Little sleep in sweltering homes

Residents of substandard flats sweat through an average temperature of 34 degrees Celsius, about two to four degrees higher than roadside figures, a study revealed yesterday.

Riley Chan

Monday, July 03, 2017

Residents of substandard flats sweat through an average temperature of 34 degrees Celsius, about two to four degrees higher than roadside figures, a study revealed yesterday.

The Society for Community Organization took temperature readings in 29 homes, including subdivided flats, cubicle apartments, cage homes and rooftop slums, in various districts from June 23-28.

The highest temperature recorded during the period was 37 degrees in Sham Shui Po.

The temperature inside a rooftop house in the same district even hit 39 degrees on Saturday, a resident said.

More than 70 percent of 143 tenants interviewed admitted the high indoor temperature made it very difficult for them to sleep, while 51.9 percent said their health was affected.

"We have to sleep on a hard board at night because sleeping on a mattress is just too hot," said a single mother surnamed Han.

Han, who lives with her eight-year- old daughter in a 40-square-foot subdivided flat, said the temperature inside her home can reach 33 degrees in the summer. She and her daughter depend on Comprehensive Social Security Allowance of HK$4,800, out of which HK$3,600 is used for rent and over HK$200 for water and electricity bills every month. To save electricity, they only turned on the air-conditioner once last year.

"It's very difficult to get by when the kitchen, toilet and bed spaces are crammed together in a crowded flat with poor ventilation," Han said, adding that her daughter sleeps naked at night to combat the heat and due to the poor sleep, her grades in school are slipping.

The study also found that most residents interviewed spend 40 to 47 percent of their income on rent.

Community organizer Chick Kui- wai urged the government to implement a rent control scheme and require the power companies to adopt a flat rate for calculating electricity charges for flats not installed with individual electricity meters, to avoid landlords from overcharging their tenants.

The group called on the government to build more public housing and to provide rental subsidies to those who have been on the waiting list for over three years.

"The government should launch the living subsidy program for 'N have- nots' households again, after replacing it with low-income working family allowance," community organizer Sze Lai-shan said.