The Ombudsman is investigating arrangements by the Housing Department (HD) for the use of idle storeroom space in public housing estates.
The move comes after the Ombudsman received complaints that the department has not been making the most of the space, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
In a statement, Ombudsman Connie Lau said spaces in public housing estates are precious public resources. The HD is obligated to manage them properly, she said.
Lau admitted that environmental constraints have made it difficult for the HD to convert some of these idle spaces into rental housing units.
The investigation is intended to determine whether such constraints are really not surmountable and whether the HD can do more to better utilize such spaces for the benefit of the public instead of leaving them idle, she said.
The HD has converted them into storerooms before letting them out to tenants for storing furniture and other household items.
Data from the department shows there are about 2,500 such rooms in public housing estates, about 40 percent of which are idle.
The department said it had studied the feasibility of converting them into residences but most of them do not meet the requirements of the Buildings Ordinance.
Only about 20 of the storerooms have been turned into residences or used for other purposes.
The department promised to explore all possible ways to improve the situation, as well cooperate with the investigation.
Lawmaker Wilson Or, who is also a member of the Housing Authority, said the HD should let out storerooms with larger space and windows and those adjacent to occupied units.
Meanwhile, Kwun Tong district councilor Mok Kin-Shing said the Link Real Estate Investment Trust is responsible for the idle storerooms after it took over the management of the shopping malls under the Hong Kong Housing Authority in 2015 but not the rooms rented by the store owners, causing them to stop renting.
While he does not think the vacancy rate is high, Mok said turning the storerooms into mini-storage facilities is not a good idea.
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