• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 8:11am
NewsHong Kong

Buildings Department rethinks tenement plan

Residents still angry as they must leave homes for three weeks, with no promises of relocation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 August, 2013, 3:08am

The residents of a To Kwa Wan tenement deemed unsafe may be able to stay in their homes, but they will still have to vacate them for three weeks.

The Buildings Department acceded to residents' demands yesterday by postponing the demolition of what it classes as dangerous balconies, while the whole building is investigated.

But residents and shop owners at 51 Kai Ming Street are still angry at the three-week eviction to allow further investigation of the tenement's main structure. They vowed to defy the closure order to be obtained by the department today.

Urban Renewal Authority chairman Victor So Hing-woh visited the site yesterday.

If the authority steps in and compensates the residents in the next three weeks, they will not have to move until the whole block is demolished. If not, they will have to move back home and await the investigation results. The department's spokeswoman said the amended plan was a result of meetings with the residents over the past few days.

Under the new plan, buildings officials will defer the demolition of the balconies until they complete the investigation of the tenement's main structure. "If both are found dangerous, we can demolish them in one go. It will be less disturbing to residents," the spokeswoman said.

The revised plan also shortens the eviction period from five months to about three weeks as the department will just strengthen support of both the balconies and the main structure as a temporary measure. It will also separate the balconies from the main structure to prevent residents from using the fragile structures.

Wong Yuet-sau, who runs a laundry on the tenement's ground floor, said the government had mentioned nothing about how shop tenants would be resettled.

"I will not leave unless they carry me out ... all I have is here in the shop and my business is getting steadily better at last," Wong said, adding that she would open the shop as usual next Monday.

"I will lose all my customers even if the shop is closed for more than a week," she said.

One Kowloon City district councillor is also dissatisfied with the plan. "If residents are allowed to stay, why should they [the department] obtain a closure order?" Pun Chi-man said.

"Why can't we wait for the authority to step in and redevelop the site? The building could become even more dangerous after heavy machines are used to take samples."

The condition of two tenements with the same type of balconies at 21 and 23 Kai Ming Street are also poor.

A reporter who visited the tenements found that No 21 contained six flats but these were subdivided and housed 16 households. There were also three dwellings on the rooftop. At least three out of the six storeys were subdivided, adding extra stress on the 56-year-old building. At No 23, all flats except those on the fifth floor were subdivided.



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This article is now closed to comments

If CY Leung can somehow build 200000 flats for the middle and lower income earners very quickly, he will be able to shut all these protesters up. The thing is, as a government, he and his predecessors could not even take care of citizens' basic needs. Not sure whether he has no political will or is afraid of the property tycoons and bankers or worried about the banking system collapsing when property prices return to earth levels. To tell HK people that there is very little one can do but to pay HK$6-10K psf, at a minimum, if one wants to own a unit is pure nonsense. We are not all bankers or doctors. The protests are necessary to send a message not only to CY but to Central too that this place is not well managed. In short, if these leaders are afraid of this and that, why don't they just leave and let those who have marbles to LEAD. They have not and are not doing a good job. When compared to Singapore, the HK government is probably a D minus.
The way how the Urban Renewal (whatever current name is) conducts its business never impresses me – muddy and questionable lawful。 But on this To Kwa Wan tenement, the agency has come to my territory. My family in the early 60s lived right across the building which was a dormitory for a textile factory。 UR wants the current tenets be evicted claiming unsafe balconies. The balconies running full length on the street sides, from the picture are all walled up now. UR should show its claim with a report from a structural engineer with an assessment if those balconies could be repaired. I suspect the whole matter is about redevelopment and that is why UR wants everyone there out. It is laughable putting safety as negotiable. It is a high suspect for UR to claim the balconies are unsafe. Muddy and questionable lawful practice as usual still.
Well, that is their safety. If they want to put their lives in risk so be it but they should not put others also in line.


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