Living conditions in Hong Kong’s subdivided flats have failed to improve over the past five years despite a series of measures designed to protect vulnerable tenants from exploitation, a pressure group has revealed. A survey by the Kwai Chung Subdivided Flat Residents Alliance released on Friday found that tenants still complained about squalid conditions, including infestations of cockroaches and rats, regular power cuts and living spaces with no windows. Yung Yik moved from Mong Kok three years ago after the owner of his previous flat increased the rent from HK$4,800 to HK$8,200 per month. Rent control law fails to help tenants of Hong Kong’s subdivided flats: survey He at present lives in a subdivided property in Kwai Chung with a rent of around HK$4,000. Yung, a single man, said the conditions in the flat were very poor. “In my kitchen the ventilation fans are broken. In the toilet, the water flows backwards. The walls are mouldy,” he said. “Cockroaches and rats can sometimes be seen as well. “And, most significantly, there are power disruptions every day. I have bought seven stoves in three years already as the disruptions damaged them.” Alliance member Kenny Ng Kwan-lim said that government policies such as rent control, allowances and transitional housing had been introduced since the group carried out its first survey in 2017. “However, the living conditions of residents did not improve. So we decided to review the situation again this year,” Ng said. The alliance interviewed 202 people living in subdivided properties between June and July and found no significant changes from five years ago. The alliance found in 2017 that the average living space per person among 204 families surveyed was only 50 sq ft – about the size of three toilet cubicles or half the size of a standard parking space. The latest survey included a bigger checklist of living standards than that used five years ago, up from 10 items to 30. More detailed questions were asked that covered areas such as individual sleeping spaces, terms in the lease that outlined the responsibilities of flat owners and functional windows. The survey found the main priorities for residents in subdivided flats were separate kitchens and toilets and clean and safe living areas. A fifth of Hong Kong’s subdivided flat tenants ‘could be overcharged for utilities’ Those surveyed also wanted to have more precise information in their leases on utility charges, such as water and electricity. The alliance found 96 per cent of interviewees said they wanted individual utility meters to prevent landlords from overcharging for water and 90 per cent wanted a separate shower rather than one merged with a makeshift kitchen. And nearly 90 per cent of tenants asked for working ventilation fans and no water seepage from ceilings. Government statistics from last year showed that about 226,000 people were living in about 100,000 subdivided flats. Many had been in substandard accommodation for years, as they could not afford better or were on long waiting lists for public housing. Fears Hong Kong’s subdivided flat rents will rise before tenancy law kicks in Hester Ho Wai-hing was among them, as she lives in an area similar to a storeroom that costs her HK$4,000 a month. “There was no window in my room, so we were forbidden to cook in it,” she said. “The weather was hot recently. I have allergies all over my skin, which was frustrating.” The alliance appealed to the government to set up task forces to research the problem of subdivided flats and to better coordinate the work of a variety of departments to improve living conditions. The pressure group said that laws should also be amended to standardise living conditions in the city. They added that they hoped to see more emphasis on housing in Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s first policy address in October.