Hong Kong’s subdivided flats are a health hazard and new prefab units can’t arrive soon enough

SCMP

After learning in March that temporary housing for the tenants of subdivided flats was not going to be ready until late 2019 (“Prefabricated social housing for Hong Kong’s needy may be completed by next September”, March 25), it was reassuring to see last week that an NGO has started the groundwork for building 90 prefab units in Sham Shui Po.

Designs for the units have been released, and the government’s Community Care Fund has approved about HK$36 million to the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, an umbrella group of welfare organisations. These homes are expected to be ready by the second quarter of 2019, with priority given to those who have waited for more than three years for public housing.

It’s still early summer, and temperatures have already climbed past record after record. Some tenants of subdivided flats, about 90,000 households, have had to spend the daytime in shopping malls to stay cool, and return to their cubicles for the night, still paying the 20 per cent surcharge levied by the landlords on the electricity bill.

Time is of the essence to get the tenants out of the health hazard and fire traps that most subdivided flats are. The 90 units going up are just a drop in the ocean. Let’s try modifying containers for sheer speed. Each 20-foot container already gives you over 160 square feet, which is about four times as large as the worst subdivided unit. Hong Kong’s health and welfare chiefs should take the lead.

Peter Lok, Heng Fa Chuen

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