To Kwa Wan residents may resort to court order in eviction fight

But chances of success are deemed slim as date looms for them to leave dangerous tenement

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 8:52am

Residents of an unsafe tenement block in To Kwa Wan may apply for a court order to stop the government from turning them out on Friday.

That was the most immediate option for the residents who had hit a brick wall with three government bodies in their eviction fight, said Kowloon City district councillor Pun Chi-man.

Their ordeal started on Thursday last week when the Buildings Department posted a notice telling them to move out in fewer than 10 days from 51 Kai Ming Street. The notice said the balconies of their 56-year-old flats were structurally dangerous and should be knocked down.

The elderly among them are also upset about a relocation offer by the Housing Department, which wants to move them to a transit centre in Tuen Mun. The department reiterated yesterday that this was the only temporary accommodation available. And at the Urban Renewal Authority, officials were unlikely to announce any decision on redevelopment within a week, a person close to the authority said.

The occupants are hoping the URA will redevelop their site, which would halt a closure order from the courts.

Pun noted the haste with which residents had been told to leave. "They haven't been shown sufficient evidence that they must leave in such a short time," he said, after meeting buildings officers. "So far, they haven't had a word of explanation apart from that it's 'dangerous'."

Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan, who is a lawyer, said the chance of obtaining a court injunction was slim.

"The judge would be most concerned about safety," he said. "They have to convince the judge that there are other options, apart from forcing them out, that can keep everyone safe."

Slicing off the enclosed balconies from the block would mean removing the residents' bedrooms and part of their bathrooms, as the balconies are so big that they take up at least a quarter of the space in the flats.

It is understood the Housing Department is reluctant to offer interim housing at Kwai Tsing or vacant flats nearby, as those are usually offered to people who are queuing for public flats. A person close to the department said interim accommodation was allocated to residents affected by a fire on Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, and by the collapse of a Ma Tau Wai Road tenement as their rehousing needs were more urgent.

Pun said he hoped the authority would step in as he was not optimistic that most owners of the neighbouring blocks, 21 to 49 Kai Ming Street, would agree to take part in a URA demand-led redevelopment scheme.

Even if the residents secure agreement from two-thirds of the owners, they must wait for their site to be selected for the scheme, a process that could take months.