Public safety

No vacancies: guest houses not welcome in our blocks

Residents support government proposal to shut hostels in their buildings following deadly fire at Continental Mansion, survey shows

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 4:22am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 11:44am

For years, Lau Kwok-hung has been troubled by the proliferation of guest houses in the building where he has lived for five decades - but his voice was heard only when a deadly blaze broke out there last year, killing a Singaporean tourist and injuring 24 other people.

The fire at Continental Mansion, King's Road, North Point, sparked an outcry that unregulated guest houses were putting residents and tourists at risk.

Now Lau hopes that legal changes proposed by the government as a result of the fire will rid his building of the 14 guest houses that operate there.

"There must be a clear mechanism to make sure the will of residents is respected when it comes to the operation of guest houses in their building," he said yesterday, the last day of a two-month consultation on the proposed changes.

Lau was among 95 per cent of 350 residents surveyed by legislator Kwok Wai-keung, who supported the amendments.

The Home Affairs Department wants to tighten the 23-year-old Hotel and Guest House Accommodation Ordinance. It seeks to phase out about 200 guest houses in residential buildings where the deed of mutual covenant bans temporary accommodation or commercial activities.

The Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood echoed Lau's demands.

In its submission, the party proposed that residents' views be canvassed during applications for guest house licences.

An application should be granted only when at least 30 per cent of building owners consented, the party suggested.

The Federation of Hotel Owners supported tighter regulations over guest houses. It suggested the department should issue different types of licences to hotels and guest houses to give tourists clearer expectations of service quality and safety.

"Many guest houses call themselves hotels but fail to live up to their names," executive director Michael Li Hon-shing said. Under the existing ordinance, hotels and guest houses do not have different licences and there is no restriction on what can be called a hotel.