轉載|未重建,先下手?土瓜灣南亞日用品雜貨店慘遭迫遷

轉載自 [草根.行動.媒體]

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文:一事.無成 土瓜灣重建特約記者

南亞日用品雜貨店Sun Star Trading由Jagpreet Singh 開業,於土瓜灣區經營 10 年,最初於紅墈營業,後來於2012年搬至榮光街現址,至今也經過六個年頭。

不同文化背景的居民有其生活所需,而雜貨店每天就為周邊許多基層印度家庭及巴基斯坦家庭提供著價格廉宜的生活必需品。「Chinese people want Chinese food, we Indian and Pakistani people want Indian and Pakistani food」(「華裔人士想食他們的食物,印度人和巴基斯坦人想食我們的食物」),店主Jagpreet如是說。探訪期間正值黃昏,印巴婦女及客人進進出出,為準備晚飯選購食材,有人買了製作roti(一種麵包,是印巴部分地區居民的主糧之一)所需的麵粉、有人買了家鄉出產的芒果與調味料、有人買了與鄉下親人聯絡所用的電話卡。Jagpreet說,每天有約300-400人來光顧,雜貨店是土瓜灣少數族裔社群不可或缺的社區網絡。除了作為生活所需的提供所,打理雜貨店日常業務的員工,也是居於附近的南亞裔街坊,雜貨店亦提供了工作機會予他們,這也是其重要性所在。

然而,好景不常,自市建局在過去一年於榮光街附近一帶接連宣佈多個重建項目後,Jagpreet的雜貨店亦被劃入重建範圍,但市建局尚未正式開展收購,地鋪出租業主已利用重建政策的漏洞,拒與租戶續簽長約,一年內兩度瘋狂加租,更展開法律行動脅迫租戶就範,令Jagpreet飽受困擾,隨時被迫結業。

│死約變生約 租金任人劏│

對社區小店來說,穩定的租約讓他們不需要經常搬遷,可以安定地建立附近居民的生意網絡。而Jagpreet的雜貨店在2012年時開始租用現址,當時業主願意與他們簽訂四年租約,並且是死約,即期間不能迫遷或加租,亦是他們一家人當時決定在現址經營的重要考慮。

可是,在去年六月租約完結前,適逢市建局在三月時宣佈於當區重建,雜貨店所在的大廈亦被劃為重建範圍,業主就拒絕再簽長約,要求將新租約改為「一年死約、一年生約」,即是在第一年死約完結後,在第二年生約開始時,業主只須給予商戶一個月通知,就可以隨時要求他們離開,或隨時要求加租。業主除了拒簽長約外,更要求將租金由$9700大幅增加至$15000,加租幅度超過五成。

│瘋狂加租因重建?業主:租戶重建有補償 │

當一年死約在本年五月初完結,業主隨即要求將租金由$15000大增至$25000,加租超過六成。小本經營的雜貨店,只是服務基層少數族裔街坊的需要,但在短短一年間,兩次被業主瘋狂加租,總幅度超過一倍,叫他們如何能負擔得到如此租金?

更荒謬的是,業主今次要求大幅度加租的理由,竟然是因為市建局近日公佈了新的租戶賠償政策,業主明言,市建局重建會給予租戶補償,所以這幅度的加租是理所當然。他言下之意,等同是要侵佔租戶因市建局重建而被迫結業所獲得的重置補償金,變相令地鋪租戶在重建下血本無歸,無法復業。

│迫遷手段脅就範 市建政策乏保障│

事實上,業主聲稱商鋪租戶在重建下可獲市建局補償,但事實上鋪戶何時才能獲得補償及最終是否能獲得賠償,實在是未知之數,皆因市建局要先成功收購業權,才會處理租戶補償,市建局於上週才對雜貨店所在的重建項目發出收購建議,若業主拒絕出售,很大機會可以繼續收租數年時間,期間亦可以隨時加租或迫遷,這將令Jagpreet的雜貨店被迫長期捱貴租,朝不保夕。

因此,Jagpreet向業主表示無法承受過如此昂貴的租金,並提出轉而加租一成。業主一方面於六月二日收取了加租一成的新租金,另一方面卻暗地裡透過法律程序控告Jagpreet的雜貨店。Jagpreet於六月二十三日收到土地審裁處寄來的通知書,指業主已入稟要求收回物業。Jagpreet在一直沒有接獲任何合約終止的通知的情況下收到這消息,感到十分離奇及憤怒。在剛剛過去的星期五,Jagpreet亦經歷了第一次的土地審裁處的聆訊。但因為業主沒有出現,法官現在把案件延遲到8月初審訊,Jagpreet對於未來前景仍然非常擔憂。我們會繼續報導Jagpreet的迫遷情況。

Jagpreet的雜貨店面對如此困境,皆因市區重建下缺乏對租戶的保障及照顧。Jagpreet曾向市建局求助,但對方只是告訴他不能搬走,因為搬走後可能會喪失重建受影響租客之身分,不能獲得補償。可是,市建局明明於日前才宣佈新政策保障宣佈重建後而被迫遷的商戶(見註1),但面對實際求助個案時,卻拒絕受理,對於小商戶現時被業主任劏的情況,卻無動於衷。

據舊區街坊自主促進組日前就市建局新政策的評論指,現時市建局對於「迫遷」一詞定義含糊,並沒具體交待租戶在什麼情況被迫離開才算迫遷,突顯市建局無視民間疾苦,令大部份面對實際困難的重建戶難以在新政策下獲得保障(見註2)。以Jagpreet的雜貨店為例,業主瘋狂加租,而小商戶無力負擔,理應屬於「迫遷」性的行徑,但市建局迄今仍然沒有明確交待新政策是否適用於他們的情況。到底,有關政策是否只是市建局的「公關秀」,實則徒具空文,對保障重建租戶毫無作用?

