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LCQ3: Rehousing of residents affected by operations to eradicate domestic sub-divisions of flat units

Following is a question by the Hon Andrew Wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (April 26):
 
Question:

Since April 2012, the Buildings Department (BD) has been taking law enforcement actions against domestic sub-divisions of flat units (commonly known as "sub-divided units") (SDUs) in industrial buildings and the associated unauthorised building works. Affected households who need short-term temporary housing may be admitted to the Po Tin Transit Centre (Transit Centre) in Tuen Mun through referrals by the BD. If these households have stayed in the Transit Centre for three months, passed the relevant test and fulfilled the eligibility criteria for application for public rental housing (PRH), the Housing Department will arrange them to be admitted to interim housing (IH) while they are waiting to be allocated PRH. Regarding the rehousing of residents affected by operations to eradicate SDUs, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1) of the number of SDUs eradicated by the Government and the number of affected SDU residents who were admitted to the Transit Centre, in the past three years;
 
(2) of the current number and vacancy rate of IH units in the territory, with a tabulated breakdown by household size (i.e. one person, two to three persons, four to six persons and seven persons or more);
 
(3) whether it has drawn up any large-scale plan to eradicate SDUs; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether it has assessed if the current number of IH units is sufficient to meet the temporary housing need arising from such plan; if it has assessed, of the outcome; and
 
(4) as there are comments that while the Government has reserved a site of about 60 hectares in Penny's Bay on Lantau Island for the Phase 2 development of the Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL), the development is unlikely to commence before 2023, whether the authorities will discuss with the other shareholder of HKDL, The Walt Disney Company, allowing the Government to provide on that site, before the commencement of the development, IH for rehousing people affected by operations to eradicate SDUs as well as other people in need; if so, when the discussion will commence; if not, of the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

The fire risk in industrial buildings (IB) is much higher than that of residential buildings and composite buildings. IBs are definitely not suitable for domestic use. To ensure the safety of inhabitants and the public, the Government takes stringent enforcement actions to eradicate such use in IBs. All people affected by the Government's enforcement actions against domestic use (including sub-divided units (SDU) for domestic use) in IBs would need to find their own alternative accommodation.

Nevertheless, to ensure that no person will be rendered homeless as a result of the Government's enforcement actions, households who are affected by the enforcement actions against domestic use in IBs and have temporary accommodation need may, through the referral of relevant bureaux/departments, be accommodated in the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA)'s Po Tin Transit Centre (TC) in Tuen Mun. If these households have stayed in TC for three months, pass the "homeless test" and fulfil the eligibility criteria for public rental housing (PRH) including income limit, asset limit and "no-domestic-property" requirement, they will be admitted to Interim Housing (IH) while awaiting PRH.

In consultation with the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB), the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and the Buildings Department (BD), the Development Bureau provides a consolidated reply as follows:
 
(1) From 2014 to 2016, the BD has eradicated 84 illegal domestic premises in IBs. In these three years, 12 persons were admitted into TC of the HA as a result of the BD's relevant enforcement actions.
 
(2) IH and TC under the HA are transitional in nature. The occupancy situation varies depending on actual circumstances at different times. The HA reviews the demand and supply situation of IH and TC from time to time to ensure that they can cater for the needs arising from emergencies and government clearance actions.

At present, there are two IHs under the HA located in Shek Lei, Kwai Chung and Po Tin, Tuen Mun. As at March 31, 2017, the number of IH units and the vacancy rate are as follows:
  

 Flat Type  Number of IH Units Vacancy Rate  
 1 person  3 180  15.7% 
 2 to 3 persons  2 047  61.5%
 4 to 5 persons  243  70.0% 
 Total  5 470  35.2%
 
(3) The Government is aware of the recent public concern over building and fire safety, environmental hygiene, and law and order problems associated with SDUs. For SDUs that are not located in IBs, the Government's policy is not to eradicate all SDUs but to ensure their safety.

As stated in the Long Term Housing Strategy (LTHS) promulgated by the THB in December 2014, even though the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee's public consultation document had put forward a suggestion to introduce a licensing or landlord registration system to regulate SDUs, the Government noted that the community had expressed considerable reservations over the suggestion during the LTHS public consultation exercise. There were concerns that a licensing or landlord registration system would reduce the supply of SDUs and drive up the rents of SDUs, thus causing further hardship to SDU tenants. There were also concerns that a loose licensing or landlord registration system would compromise the safety of SDU tenants and residents living in the same buildings. Some property owners who were not SDU landlords were also concerned about the structural safety, environmental hygiene and building management of buildings with a large number of SDUs.

In view of the concerns expressed by the community, the Government has no plan to introduce a licensing or landlord registration system for SDUs. However, the BD will continue to take enforcement actions against irregularities relating to building and fire safety. If the BD’s enforcement actions involve relocation of tenants, it will closely liaise with the Social Welfare Department, the Home Affairs Department and the HD to provide suitable assistance for those who are affected.

As mentioned above, the HA reviews the demand and supply situation of IH from time to time to ensure that they can cater for the needs arising from government clearance and enforcement actions.
 
(4) The Hong Kong Disneyland Resort (HKDL) is a major component of the tourism infrastructure in Hong Kong. Pursuing the Phase 2 development of HKDL is one of the possible proposals of the resort's overall development in future that the Government and The Walt Disney Company will continue to explore. While the Hongkong International Theme Parks Limited has an option to buy the site planned for the Phase 2 development, the site currently can, in accordance with the permitted land uses under the Deed of Restrictive Covenant, be used for different short-term uses, such as recreational facilities and sports facilities, but not including residential use (e.g. IH). When considering such short-term uses, we need to take into account if such uses are compatible with the use and atmosphere of HKDL.

Ends/Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:15

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