Plan to raze flats 'not workable yet'
Activist calls for viable plan to house poor before tearing down subdivided flats
Ho Hei-wah (sitting) inside a sub-divided unit of 9 square meters in area
Tearing down sub-divided flats would be impractical and hurt the poor, despite a public outcry against them following two fires in the space of a month, says a Catholic social activist. A June 15 blaze that killed five people, and another on Monday night that injured 17, has led to calls for an end to this type of accommodation which are apartments sub-divided into smaller living spaces and are mainly occupied by the poor, new immigrants and migrant workers. A flat can be home to several families and are often found in multi-storey buildings such as the Chungking Mansions in Tsimshatsui, scene of Monday night’s fire. Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organization, admits these units are not ideal places to live, but a complete and immediate ban is not a viable option at present. “Property and rental prices are too high. Low income families, or those who are not eligible for public housing, are therefore forced to live in such places because they have no choice,” he said. He urged the government not to be hasty and come up with a viable alternative housing policy before introducing a wholesale ban. “People would have nowhere to go. Should we tell them to live on the street?” Ho asked. The government needs to pay more attention to economic and social changes as well as population and housing demands, especially among the poor, he said. In the meantime, improved safety in sub-divided flats, such as a limit on the number of occupants and the implementation of a proper fire code should be introduced, Ho said.