Housing policy and internal movement of population: a study of Kwun Tong, a Chinese new town in Hong Kong


Choi, C.Y.

Chan, Ying Keung

TitleHousing policy and internal movement of population: a study of Kwun Tong, a Chinese new town in Hong Kong
PublisherSocial Research Center, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Publication DateFebruary, 1977


Migration, Internal

Kwun Tong (Hong Kong, China)

Abstract/ Concluding Remarks:

This has been a report on Kwun Tong New Town -- the first of Hong Kong's large scale experiments in new town and public housing development. The report has concentrated on the effect of housing policy on the movement of population and on the formation of the Kwun Tong community.

Almost 50 per cent of Hong Kong's present 4 million population live in public housing estates and a large proportion of public housing are constructed as part of new town development in Kwun Tong, Kwai Chung and Tsuen Wan. More new towns are being developed in the New Territories and new town population will eventually be about 25 per cent of the total Hong Kong population.

The role which public housing and new towns play in the economic and social life of Hong Kong's population cannot be over-estimated. The future distribution of population and industries is nearly 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 in the new towns. The Kwun Tong study gives us some clues as to what life in Hong Kong's new towns would be like if present 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 contended 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 adult children 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 adult children and, women, will have important influence on the Hong Kong family.

2. Present housing policy accepts applications from public housing from families and not from individuals. Adult children 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 build-up areas to newly developed areas, and the children generation making the return moves, although private buildings in the old build-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 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. The story of Kwun Tong has indicated that a “community” consciousness/spirit has not developed inspite of efforts on the part of social organizations and the Government. The lack of local initiatives for organization and the non-existence of local leadership are perhaps other reasons, but the necessary functional relationship between Kwun Tong and other parts of Hong Kong makes the emergence of a separate identity difficult. The development of primary relationship in an industrial society is often not based on residential proximity; Kwun Tong is not an exception, and neither can other Hong Kong new towns be expected to be so. But certain improvements can be made in the provision of employment, education and recreation so that commuting for these activities can be minimized.


Kwun Tong is a city in itself, if only in terms of population size. If Kwun Tong is administrated 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 (or New Town administrations) 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 build-up areas, is not suitable for separate administration, but other new towns would benefit from the experience of Kwun Tong.

NoteBibliography: p. 112-113
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