Children living in squalid shared units are told they do not deserve public housing priority The Housing Department has rejected pleas from children living in flats shared by several families to give them financial aid or priority for public housing, saying they do not deserve special treatment. About 30 children and their parents who live in so-called 'partitioned flats' went to the Housing Department headquarters in Ho Man Tin. Ten of the children met Fung Ho-tung, the department's assistant director of allocation, to push their case for government rental subsidies. They were also seeking priority for public housing in urban areas, to allow their parents access to workplaces. But department spokeswoman Winnie Cheung Suk-fong said officials declined their requests, arguing that 39,000 families with children were waiting for public housing, and those living in partitioned housing should not have priority. However, they did agree with the suggestion to provide facilities to ease hardships experienced by the children, such as providing a community centre where they could do their homework. 'This was an opinion exchange session,' Ms Cheung said. 'We explained that this had to be a fair process because many people had needs for housing. So we cannot make special arrangements.' Ms Cheung said that those who had special needs could apply through the Social Welfare Department for 'compassionate rehousing', a speedier process for getting a public housing flat based on medical or social grounds. The Housing Department currently gives rental subsidies to the elderly and is considering it for other families as well. Yesterday's meeting was arranged by the Society for Community Organisation, which argued that the children could face mental health problems. Families living in partitioned homes are usually recent immigrants from the mainland. They pay about $1,000 or $2,000 to live in one or two rooms of a flat divided into up to a dozen other rooms, with one shared bathroom and kitchen. The government estimates that 30,000 children live under these conditions. Chu Tip-hung, a 12-year-old boy from Shamshuipo, was one of the children who met Mr Fung yesterday. Tip-hung moved from Shandong to join his father in Hong Kong seven years ago. He lives in a flat with 14 other people, including his parents and older sister, sharing a windowless plywood room with his sibling. He said he had to accompany his sister to the bathroom at night because she was scared of rats in the flat. 'I don't like it here,' he said. 'It's very hot and very dirty. I have to fight to use the bathroom. My neighbours yell at me when I watch television, saying that it is too noisy. I don't like them.' Sze Lai Shan, community organiser of the Society for Community Organisation, was also at the meeting. 'The department doesn't recognise that these children have special needs in housing,' he said.