‘Govt, not NGOs, should build transitional housing’

A grassroot organisation has renewed its call for the government to build more transitional housing for poor families waiting for public flats, rather than leaving the task to NGOs.

The Society for Community Organisation made the call on Sunday as it showcased its modular transitional housing project, which will provide 140 units on a vacant plot at Ying Wa Street in Cheung Sha Wan.

The project includes flats that are up to 350 square feet each and could house four or more people.

But it’s spokeswoman, Sze Lai-shan, said transitional units of such size are rare, because they cost more to build, but non-profit groups get the same amount of government subsidy as building smaller units.

Sze said at the end of the day the government should take charge of building transitional housing, instead of just subsidising and letting NGOs do the work.

“They have more expertise in building such housing and they have the human and management resources,” she said.

She also noted that bigger families suffer more.

“The waiting time for public housing for those bigger families is longer than other families. It’s very expensive for them to have a bigger house. So once there are more members [in the family] but the [living] space is small, it would be harsher for them, especially for the children, who don’t even have space to do their homework,” she said.

Such sentiments were echoed by a woman who lives in a rooftop unit in Sham Shui Po with her husband and two young children.

The woman said her family already waited almost three years for a public flat.

“We may have to wait for a public flat for seven, eight or even 10 years, but our living conditions are really harsh. It’s so hot. The ceiling is made of wooden boards, and during hot days, they are too hot to touch. There is also water seepage. We are also scared that the boards would collapse during storms and typhoons,” she said.

Hong Kong families are now facing an average wait of 5.8 years for public housing.