A five-year plan to eradicate cage homes has been scrapped after the Government decided cage dwellers no longer needed alternative housing. The plan to house cagemen in multi-storey buildings was mapped out in 1998 when the Home Affairs Department estimated 2,000 cage dwellers would gradually be relocated after the Bedspace Apartment Ordinance came into effect last July. Five sites were designated as hostels for single people, providing 2,000 spaces. The sites were Rock Hill Street in Kennedy Town, Bailey Street in Kowloon City, the West Kowloon Reclamation Site, Fuk Wing Street in Sham Shui Po and Lime Street in Tai Kok Tsui. Director of Home Affairs Shelley Lau Lee Lai-kuen announced in 1998: 'I want to send a clear message to the unscrupulous cage-home operators who run their hostels like dog kennels. 'They are going to be kicked out of the market when there are alternative choices available.' But the plan was scrapped after the department decided the need for housing no longer existed. Only 46 per cent of more than 800 spaces in the existing hostels are currently occupied. Tenants have complained that the house rules - which include bans on smoking and limits on visitors - are too strict. A spokesman for the Home Affairs Department said the plan was only at an early stage when it was revealed in 1998 and it was to be assessed from time to time. 'We have observed that the living conditions of many bedspace apartments has improved to a satisfactory level, and many tenants are not interested in leaving their old homes,' he said. But veteran social activist Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation, disagreed. 'Look at the rising number of homeless people on the streets and the increasing number of families crammed into small cubicles. Can they still say that the housing need no longer exists? Many of them are living like dogs. 'If the problem has already been solved, why does the Housing Bureau have the headache of housing 250,000 single people in Hong Kong?' The department had washed its hands of the cage dwellers, he said.