Penalty scheme has failed to deter public housing residents from old habit of hanging their washing in public areas Laundry continued to flutter in public places across the city yesterday as bureaucratic forces were massing to get rid of it. But a tour of housing estates indicates officials will have a tough task on their hands. A week after the Ombudsman delivered scathing criticism of government departments that failed to tackle the problem, it was laundry business as usual. Clothes were hanging to dry not just outside public estates but also inside them, even though this could earn the culprits demerit points, possibly leading to eviction. Some residents said they had no choice as drying areas in the estates were too small. Others said they had been hanging their washing outside for 20 years and had no intention of stopping. Despite the prevalence of the practice, and daily patrols by Housing Department officials, no one has been issued demerit points for laundry offences since a penalty scheme aimed at keeping public housing clean and hygienic was launched in 2003. Senior housing manager Yuen Keung-chau said 426 verbal warnings about airing laundry in public areas of estates had been issued. A written warning had been issued, but no tenant had broken the rules three times, which carries a three-point deduction. Losing 16 points can lead to eviction. 'If the officers spot people hanging their clothes in the public area, they will give verbal warnings. If nobody is there, the officers take the clothes to estate offices and wait for them to be claimed.' In Lower Wong Tai Sin Estate, the playground was draped with blankets, skirts and other items - about 30 in total - in defiance of a sign saying 'No hanging of laundry is allowed'. One woman said there was so much laundry because of Lunar New Year, a popular time to do washing. Other districts where washing was seen drying in estate public areas included Tseung Kwan O, Sau Mau Ping, Kwun Tong and Choi Hung. Tseung Kwan O resident Ester Wong said the district's image suffered because of it. The Home Affairs Department, one of the departments that felt the Ombudsman's wrath last week, said it was working with other departments on the issue. There would be more joint operations, but mainly in Sai Kung - the source of the complaints that caught the Ombudsman's attention as the problem was worst there, a spokeswoman said. No city-wide operation was needed because the overall problem was not as serious, she said. One Sai Kung resident who may not give up easily is 83-year-old Chow Lin. Hanging wet trousers on a rope outside Hoi Cheong Lau public estate, Ms Chow said she had been drying clothes in the same area for 20 years. 'The drying spaces provided by the estate are so small and very often, they are full when I get there,' she said. 'No one can take away my washing in the public area outside the estate.'