Public housing in Hong Kong

Kin Ming Estate, completed in 2003 in Tseung Kwan O, consists of 10 housing blocks of New Harmony I design, housing about 22,000 people.

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.[1] The public housing policy dates to 1954, after a fire in Shek Kip Mei destroyed thousands of shanty homes end of 1953 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 is providing in high-rise buildings, and recent blocks usually comprise 40 or more storeys.


Lower Ngau Tau Kok (II) Estate, a rental public housing estate built in 1969.
Siu Hong Court, an early Home Ownership Scheme housing estate built in 1982.

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.[2] Some scholars have argued that the government has been overstating the role of the fire in the history of public housing in Hong Kong.[3] 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.[4]

The Shek Kip Mei Estate, ready for occupation in 1954, was the first tangible manifestation of this policy.[2] 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.[5] However, they were in reality often occupied by more than one family, due to the extreme shortage of available housing.[6] Facilities and sanitation were rudimentary and communal. 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.[7] The Shek Kip Mei estate has now been extensively redeveloped.

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.[7]

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 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).[7]

Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate, built between 1967 and 1970, was among the first group of resettlement estates built with elevators. All blocks were 16-floor high, and elevators from the ground floor could reach the 8th and the 13th floors.[8]

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".[7] 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).[9]

In 1975, the Government officially opened the Oi Man Estate, a housing estate 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 would have 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.[10]

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.[11]

A 1988 crime survey reported that crime rates were lower in the public housing estates of Hong Kong than in private housing areas.[12]


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,[1] 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.

Kwai Chun Court, a Home Ownership Scheme housing estate in Kwai Chung built in 1995.


Po Tat Estate, a Public Rental Housing estate based on the New Cruciform design.

Several designs have been used for the blocks of the public housing estates, including:

Residential units and population

According to the Cooperate Profile from Hong Kong Housing Authority in September 2014 [15] and Hong Kong Housing Society info bank in June 2015:[16]

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.[17]

Notable estates

Sai Wan Estate, built in 1958, is of the Old Slab design.

The following is a list of selected public housing estates and their specificities:

Several public housing estates have received awards from the Hong Kong Institute of Architects:[25]

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Public housing in Hong Kong.


  1. 1 2 Census and Statistics Department – Population by type of housing
  2. 1 2 Choi, Barry (30 June 1975). "Housing means more than a roof" (PDF). South China Morning Post. Retrieved 7 February 2007.
  3. Smart, Alan (2006). The Shek Kip Mei Myth: Squatters, Fires and Colonial Rule in Hong Kong, 1950–1963. Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 962-209-792-8.
  4. Faure, David (2003). Colonialism and the Hong Kong Mentality. The University of Hong Kong. ISBN 962-8269-40-2.
  5. Choi, Barry (14 October 1978). "Focus on small flats" (PDF). South China Morning Post. Retrieved 7 February 2007.
  6. Choi, Barry (13 August 1973). "Vital task is to satisfy slum dwellers who see luxury on doorstep" (PDF). South China Morning Post. Retrieved 7 February 2007.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Hung, Edward (26 June 1977). "'New' Housing Authority in for bigger responsibility" (PDF). The Standard. Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  8. Hong Kong Housing Authority – Historical Background of Lower Ngau Tau Kok (II) Estate
  9. Lee, Mary (7 March 1980). "A disorderly house policy" (PDF). Far Eastern Economic Review. Retrieved 29 January 2007.
  10. Sung, C. D. (20 November 1975). "A showpiece of public housing in Hong Kong" (PDF). South China Morning Post. Hong Kong. Retrieved 27 April 2007.
  11. Maureen Fan (27 October 1987). $820m new town deal will give homes to 140,000, South China Morning Post
  12. Leung, Jimmy (15 January 1988). "Lower crime rates in public housing estates" (PDF). South China Morning Post. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  13. Hong Kong Housing Society milestones
  14. Heritage Impact Assessment on Chai Wan Factory Estate, Hong Kong Housing Authority, April 2013.
  15. "Hong Kong Housing Authority Cooperate Profile" (PDF).
  16. "HKHS - Info Bank".
  17. "Housing Authority Corporate Plan" (PDF).
  18. List of Graded Historic Buildings in Hong Kong (as at 7 Nov 2008)
  19. Aged public housing estates included in the Comprehensive Structural Investigation Programme
  20. Sun, Celine (9 April 2009). "Warning on Ngau Tau Kok nostalgia visits". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  21. Sha Tau Kok Chuen
  22. Housing Society Continues to Freeze Rents for Another Year
  23. Hong Kong Housing Society – 1995 – Tivoli Garden
  24. Hong Kong Housing Authority – Kwai Chung Estate
  25. List of Past HKIA Annual Awards
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