Buildings Department rethinks tenement plan
Residents still angry as they must leave homes for three weeks, with no promises of relocation
Olga Wong and Samuel Chan
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.