One week to leave their homes

Residents stunned by news they will have to get out so their block can be made safe

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 3:22am

Shocked residents of a To Kwa Wan tenement building were yesterday trying to come to terms with the possibility that they would have to move out within a week.

The first they knew about it came in the form of a notice posted on the six-storey block at 51 Kai Ming Street yesterday morning, advising them that a closure order would be served by August 30 so that dangerous balconies could be removed.

Lam Po-ching, who is 80, was returning home yesterday morning with her shopping when she saw the news: she would have to leave the apartment where she's lived for nearly 40 years.

Lam lives in the fourth-floor flat with her son and three grandsons. "My eyesight is such a problem, I wouldn't want to leave my flat if they move me to another area," she said, referring to the government plan to relocate residents to temporary housing while the building is closed.

Lam said she had worried about the building being dangerous after metal pillars were installed for support following the collapse of a nearby tenement on Ma Tau Wai Road in 2010, claiming the lives of four residents.

Richfield Realty, a company which buys old buildings to redevelop, approached Lam in 2011 with a HK$4.2 million offer for her 900 sq ft flat. Lam signed an agreement but the sale fell through because the company didn't manage to get the minimum consent needed from flat owners in the building.

One of the enclosed balconies to be demolished, which Lam uses as a room, has a sloping floor and a deep crack is visible in the wall at the edge separating it from the rest of the flat.

Lam said the cracks in her flat got bigger more than a decade ago, when piling works were being carried out at a building across the street.

All of the flats in the tenement changed hands before 2010, Land Registry records show, except for one that was sold last year.

Another flat owner, who lives on the second floor, heard about the eviction from reporters yesterday afternoon when she returned home from work.

"I could see it coming," said To Sin-man, who lives with her husband and three sons. She added that she had not planned to stay long in the flat after the pillars were put in three years ago.

She said the building façade had been repainted with the help of the government's Operation Building Bright programme. Building Department records show drainage and sewage pipes were replaced earlier this year.

Nervous about the condition of the building and fearing that recently subdivided flats could only make matters worse, To said she was hoping her family could eventually move into a public housing estate.

The Home Affairs Department will hold a meeting of residents and shop tenants tonight to inform them of their living arrangements while the building is closed. It was not known whether Building Department officials would attend the meeting.