|Distribution of Population by Type of Housing in 2011|
Source: Hong Kong Housing Authority
Walking along the quite streets in Wong Tai Sin and embraced by the “green carpets” all the way round, the area in Wong Tai Sin seems to be an wonderful quiet place for living, which is widely different from the busy and crowded scenes in Central and West of Hong Kong Island. There are 22 public housing estates in Wong Tai Sin District in total.
|Mei Tung Estate|
|Lower Wong Tai Sin Estate|
So even in one of the most prosperous global city like Hong Kong, there are still population living in poor conditions and this is not a small amount, as I mentioned above, the public housing serves for almost half of the total population in HK. In the process of HK’s fast-pace internationalization and economical development, there also still some internal imbalance, where they are not able to catch up the trend. Facing HK’s long-existing housing history and problems, there are still much effort to make, the authorities should still work hard at providing a more living-friendly environment and better housing facilities such large population.
Day 3 Island South - Wah Fu Estate
|Wah Fu Estate|
The Wah Fu Estate is a landmark project in the public housing history of HK. But, there is still defect, as some of the old phase blocks there are with structural hidden danger and HK’ s government are considering redevelop those blocks to guarantee safe. The Wah Fu Estate can be recognized as the “luxurious public housing” as it is equipped with comprehensive functions like the marketplace, car parks, school and library, not to mention it enjoys the beautiful seaview and with the waterfall bay nearby. Even some rich people would prefer to live the “public housing”, which has caused some “speculative activities” to some extent, just because the environment and scenery are so great in Wah Fu.
History and Background of Public Housing:
|Big Fire in She Kip Mei，1953|
, Chinese Revolution (1911), Anti-Japanese War (1937) and Civil War (1949) continuously. The refugees settled themselves in the squattered houses randomly. On Christmas Eve of 1953, a fire broke out in Shek Kip Mei and 53,000 people became homeless overnight. To accommodate these refugees efficiently, the HK government build H-shape resettlement blocks & squatters quickly in original places and later in other places in Kowloon. From then on, the HK government began to build public housing in large scales.
In 1972, the HK governor Crawford Murray MacLehose initiated a public housing scheme named “Ten Year Housing Programme” with aim to resettle 1.9 million people in 10 years. In 1973, the HK Housing Society was established and launched the “Home Ownership Scheme”, the “Private Institution Participation in Development Scheme” and rebuilt resettlement blocks in the following years. In 1978, the 1st series of housing blocks of the “Home Ownership Scheme” was launched officially. From then on, the government changed its attitude towards the public housing development from quantity to quality perspective. They began to focus on facilities and environments within public housing communities. Coordinate actively with the integrated urban development and develop new towns in New Territories. They tried to disperse the population in to new towns to solve the dense and unsecured situation in urban area.
The Ten Year Housing Programme did not achieve its expectation actually as the public housing was tailored for the middle-class and common citizen and somehow less attractive to private investors. In 1987, the government launched the “long-term housing policy” to promote the subsidized purchase housing. At the same time, the Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun new towns were completed, which underpin governments’ development ambitious.
However, in my opinion, there are still some concerns on the public housing in HK and is the super-scaled public housing really desirable? For instance, the 3 cases above, the Mei Tung, Lower Wong Tai Sin and Wah Fu Estates, they resettled the refugees and low-income residents in old days in the shortest possible time. The Mei Tung (1976), Lower Wong Dai Sin (1982) and Wah Fu Estate (1967) were no doubt pioneers of public housing in HK and accommodate thousands of residents who were in urgent need of residence. They contributed a lot to the social stability at that time of Hong Kong.
But there are some other aspects we need to think about:
On an economic logic, the Hong Kong government actually has a long term reliance on land income and they create the housing problem by government ownership of land – no private land to meet housing demands. Massive public housing projects like above cases were financed rather inefficiently, by income derived from land by land sales proceeds. As the public housing is subsidized, it further intensifies the economic pressure of the government, which seems costly to them, as on average, a 35 sq.m public housing flat may need around USD 1,100 subsidy per month from the government.
On accessibility and transportation viewpoint, the public housing projects are usually in Low mobility, there is always pressure on transportation. For our case - Mei Tung and Lower Wong Tai Sin Estate: during our walking there, we saw seldom public traffic passing by and few bus terminals and stops within vicinity, not to mention the public housing areas are already densely-populated. The residents there have to walk a long way to reach the nearest bus stops or just facilitate their daily commuting by walking. As for Wah Fu Estate, the problem was even more severe. When the Wah Fu Estate was first completed, it did not attract too many applicants as the estate is quite faraway from downtown area. There was not enough public traffic and the narrow Pok Fu Lam Road is the only passage for outside commuting. As mentioned above, the Wah Fu is also one the most populated residential area in HK with 50,000 residents in peak time and in 2011, the population was 27,953. This huge population base within these public housing projects undoubtedly increase burden for transport.
The public housing is a milestone in HK’s housing development and still a “tower of strength” even today, as mentioned, the housing problem is a long-existing problem and has great influence on the social stability. The public housing played a critical role in providing well-being for low-income residents in HK. If it cannot be dealt with well, there will be a social earthquake as the public housing serves almost half of the HK population.The history of public housing is in fact the history of housing development in HK. However, it seems that the fast-pace and large-scale public housing developments should slow down a little bit and rethink the past tracks when it encounters concerns on “economics, transport and quality”. With the continued population increase in HK and looking forward to the future, public housing have to cross over the “3 barriers” above to drive itself on a “stable high speed.” It is the sustainability that HK needs and the prosperity can only be continued under that way.
 Hong Kong Housing Authority (http://www.housingauthority.gov.hk/sc/index.html)
 Mei Tung Estate (http://www.housingauthority.gov.hk/en/global-elements/estate-locator/detail.html)
 Wong Tai Sin Public Housing (http://www.housingauthority.gov.hk/sc/global-elements/estate-locator/index.html)
 Wah Fu Estate (http://www.housingauthority.gov.hk/tc/global-elements/estate-locator/detail.html?propertyType=1&id=2744)
 2014 Policy Address, HK SAR (http://www.policyaddress.gov.hk/2014/eng/index.html)
 Hong Kong Housing Society (http://www.hkhs.com/index.asp)
 Development of HK Public Housing (http://www.housingauthority.gov.hk/en/about-us/public-housing-heritage/public-housing-development/index.html)
 Wah Fu Population Statistics 2011 (http://www.census2011.gov.hk/tc/main-table/A302.html)
 26 Problematic Public Rental Housing Scandal (http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/26%E5%BA%A7%E5%95%8F%E9%A1%8C%E5%85%AC%E5%B1%8B%E9%86%9C%E8%81%9E)