Hong Kong needs strategy in unsafe buildings'.
 
 
 
 
 

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