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Monday, Feb 06, 2023

Tougher, wider probes into subdivided-flat violations

Tougher, wider probes into subdivided-flat violations

One landlord was prosecuted and fined HK$6,600 for not giving a tenant the utility bill as authorities stepped up investigation into breaches involving subdivided flats, it was revealed yesterday.
Secretary for Housing Winnie Ho Wing-yin told lawmakers that almost 1,100 suspected violations have been identified in the large-scale probe since January 2022, of which two-thirds are still being investigated.

Responding to lawmakers' call for more prosecution to protect tenants from the grassroots, Ho blamed tenants for being reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement.

"They are grassroots citizens and need to work. They may be reluctant to spend time on this," she said.

Ho said more time is needed to study the data before an initial rental rate could be set for subdivided flats as part of the government's rent control scheme.

She said provision of transitional and light public housing in the near future could have an impact on the rent levels.

The official promised to release a report on subdivided housing in March.

She said it remains unclear how many residents would be willing to move to the temporary housing.

"There are about 110,000 subdivided flats in Hong Kong with some 200,000 residents. It is difficult to say whether they will all move to these [temporary] units," she said. "But I believe these would be attractive to those who urgently need to improve their living environment."

The secretary disagreed with a proposal for the government to buy apartments in the Greater Bay Area to accommodate tenants of subdivided flats, saying the latter may be unwilling to pay for long commute.

At their sixth antechamber meeting with the government, some lawmakers wanted to know whether and when the daily quota for border-crossing would be increased, and whether the nucleic acid test requirement could be relaxed.

When it comes to attracting key enterprises to the SAR, deputy financial secretary Michael Wong Wai-lun said authorities have been communicating with companies in the sectors of innovation and technology, life science, artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing and financial technology.

Meeting the media after the antechamber meeting, Secretary for Development Bernadette Linn Hon-ho said she agreed that authorities should improve approval procedures and provide reasons if planning proposals are rejected so as to streamline the administrative process.

Linn said a committee has been set up to render policy support to prefabrication facilities for Modular Integrated Construction - an offsite construction method that improves speed and safety.

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