Public housing in Hong Kong
Public housing in Hong Kong is a set of mass housing programmes through which the Government of Hong Kong provides affordable housing for lower-income residents. It is a major component of housing in Hong Kong, with nearly half of the population now residing in some form of public housing. The public housing policy dates to 1954, after a fire in Shek Kip Mei destroyed thousands of shanty homes and prompted the government to begin constructing homes for the poor.
Public housing is mainly built by the Hong Kong Housing Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society. Rents and prices are significantly lower than those for private housing and are heavily subsidised by the government, with revenues partially recovered from sources such as rents and charges collected from car parks and shops within or near the residences.
Many public housing estates are built in the new towns of the New Territories, but urban expansion has left some older estates deep in central urban areas. They are found in every district of Hong Kong except in Wan Chai District. The vast majority of public housing are provided in high-rise buildings, and recent blocks usually comprise 40 or more storeys.
The government has in recent years begun to prioritise economic benefit rather than meeting the demand of citizens. This has led to many citizens who are unable to afford private housing to seek accommodation in subdivided flats and bedspace apartments. As at end-September 2020, there were about 156 400 general applications for PRH, and about 103 600 non-elderly one-person applications under the Quota and Points System. The average waiting time for general applicants was 5.6 years.
In the 1920s and 1930s, many Mainland Chinese flooded into Hong Kong and resulting in a serious shortage of housing. Thus, in the Housing Committee Report of 1935, the colonial government proposed to build some low-costing housing for public to solve this housing problem. However, Hong Kong was facing an economic downturn at that time, the proposals were not implemented.
On 25 December 1953, a major fire in Shek Kip Mei destroyed the makeshift homes of refugees from Mainland China, leaving more than 50,000 people homeless. After the fire, and facing a surge of immigrant population, then governor Alexander Grantham launched a public housing program to introduce the idea of "multi-storey building" for the immigrant population living there, thus commencing a programme of mass public housing, providing affordable homes for those on low incomes. Some scholars have argued that the government has been overstating the role of the fire in the history of public housing in Hong Kong. For example, Faure argues that Grantham was concerned with introducing subsidised housing as early as 1949, but encountered opposition from Chinese members of the Legislative Council.
The Shek Kip Mei Estate, ready for occupation in 1954, was the first tangible manifestation of this policy. These resettlement blocks were built in the basic design of H-shape. In those early days, housing units were little more than small cubicles, and the original plan was to allocate 24 square feet (2.2 m2) per adult and half that for each child under 12. However, they were in reality often occupied by more than one family, due to the extreme shortage of available housing. Facilities and sanitation were rudimentary and communal, like the bath rooms and laundry areas, were located in the cross bar of the "H", linked the residential wings on two sides. Rents were pitched at between HK$10 and 14, without caps on income. That year, the Resettlement Department was formed, as was the first Housing Authority (sometimes referred to as "former Housing Authority"), out of the Urban Council, through enactment of the 1954 Housing Ordinance. The demolition of the buildings of Shek Kip Mei Estate was started from 2007, and has now been extensively redeveloped. Today, all H-shaped resettlement blocks have had to be demolished, with only the Mei Ho House is still standing.
In 1961, the "low-cost housing" scheme was introduced through the construction of 62,380 flats (capable of housing 363,000 people with monthly household incomes of no more than HK$600) in 18 estates, while HA accommodation would be available to those whose household incomes were between $900 and $1500.
In 1963, due to the rapid escalation of squatter numbers, squatters' eligibility for public housing was frozen, and future squatter areas came under licensing per the 1964 White Paper. The settlements of these squatters on the urban fringe were cleared in order to provide housing and industrial sites. With the formation of this ad hoc resettlement scheme, it later evolved into a policy tool to support the burgeoning manufacturing industry. The Housing Board was set up with the role of coordinating between agencies responsible for domestic housing. It made recommendations to have annual evaluations of supply and demand of housing, as well as increasing the minimum standard floor area per person to 35 sq ft (3.3 m2).
Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate, built between 1967 and 1970, was among the first group of resettlement estates built with lifts. All blocks were 16-floor high, and lifts from the ground floor could reach the 8th and the 13th floors.
In 1973, the Government of Hong Kong announced a ten-year plan for the public provision of housing, to provide everyone in Hong Kong with permanent, self-contained housing with a target of housing. The objective was to provide 1.8 million people with "satisfactory accommodation". The Government saw as its responsibility to provide accessible housing for "the poor" – defined as those whose monthly household income was between HK$2,100 (for a family of 3) and HK$3,150 (for a family of 10).
In 1975, the Government officially opened the Oi Man Estate. The blocks were built in twin-tower layout with two square blocks interlocked together. There were sixteen large and small units on each floor of the block, and each flat with its own kitchen and toilet inside. The housing estate was also built on a concept of "a little town within a city". The estate of 6,200 flats, constructed on a site of 21 acres (85,000 m2) and capable of housing 46,000 people, offered a self-contained environment complete with commercial amenities ranging from markets and barber shops to banks. This represented an innovation in that the commercial premises would serve the local estate, while paying a rent determined by public tender. Banks, restaurants, and other large premises would be let out on a five-year contract, competing on a monthly rental offered, while tenants for smaller premises would compete on premium paid based on fixed monthly rentals. Unlike the generations of housing estates which preceded it, there would be designated market stalls and cooked-food stalls. Street vendors would be no longer be tolerated.
In 1980, the government launched the first batch of public housing in the Home Ownership Scheme, thereby allowing low-income families to own their homes for the first time.
A new town to be constructed on 240 hectares of reclaimed fishponds and wetland was conceived in 1987 to house 140,000 people. Since Tin Shui Wai was entirely a virgin development, it was conceived with wider walkways and larger open areas when compared to other urban developments in Hong Kong.
Public housing estates in Hong Kong may be rented or sold under various government subsidy programmes, and are generally subject to a range of restrictions and eligibility requirements. They also vary in scale, and are built and managed under the responsibility of the Hong Kong Housing Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society. According to the 2006 census, 3.3 million people or 48.8 percent of the population of Hong Kong lived in rental or subsidised-sale public housing; within that group, 31 percent lived in public rental housing, 17.1 percent lived in Housing Authority subsidised-sale flats and 0.7 percent lived in Housing Society subsidised-sale flats.
- Public Rental Housing estates are the most numerous type of public housing estates, and are rented at discounted rates to low-income residents. They may be managed by either the Hong Kong Housing Authority or the Hong Kong Housing Society. Low-income eligibility criteria for public rental and subsidised-sale flats vary between families, the elderly and individual applicants.
- Home Ownership Scheme estates are subsidised-sale public housing estates for low-income residents, usually built adjacent to or within Public Rental Housing and nearly identical in construction. They are managed by the Hong Kong Housing Authority and are earmarked for sale to low-income qualifiers at prices which are heavily discounted from market value, and the land value is similarly subsidised. The mortgage and resale of these units in the second-hand market are likewise restricted to eligible low-income residents. Within a public housing estate development, some blocks may be designated by the Authority exclusively for rental while others may be earmarked for sale.
- Tenants Purchase Scheme allows existing tenants in the rented public housing estates of the Hong Kong Housing Authority to purchase their flats. As in the Home Ownership Scheme, the sale prices are set much lower than the market prices of private flats due to subsidies and restriction on selling. The Flat-for-Sale Scheme was managed by Hong Kong Housing Society and operates in a similar manner as the Tenants Purchase Scheme and the Home Ownership Scheme, making flats available for sale at concessionary prices.
- Flat-for-Sale Scheme (Chinese: 住宅發售計劃) is a housing development scheme by Hong Kong Housing Society in 1980s. The flats under the scheme are for sale at concessionary price. It is similar to Home Ownership Scheme by Hong Kong Housing Authority. The first of such estate was Clague Garden Estate in Tsuen Wan.
