Hong Kong housing

Grandmother and disabled husband used to live in rooftop shack in Hong Kong – but housing scheme has given them new start

Typhoon days were the worst, 66-year-old says of roof that was pieced together with corrugated metal sheets

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 9:38pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 11:19pm

Christmas has come early for 66-year-old Grandma Tang and her wheelchair-bound husband, who will move into a newly renovated 260 sq ft flat next week.

The pair, along with their six-year-old grandson, used to live in a 100 sq ft rooftop shack on top of a nine-storey walk-up in To Kwa Wan, Kowloon.

Tang’s roof, pieced together with corrugated metal sheets, would rattle whenever it rained or got windy.

“Typhoon days are the worst. We get so scared of the wind and rain we can’t even fall asleep, we just hide inside our flat,” said Tang, who preferred to only be identified by her surname.

Tang is one of 20 families who are the first batch to benefit from a government-backed shared housing scheme, called the Community Housing Movement, launched in September.

The 20 renovated flats in Kowloon City, provided to charity Lok Sin Tong Benevolent Society by property developer Henderson Land for a nominal rent of HK$1, will temporarily house low-income families who are living in cramped, squalid subdivided flats while they wait for public housing.

The scheme, run by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, is part of a policy pledge by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to provide more transitional housing to alleviate the hardship of about 200,000 people who are living in subdivided flats.

More than 520 families applied to live in the 20 subsidised flats, which cost HK$2.5 million (US$320,000) to renovate. Most of the chosen applicants were three to four-person families, with an average income of HK$14,300 a month. A quarter of them have waited for public housing for more than six years.

Tenants will pay between HK$2,500 to HK$4,755 for rent on a two-year contract, which is around 30-50 per cent the average rent in the area. Those receiving government social security help will have their rent covered by government subsidies.

Tang said she is thankful for the change in environment.

“Walking up and down nine flights of stairs every day was too tiring. My husband barely went outside because he can’t walk … and now I also at least I can live in a flat where the toilet and kitchen are separate from each other,” Tang said.

Lok Sing Tong Benevolent Society’s chairman Eric Kwok Yu-won said the housing scheme was more than just providing a roof over their heads.

“Other than making sure they live in a safe, hygienic environment, we also hope that it will foster a sense of community by living together,” Kwok said.

Residents can use a communal area on the first floor and two ground floor shops will be reserved for a canteen and another social enterprise.

Property developers and individual landlords have provided a total of 408 flats to the council for the pilot scheme. At least 1,000 needy families are expected to benefit from the scheme over a three-year period.