Five families living in a converted factory in Tai Kok Tsui are on the verge of being evicted because its owner has been ordered to demolish their homes as part of an official crackdown on illegal structures.
The families living in the ageing property at 67 Bedford Road have been granted a last-minute reprieve, but fear homelessness could be just around the corner. Money problems mean renting legitimate living space in the area - where rents can be double the HK$3,000 they pay at present - is out of the question and the long queue for public housing only compounds their problems.
'I'm not asking for much - I just want a place to live,' said resident Chin Kwai-lam, whose family of five faces eviction. Chin said that about 10 days ago the building's owner sent construction workers to dismantle their homes. The police were notified and with the help of social workers the tenants were able to negotiate a temporary stop to the demolition. They were given a reprieve, for an indefinite period.
Chin's neighbour, Liang Fawei, said: 'No one wants to live here [in illegal factory flats] if given the choice - this place is dangerous and filthy. But this is the cheapest place.'
Liang works at whatever job he can find - from construction to cleaning - to support his family.
A spokeswoman for the Buildings Department confirmed that a removal order - asking the owner to demolish unauthorised building work - had been issued.
Sze Lai-shan of the Society for Community Organisation criticised the government's lack of preparation. The organisation and tenants living in factory flats met members of the Legislative Council yesterday to lodge complaints over the lack of adequate housing.
'Ultimately, the issue can only be alleviated by a long-term measure - increase in public housing,' said Chan Siu-ming, another community organiser for the society.
The government's public housing slots stand at 15,000 a year, but lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said she hoped this would rise to 25,000.
A spokesman for the Housing Department said there were no special measures in place for cash-strapped families evicted from their homes.