Separate legal and illegal
Members of the Commission on Poverty agreed on Monday to extend the coverage of the one-off housing allowance to those who live in subdivided cubicles in factory or commercial buildings because they are not eligible for public housing and cannot afford private homes, even if the units they live in are illegal building works.
It should be noted that people living in subdivided factory or commercial buildings may or may not know whether the units they live in are legal or not. Relevant authorities are doing the right and appropriate thing by not mixing up illegally subdivided housing units in factory and commercial buildings with the tenants who live there legally.
The government, while continuing with the evacuation and dismantling of dangerous subdivided housing units in factory and commercial buildings, should treat as non-priority cases the units that are not dangerous and have existed for a long time so as not to make the tenants panic. In the long run, relevant authorities should consider allowing and encouraging owners of vacant factory and/or commercial buildings fit for residential use to turn them into affordable living quarters according to the existing safety code as a viable part of the solution to the residential housing shortage.
When the Commission on Poverty agreed earlier to include in the housing allowance scheme people who live in subdivided housing units because they are not eligible for public housing and cannot afford private homes, those living in subdivided factory or commercial buildings were excluded because their living quarters are illegal building works. The rationale behind the decision back then is that the government would appear self-contradicting and cause controversies if it subsidized tenants of illegal building works. The legal reasoning for the commission’s change of mind on Monday is based on the fact that the tenants of illegally subdivided housing units in factory and commercial buildings have not violated relevant law and regulations. The owners of those properties did and the tenants should not be faulted for it. They wouldn’t have picked illegal quarters if they had other choices.
This is an excerpted translation of a Wen Wei Po editorial published on Aug 27.