Clock ticks down on mass eviction from old To Kwa Wan building

Eviction order to be served on entire block on Friday unless residents can rally support to force property onto URA redevelopment list

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 7:45am

Residents of a building in To Kwa Wan are racing against time to avoid eviction from their dangerous tenement by Friday, banking on possible support from the Urban Renewal Authority to redevelop the site.

Spirits were lifted at the six-storey, 56-year-old block by news that the owner of nearby block No 45 was open to redeveloping that building, Kowloon West lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan said yesterday.

Will the building survive if its balconies are sliced off? It's uncertain. The elderly residents paid a lot for the last building renovation. They can't afford more
Kowloon West lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan

Agreement from that owner would help the residents reach a majority consensus on an overhaul, piling pressure on the authority to step in, Wong said.

That might in turn halt the Buildings Department's attempt to secure a closure order from the courts that would allow it to remove all the balconies, which account for a quarter of each flat's size and are structurally dangerous.

Subdivided cubicles abound on the enclosed balconies and are believed to be a major reason the structures are fast deteriorating, engineers and surveyors say.

Wong said redevelopment was the best solution.

"Will the building survive if its balconies are sliced off? It's uncertain," she said. "The elderly residents paid a lot for the last building renovation. They can't afford more."

Last week, occupants of all 14 flats at 51 Kai Ming Street, many of which are subdivided, were told in a department notice to move out by Friday, when the closure order is due. The government intends to resettle them in interim housing in Tuen Mun.

Yesterday, members of Wong's Democratic Party were gathering more information, including pictures and videos that showed the poor interiors of neighbouring blocks for the authority's consideration.

They aim to help residents join the authority's demand-led redevelopment scheme, under which any site to be revamped must measure at least 400 square metres and the plan must have the backing of at least two-thirds of the property owners.

Wong said preliminary checks showed close to 80 per cent of owners of flats in buildings from 21 to 51 Kai Ming Street wanted redevelopment.

It is understood that the owner of block No45 owns more than one building in the street, which URA advisers have proposed for priority redevelopment.

"Another option is that the authority should initiate the redevelopment after assessing the building and social conditions there," Wong said.

Wan Shu-kau, who is in his 70s, is a long-term resident of the street and lives at No33. He said redevelopment was long overdue. Wan said he paid about HK$40,000 a few years ago for URA-subsidised renovations that did not fix all the problems.

"I would be more than happy with redevelopment," he said.

The department said it might postpone the order to allow more time for relocation.