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Ombudsman probes Housing Department’s arrangement for using idle spaces as storerooms in public housing estates

26 July 2017

The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, today (July 26) declared a direct investigation into the arrangement of the Housing Department (“HD”) for using idle spaces as storerooms in public housing estates.


The building designs of some public housing estates completed in the early days have often included some idle spaces scattered around the estate buildings. As these idle spaces do not meet all the statutory requirements for domestic units under the Buildings Ordinance, the HD cannot use those spaces for rental housing units. Over the years, the HD has enclosed the idle spaces and converted them into storerooms for letting out to public housing tenants for storing furniture and other household items, or to mutual aid committees for keeping their materials.


While investigating some complaint cases, it came to the attention of the Office of The Ombudsman that the current vacancy rates of storerooms in public housing estates are rather high. During site visits, the Office discovered a large cluster of adjoining idle spaces on lower floors of a housing estate building (Picture 1), while in another estate building vacant storerooms were found with interior layouts quite similar to those of ordinary rental housing units (Picture 2).


The Office is concerned about the HD’s long-time practice of using idle spaces only as storerooms in public housing estates. Moreover, considering the low demand for those storerooms as reflected in their high vacancy rates, it is questionable whether the HD has adopted appropriate measures to better utilise vacant storerooms all these years.


Ms Lau said, “Spaces in public housing estates are precious public resources, and the HD has a duty to properly manage these resources. Although environmental constraints have made it difficult for the HD to convert some of these idle spaces into rental housing units, we are concerned whether such constraints are really not surmountable. Can the HD do its best to better utilise such spaces for the benefit of the public instead of leaving them idle? We have initiated this direct investigation to explore whether the HD has adopted appropriate measures to better utilise such idle spaces and vacant storerooms in public housing estates, with a view to identifying possible areas for improvement.”


The Ombudsman now invites members of the public, especially those in the architecture, building surveying and design industries and related professional bodies, to send their views in writing to the Office of The Ombudsman by August 25, 2017:


Address: 30/F, China Merchants Tower, Shun Tak Centre, 168-200 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Fax: 2882 8149


Office of The Ombudsman
July 26, 2017