Public housing development and population movement: a study of Kwun Tong, Hong Kong

AuthorChoi, C.Y.

Chan, Ying Keung

TitlePublic housing development and population movement: a study of Kwun Tong, Hong Kong
PublisherSocial Research Center, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Publication DateJanuary, 1978
Keywords:Public housing

Residential mobility

Abstract/ Concluding Remarks:About 45% of Hong Kong’s present population live in public housing estates and a large proportion of public housing are constructed as part of new town development in Kwun Tong and Tsuen Wan. More new towns are being developed in the New Territories and their population will eventually be about 25 per cent of the total Hong Kong· population. This paper on Kwun Tong has concentrated ort the effect of housing policy on the movement of population and its implications.

Public housing and new towns play an important role in the economic and social life of Hong Kong’s population. The future distribution of population and industries is almost totally dependent on the location of public housing and new towns, thus influencing transportation, land-use and other economic developments in the regions affected by these new towns. Social and family life too will be greatly influenced by the type of physical environment in these public housing estates and the facilities provided. The Kwun Tong study gives us some clues as to what life in Hong Kong's new towns would be like if present housing policies continue.

It is beyond doubt that public housing in Kwun Tong is a great improvement over the shabby squatter huts and congested tenement flats which many Hong Kong residents have to be contented with. Although critics can rank Hong Kong's public housing as “primitive” by most "objective" standards, there is nevertheless some indication of satisfaction from Kwun Tong's public housing residents.

There are, however, several emerging problems:

1. With children now growing to adulthood, extreme congestion and transportation problems have caused many young people as well as male heads to spend several nights a week away from home. In some households, this has meant early separation of adult children from the family before they are married; and in other households, this has meant the regular absence of the father from the family. This, together with the increasing rate of entry into the labour force for young people and women, will have important influence on the Hong Kong family.

2. Present housing policy accepts applications for public housing from families and not from individuals. Young people reaching marriageable age will need to move away from public housing and to return to private housing upon marriage. This results in a migration cycle involving 2 generations -- the parents generation moving from the private housing sector to the public, usually from old built-up areas to newly developed areas, and the children generation making the return moves, although private buildings in the old built-up areas may now be re-developed.

3. As the standard of living slowly rises, there will also be a rise in the level of demand concerning space and the quality of dwelling units. What is being offered at present is perhaps not adequate now, especially when they are compared with the past, but the level of tolerance among residents in regard to space and quality of their units may not continue for long. This problem will become specially acute if the private housing sector shows rapid improvements. In the recent one or two years, there has been substantial upgrade of private housing qualities and this can be expected to continue. It is perhaps reasonable to expect those who become dissatisfied with public housing to move out to private ones. But this could lead to the gradual stratification of the society into two layers - the wealthy ones living in private residential buildings and the poor in public housing. This is not the situation now, and should not be in the future. It is important to improve the quality of public housing, even though this may imply an increase in rent. Given the increased income and the very low proportion of expenditure spent on public housing, it is reasonable to assume that those residing in public housing units are willing to pay slightly more for better accommodation.

4. Kwun Tong is a city in itself, if only in terms of population size. If Kwun Tong is administered as a city, various economic and social policies would be co-ordinated as much as possible. There is a case for Hong Kong to establish "regional" administration units (e.g. New Town administration) in its governmental structure so that policies concerning housing, industry, transport, education, etc. can be co-ordinated for the benefit of' the regions. Perhaps, Kwun Tong, being near the main built-up areas, is not suitable for separate administration, but other new towns would benefit from the experience of Kwun Tong.

NoteBibliography: p. 36-37
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