 

註1:市建局董事會批准優化租客的相關政策:

(中)http://www.ura.org.hk/tc/media/press-release/2017/20170613-compensation.aspx

(英)http://www.ura.org.hk/en/media/press-release/2017/20170613-compensation.aspx

註2:【舊區重建短評】 加碼賠償租客是煙幕? 市建局沒告訴你的四件事!(文:舊區街坊自主促進組):http://wp.me/p5xEw3-Pe

 

Popular ethnic shop face imminent eviction by landlord in To Kwa wan: A chapter of urban renewal in Hong Kong

Report by grassroots media

Japgreet Singh have been running his ethnic shop Sun Star Trading in To Kwa Wan for more than 10 years. He first began his business in Hung Hum, a nearby district, before moving into current location on Wing Kwon Street 6 Years ago.

Japgreet’s shop have been serving local ethnic minority communities in To Kwa wan, catering the daily needs of families.  “Chinese people want Chinese food, we Indian and Pakistani people want Indian and Pakistani food” Japgreet explained. Throughout our interview, we can see many customers making their routine purchase, from grains for roti, mango and spices from Pakistan to cheap pre-paid card for long distance call to hometown. “There are roughly 300-400 people visiting the shop everyday”. Japgreet continued.

It is fair to say that this ethnic shop have become an important locale for ethnic minority communities in To Kwa Wan, not only does it provides daily necessities for families, but it is a also a place where the community establish and maintain their social relations. People are connected through the shop and it also provides job opportunities for the communities.

Since last year, Japreet’s shop was included in one of the many urban renewal projects initiated by Urban Renewal Authority(URA). Before facing displacement in the coming future by URA, he also needs to put up with harassment from his landlord: from rent increase to forced eviction, since tenancy protection in Hong Kong is close to minimal. Any of such conditions could force him to close down his business.

From fixed to flexible contract and unlimited rent increase

Small shops need a stable contract so that they don’t have to move all the time. It is how they can establish their business networks in the community. When Jagpreet started his business at current location in 2012, 4 years fixed contract offered by his then landlord is one of the major consideration for him to settle here.

However, once his previous contract expired in May last year, when the shop was included as part of URA’s redevelopment project, landlord refused to offer any long term contract. Instead, landlord requested that the new contract will be fixed for the first year and flexible for the second year, meaning that Jagpreet  could be evicted with as little as one month prior notice. Beside contractual change, Landlord also asked for rent increase from $9700 to $15000, which is a 50% increase rate.

Redevelopment leads to eviction?

Worst still, when fixed term end this May, Landlord immediately ask for 60% rent increase from $15000 to $25000. Within a year, the shop have face twice rent increase, which is unbearable and highly unaffordable for a small scale shop.

Landlord suggested that the ridiculous rent increase is legitimate because URA has recently increased the amount of compensation to tenants. In an act of extracting more profit from tenants which need the compensation to resettle during redevelopment by URA, landlords and URA have devastated the livelihood for many small businesses like Jagpreet’s.

Eviction as leverage for landlord shows there is no protection under current URA’s policy

Contrary to rumour that tenant could enjoy lucrative compensation immediately after URA initiated redevelopment, tenants could only received compensation when URA successfully acquired their contract and the properties, leaving them vulnerable to eviction and rent increase for years if landlords refuse sale of the properties.

Jagpreet tried to negotiate for a lower rent increase, explaining that he could not afford sky-high rent. Landlord later agreed on a 10% rent increase and accepted a month of new rent while clandestinely took Jagpreet to court. On 23rd June, 2016, Jagpreet suddenly received a summon from land tribunal, requesting his present in a hearing. First hearing was delayed last week till August because of landlord’s absence. However, uncertainty remains for Jagpreet’s business.

Jagpreet’s detriment is a result of lacking in protection for tenants under urban redevelopment. URA turned away Jagpreet when he requested assistance from them, warning that he will lost his identity as affected tenants and compensation when he leaves. Ironically, URA publicly announced days ago a new policy to protect business from eviction, claiming that it will protect tenants. When Jagpreet asked for help, none were given.

“Currently URA have adapted a rather arbitrary understanding of the word “eviction”” old district autonomy group comments. “Most tenants fell out of the protection that URA claimed they have under the new policy when facing eviction.” Jagpreet is situated in this loophole of the newly announced policy, which make people doubtful about it being more like a public relation campaign than protection that tenants under redevelopment and threat of eviction dreadfully need.

footnote 1:市建局董事會批准優化租客的相關政策:New policy from URA

(eng)http://www.ura.org.hk/en/media/press-release/2017/20170613-compensation.aspx

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