Cubicle flat prosecutions set for delay

Local | Riley Chan Jul 18, 2017
Criminal prosecution of landlords operating illegal cubicle flats in industrial buildings may be shelved until the government has a clearer picture of the problem, says Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun.

His remark came after the government proposed to strengthen enforcement action against illegal domestic use of industrial buildings. Criminal sanctions would be imposed on owners who use, or aid others to use, the premises for illegal domestic purpose, it was proposed.

Lawmakers voiced concerns over rehousing arrangements.

In a Legislative Council development panel meeting yesterday, Holden Chow Ho-ding of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong asked for the estimated number of people residing in industrial buildings, and whether there is sufficient accommodation in the transit center for all the affected tenants.

If tenants lose their homes due to enforcement action, they can be admitted to Po Tin Transit Centre in Tuen Mun through referrals by the Buildings Department while waiting for eligibility vetting for rehousing or looking for alternative accommodation.

If these tenants have stayed in the transit center for three months and passed the "homeless test" subject to fulfillment of eligibility criteria for public rental housing, the Housing Department will arrange for their admission to interim housing and application for such housing.

Wong said it was difficult to estimate the demand as Buildings Department officers cannot enter the cubicle flats in industrial buildings in most cases.

However, he quoted an estimate by the Society for Community Organization that as many as 10,000 people live in 1,800 industrial buildings.

"Despite the large number of people, previous cases suggested that not all the affected tenants would like to move to the transit center due to its location in Tuen Mun," Wong said.

The Civic Party's Kwok Ka-ki said a comprehensive approach for rehousing is needed before the proposal could get any support from lawmakers.

"As a secretary you have to make sure these people have a place to live before rolling out a policy, or you are just pushing them to homelessness," Kwok said.

Andrew Wan Siu-kin of the Democratic Party also called for inter- departmental efforts to work out a projection of the demand before taking legal action.

Wong said he will discuss with Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan working out a better plan for rehousing and submit a written reply.

He said he understood tenants would have to pay more for rent and transport after being moved out from industrial buildings, but safety should be a higher priority.

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April 2018