Following is a question by the Hon Li Kwok-ying and a written reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (November 22):
It has been reported that the owners of a factory building have illegally converted the rooftop of the building into suites for rent. The authority concerned has issued warning notices to the owners and registered charges against the properties with the Land Registry. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has followed up the progress of the removal of the rooftop tenants concerned; if so, of the latest situation, and the assistance offered to them; and
(2) whether it has immediately conducted investigations to see if other factory buildings have similar illegal conversion problems; if it has not conducted such investigations, of the reasons for that, and whether insufficient manpower is one of the reasons; if it has conducted such investigations, the result of the investigations and whether it has required the owners concerned to remove the illegal conversions in accordance with the relevant legislation; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to the two parts of the question is as follows:
(1) Regarding a case recently reported by the media in which unauthorised rooftop structures (URSs) for residential uses were found in a factory building in San Po Kong, investigation conducted by the Buildings Department (BD) has revealed that the owners concerned have not followed the warning notices issued earlier by BD to remove the unauthorised structures. As such, the BD is considering the issuance of removal orders under the Buildings Ordinance to request the owners concerned to remove the unauthorised structures within a specified period. Otherwise, the BD will take further enforcement action.
In accordance with established policy, the affected occupants who have urgent housing needs will be provided with temporary housing in transit centres. After three months of stay, if the occupants are confirmed to be homeless by the Housing Department and satisfy the criteria on income and asset limits as well as other conditions specified under the Waiting List, arrangements will be made for them to move into interim housing units.
(2) The Lands Department (LandsD) conducts inspections of factory buildings in various districts from time to time. If URSs are found during inspections, the LandsD will refer the cases to the BD immediately for follow-up action. During the year (up to September), the LandsD conducted 1,588 inspections of factory buildings, and identified 21 cases of URSs. The LandsD accords priority to cases in which the unauthorised structures constitute an imminent danger and takes immediate lease enforcement action. As for other cases, the LandsD will issue warning letters to the owners concerned, demanding them to stop putting the said premises to unauthorised uses.
In addition, the Fire Services Department (FSD) also conducts inspections of industrial buildings (including factory buildings and godowns). During the year (up to September), the FSD conducted 2,153 inspections of industrial buildings. If URSs are found during inspections, the FSD will refer the cases to the BD for follow-up action.
During the year (up to September), the BD carried out investigations into cases of URSs found in 15 factory buildings, and a total of 34 removal orders were issued. Among them, five orders have been complied with and the owners concerned have removed the unauthorised structures by themselves. During the same period, the BD also initiated prosecution against the owners concerned in two non-compliance cases, and the courts have imposed fines on the offenders.
Ends/Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Issued at HKT 12:41