- Sandwich Class Housing Scheme estates were built for sale to lower-middle and middle-income residents, known as the sandwich class, who did not qualify for low-income public housing in the Home Ownership Scheme but still had trouble affording private housing. Managed by the Hong Kong Housing Society, the quality and market positioning of Sandwich Class Housing were significantly higher than public housing estates and comparable to some middle-class private developments. These units were sold at levels that were slightly below market value and came with a five-year resale restriction. Construction of Sandwich Class Housing Scheme estates ended in 2000 due to changes in the housing market.
- Interim Housing is temporary public rental housing for those who are awaiting placement into public housing estates or are not immediately eligible for flats in public housing estates. Interim Housing often accommodates residents who have been displaced by disaster, fire, redevelopment or other reasons. Some of the housing reuse old blocks in public housing estates while others use pre-fabricated building components.
- Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership Pilot Scheme (GSH) flats are exclusively catered for Green Form applicants, where the site for development is identified among the public rental housing estates. The prices for the flats under the scheme are set below those of Home Ownership Scheme flats.
Several designs have been used for the blocks of the public housing estates, including:
- Old Slab, New Slab
- Single H (1980s), Double H, Triple H
- Single Tower, Twin Tower (1970s)
- Single I, Double I, Triple I
- Harmony 1, 1A, 2, 3, New Harmony 1
- Linear 1, 3, L, B
- Trident 1, 2, 3, 4
- Mark I, II, III, IV, V, VI
- Cruciform, New Cruciform
- Rural Housing
- Non Standard
- Converted Block
Residential units and population
|Type||Managed by||Units||Population||Population %|
|Public Rental Housing||Hong Kong Housing Authority||749400||2022000||28%|
|Public Rental Housing||Hong Kong Housing Society||31279||82095||1.1%|
|Flat-for-sale Scheme||Hong Kong Housing Society||10360||20875||0.28%|
|Sandwich Class Housing Scheme||Hong Kong Housing Society||8920||14760||0.2%|
The Government updated the long term housing supply target to 480 000 units for the ten-year period from 2015/16 to 2024/25. Among them, the target for PRH is 200 000 flats while that for subsidised sale flats (mainly HOS flats) is 90 000 units.
The following is a list of selected public housing estates and their specificities:
- Shek Kip Mei Estate was the first public housing estate in Hong Kong. All the blocks from the 1950s have been demolished, except Block 41 Mei Ho House, the last remaining example of the "Mark II" building in a single-block configuration. Block 41 has been graded as "Grade I historic building".
- Model Housing Estate is the oldest existing public housing estate in Hong Kong, with blocks built in 1954 still in use.
- Sai Wan Estate, built in 1958, is the only public housing estate in Central and Western District developed by the Hong Kong Housing Authority.
- Ming Wah Dai Ha, built between 1962 and 1978, is the oldest existing public housing estate developed by the Hong Kong Housing Society.
- Lower Ngau Tau Kok (II) Estate, completed in 1967 and demolished in 2010. Its upcoming disappearance attracted many visitors, to the point that tenants have complained about the nuisance.
- Sha Tau Kok Chuen consists of 51 blocks completed between 1988 and 1991. It is the public housing estate with most number of blocks in Hong Kong.
- Tivoli Garden, completed in 1996, was the first development under the Sandwich Class Housing Scheme.
- Kwai Chung Estate, redeveloped between 1997 and 2008, it is the largest public housing estate in Hong Kong. It comprises 13,700 apartments in 16 blocks, and houses over 36,000 people.
Several public housing estates have received awards from the Hong Kong Institute of Architects:
- 1965: Choi Hung Estate – Silver Medal
- 1981: Sui Wo Court – Silver Medal
- 1981: Cho Yiu Chuen – Certificate of Merit
- 1982: Mei Lam Estate Phase 1 – Certificate of Merit
- 1985: Siu Hong Court – Silver Medal
- 1987: Mei Lam Indoor Recreation Centre – Silver Medal
- 1989: Heng On Estate – Certificate of Merit
- 1991: Clague Garden Estate – Certificate of Merit
- 1992: Kwong Yuen Estate Commercial Centre – Certificate of Merit
- 1998: Verbena Heights – Silver Medal
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Public housing in Hong Kong.|
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