Residents fear being pushed out by Mong Kok overhaul

The Democratic Party on Sunday urged the government to try to ensure people affected by the major redevelopment plan for Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok can stay in the area, saying many could have a hard time adapting if they are relocated elsewhere.

It said officials should enlist the help of private developers over rehousing those affected by the blueprint unveiled by the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) in September aimed at making the district more liveable and sustainable.

The proposed plan covers 212 hectares, and more than 3,300 buildings.

The URA intends to set up five development nodes in the research area, including the revitalization of the Mong Kok market area and the relocation of wholesale operations of the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market. An existing nullah would also be opened up into a waterway park.

The Democratic Party said it interviewed more than 300 residents who will be affected by the proposals, adding that more than 90 percent of owners and tenants it spoke to said they wanted to be rehoused in the same district.

“Many of them have lived in their flats for over several decades, so they are mainly elderly…[it will be] very hard for them to adopt a new environment in other districts,” said Leo Chu, the vice chairman of the Yau Tsim Mong District Council.

“Many of our respondents are ethnic minorities: they have their established community within the Yau Tsim Mong District,” he added.

Chu acknowledged that it would be hard to find flats within the same areas for all affected residents given the high population density.

He said the government should look to private developers to help with relocating those affected, asking them to reserve some of their flats in the area for the project’s rehousing needs. He noted that flats built by the Urban Renewal Authority won’t be enough to meet the expected demand.

Chu’s party also called on the authorities to release a timetable for the mega project as soon as possible, noting that the plan had already affected some residents’ decisions on maintenance and repair work for their homes.

“In our survey we found that actually some owners they’re very hesitant if they can foresee their buildings will be developed within a decade. So they’re not very interested to maintain their buildings in a very large scale,” Chu said.

He estimated that more than 2,000 buildings in the Yau Tsim Mong district are more than 50 years old.

“Maybe we can foresee the living quality of the tenants or some older owners, they may be living in not a very good condition building,” he said.