LegCo Panel on Housing Purpose
Policy on Squatter Areas
This paper informs Members of the policy on squatter areas.
2. The Housing Department (HD) is the Government's agent for squatter control and clearance. Any illegal structures or extensions built after 1 June 1982 on unleased and undeveloped Government land or leased agricultural land without the approval from the land authority, i.e. Lands Department, are classified as squatters and are subject to demolition as and when they are discovered. Structures registered in the 1982 Squatter Control Survey are tolerated until such time when their removal is required for public development, environmental improvement or safety reasons.
3. As pledged in 1992, the Government has offered rehousing to all urban squatters on Government land by March 1996. As a result, 33 300 squatters have been offered rehousing. However, a small proportion of them (around 600) are reluctant to accept the offer and prefer to stay put until the land is required for permanent development or other purposes. One of the examples is Telegraph Bay Village in Pokfulam. There remain 45 households.
4. Currently there are altogether 805 squatter areas throughout the territory, mainly in the New Territories. The squatter population is now estimated to be 230,000. The Government is determined to solve the housing problem of the remaining squatters over time. As stated in the White Paper on Long Term Housing Strategy in Hong Kong published in February 1998, our squatter clearance programme aims to -
- remove structures which are exposed to immediate and obvious landslip danger or are vulnerable to landslip (safety clearance);
- clear land for public development (development clearance); and
- remove structures to improve the environment or living standards (improvement clearance).
5. On the basis of the above policy, Housing Department carries out clearance exercises for squatter areas subject to availability of rehousing resources and funding. If private land is involved, it will be resumed for public purpose before the clearance can be undertaken. For squatter areas on mixed lots i.e. private land mingled with Government land, the clearance of which normally will not be initiated unless there is a plan for the land to be resumed for a public purpose.
Squatter Clearance Programme
6. In planning, co-ordinating and implementing squatter clearance operations, Housing Department will give priority to clear the squatter areas where the sites are required for urgent development purposes or where the safety of the structures are at stake. As most of the squatter clearances are development-led, a clearance programme is worked out on the endorsement of the inter-departmental District Land Acquisition and Clearance Committees chaired by the Territory Development Department. Based on the present clearance programme, it is anticipated that some 12,000 families will be rehoused over the next five years.
7. To prevent people from queue-jumping the Waiting List for public rental housing by moving into the clearance zones, it is necessary to keep the squatter clearance programme in confidence. It would not be made known to the public before formal clearance of the area is announced.
Rehousing Arrangements for Squatter Clearees
8. It is the Government's policy that no one would be rendered homeless as a result of the clearance programmes. When clearance is to be conducted in a squatter area, all persons who are genuinely residing in the affected surveyed domestic structures before the announcement of clearance will be rehoused to public rental housing or interim housing units according to their eligibility.
9. Overall, the Government's policy on squatter areas should help improve the living conditions of the residents concerned. Meanwhile, we must continue to ensure an efficient and fair allocation of public housing resources. Those squatter area residents in genuine need of public housing would be assisted whenever possible.