Toilets may be a welcome relief for their users, but the bathrooms on the Po Tin Estate, a temporary accommodation facility that's been turned into a public housing estate, are giving its residents a pain in the backside.
"With a bathroom like this, I don't know how I'll be able to take a shower when I'm even older," said 72-year-old Wong Chong-choi, a resident of the Tuen Mun estate for six years. "I can barely move in the bathroom, never mind fitting in a helper to assist me in future."
"You towel yourself in the bathroom only if you want to get bruises," said 51-year-old Flora Chow Kwai-fong. "I don't mind doing it in the living room because I live alone. But what about other families?"
About 40 of the estate's residents protested outside the Legislative Council yesterday before its housing panel met to discuss how to improve living conditions on the property.
The estate - originally built as interim housing for people awaiting government flats and made into public housing in June 2004 - comprises nine 28-storey blocks whose 8,736 units measure from about 90 sq ft to 300 sq ft. The bathrooms are as small as 10 sq ft.
"The government should immediately change the layout [of the bathrooms]," said lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun of the New People's Party.
The Housing Department said relocating wash basins and repositioning showers had started in 2006, but that this was the limit of the work that was possible, even though it said the bathrooms were not up to the standard it would normally provide in public housing.
"If you change a wet area and expand it, you have to make sure the area is watertight," said Duncan Pescod, permanent secretary for transport and housing. "From a technical point of view, it's just not feasible."
Pescod, also director of housing, said demolishing the estate for redevelopment was not an option as there were not enough units to reallocate to its residents.
Before moving into the units, tenants had to sign documents waiving their right to apply for alternative public housing because of the size of the bathrooms. But the department said it would consider transfers for those with genuine difficulties.
The panel yesterday passed a motion requesting for the department to submit a feasibility study on how bathrooms on the estate could be enlarged.