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Residents in subdivided flats will suffer the most as Hong Kong’s summers become hotter, former forecasting chief says

Poorly ventilated and cramped housing will put residents at risk and temperatures in the city continue to rise

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 September, 2017, 8:31am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 September, 2017, 8:31am

People living in squalid and poorly ventilated subdivided flats will suffer the most as Hong Kong summers become significantly hotter, a former director of the Observatory has warned.

Lam Chiu-ying said there had been more “warm nights” – when the minimum temperature reaches at least 28 degrees Celsius – over the past few decades as the city became more built up and buildings got taller.

Up until the 1960s, for example, there were fewer than five such warm nights a year, according to an Observatory study.

By 2000, the average number spiked to 20. In 2015, the number reached a record high of 37 nights. Last year, there were 36 such nights.

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Lam said it was projected that there could be 150 such nights by the year 2100.

“Personally speaking, I’m most concerned about the temperature becoming hotter,” Lam said during a TVB programme broadcast on Sunday. “I’m worried that the grassroots people and those with long-term illnesses living in subdivided flats will face a hot, humid and stuffy environment.”

According to government figures, there were nearly 200,000 people living in some 88,000 subdivided flats in 2015. About 57,100 of those households – 65.2 per cent of the total – lived in units from 75 sq ft to 140 sq ft.

Lam suggested that the government give each household living in these tiny flats two USB-powered fans to create cross ventilation. He also urged owners of subdivided flats to install an exhaust fan in the buildings’ corridors.

He said the government should have a comprehensive housing policy to solve the problems brought about by subdivided flats.

Last week, the government appointed a task force set to look for ways to increase land supply, consisting of professional and academic members from different fields.

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But Lam said he was disappointed that the panel did not include professionals from the environmental and ecological fields. The only two environment-related experts – Professor Lam Kin-che and Professor Ng Cho-nam – teach geography, which Lam believed would not be sufficient.

Lam was also unhappy that some members on the panel had been promoting controversial projects such as large-scale reclamation and country park development, even after their membership had been announced.

“The government has said that citizens would be consulted with future land supply options chosen by the committee after discussion, so whether members are objective enough will very much affect the eventual options,” Lam said.

He urged the committee to engage the public in the selection of land supply proposals before starting any detailed studies of the proposals the public preferred.