The Urban Renewal Authority has stepped in and offered special cash subsidies to rooftop residents of a Sham Shui Po building who fought against eviction by a private landlord last month.
Announcing its latest redevelopment project yesterday, Ian Wong Wai-kuen, a director of the authority, said the families would receive one-off "urgent assistance" to help with relocation.
"The homes on the rooftop are a complicated legal issue," he said.
"We need time to sort out the property titles. But we will take care of those rooftop occupants no matter what," Wong said.
Thirteen families live on the rooftop of the 49-year-old block in Tung Chau Street.
Although they bought their homes at different times, the court earlier ruled that they did not hold title deeds to the property, and issued an eviction order after an application by a company who owned the top floor.
Court bailiffs aborted their action last month after a pregnant resident struggled against removal.
The subsidy, amounting to HK$24,000 for a one-person household and HK$56,000 for a five-person household, was intended to enable them to afford a year's rent in a small unit nearby.
They will have the option of getting public rental housing only if they can prove they had lived there before 1982, or they have special compassionate grounds.
Sze Lai-shan of the non-profit Society for Community Organisation, which helps residents, said redevelopment by the authority was a better option than by private developers. "They will get some compensation from the URA. They will get absolutely nothing in the case of a private redevelopment," Sze said.
One resident, Mr Leung, whose pregnant wife struggled with bailiffs and delayed the eviction, said he welcomed the urgent subsidy.
But his neighbour, Mr Wong, who lives with his wife and two daughters, was worried: "I have written proof that I bought this hut at HK$15,000 four years ago. Where can I go with the subsidy? It won't buy me a new home."
The authority has chosen the site under a "demand-led" scheme launched last year, under which block owners can invite the authority to redevelop the site if two-thirds of the owners are united in the request. The authority would formally start redevelopment if it can raise the majority to 80 per cent in the coming months. A second site picked yesterday is at 1-3B Kowloon Road.
Paul Ng Po-wah, an owner at the Tung Chau Street block who organised the application, said most of the owners wanted to sell their property for redevelopment, but the offers made by the several real estate agencies that approached them in the past few years were not attractive.
Richfield Realty, an agency that had approached the owners, confirmed it had already suspended its acquisition plans.