Tiny toilets to get bigger as residents complain of elbow room when spending a penny

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 5:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 9:50am

Bathrooms with barely any elbow space will extend by 30 per cent under a government proposal to bring some relief to residents on a public housing estate in Tuen Mun, lawmakers have heard.

Works on the Po Tin Estate bathrooms, which residents describe as “inhumanely small”, cost up to HK$80 million and will take two to three weeks, pending approval from the Legislative Council’s housing panel next month.

“Each of the current bathrooms can barely be used by one person at a time,” unionist lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing said after inspecting the facility. “After the improvement works, it can accommodate two people.”

The Housing Department presented the plan to the panel on Tuesday after complaints of the 8.8 square feet bathrooms arose in April last year.

The estate was originally built as temporary accommodation for homeless people who were not eligible for permanent public housing. It comprises 8,736 flats measuring 88 to 305 sq ft. Many of the flats were turned into public rental housing in 2004.

Two-thirds of the residents had hurt themselves in their tiny bathrooms, lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said, citing a survey conducted by his New People’s Party.

Chan Han-sum, 81, has lived on the estate for nine years. And it had always been a pain to take a bath and wash her hair, she said.

“I have hurt my head and elbows many times before, when I turned around or picked up something in the bathroom,” Chan said.

The department said enlargement works on each bathroom would take 15 to 20 days. The costs were estimated at HK$60 million to HK$80 million, it said.

The works will begin in the next fiscal year if passed by the Legco housing panel next month.

The department had not thought of converting the estate into public rental housing use 13 years ago when it was built, senior maintenance surveyor Sam Shum Chi-hung said.

Wong called on the department to learn from its mistake. “Although interim housing estates intend to provide only temporary accommodation, I hope the department can be more people-oriented and avoid inhumane treatment of residents,” he said.