Fifty Years of Public Housing in Hong Kong: A Golden Jubilee Review and Appraisal

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Fifty Years of Public Housing in Hong Kong: A Golden Jubilee Review and Appraisal, Y. M. Yeung and T. K. Y. Wong (eds), Hong Kong, The Chinese University Press, 2003, 487 pp., US$55.00

As the tide indicates, Fifty Years of Public Housing in Hong Kong is written to document, review and appraise 50 years of public housing provision in Hong Kong. There is no denying that Hong Kong's public housing provision deserves closer examination. In practical terms, Hong Kong shares with Singapore the unique distinction of having a housing delivery system that has international reputation because of its special nature and the way it has involved the public sector (large-scale public housing). Against the global shift of housing policy development towards the enabling approach, the examples of cities like Hong Kong show the power of planned interventions. From a fundamental perspective, with the increasing emphasis on comparative studies since the United Nations Centre for Human Setdement (UNCHS) (Habitat) 1997 Istanbul Declaration of a world culture of cooperation and learning from other cities' housing policy development experiences the Hong Kong analysis will fill the knowledge gap. The city's progress in providing housing and improving the economy and urban quality of life holds out a source of inspiration for policy makers and housing researchers. As Doling (1999) reveals, studies of housing policy of the new industrialised countries in the Asia Pacific region, namely, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, remain relatively lacking in the western literature.

Written by housing policy makers and scholars from Hong Kong, the current volume of some 20 papers provides a detailed and richly documented account of how public housing development in Hong Kong came into being and has evolved over the past 50 years. In coping with the public's demand for housing, the Hong Kong government has over the years hammered out the basic shape of the physical infrastructure, housing policy and improvements in living conditions that continue to provide the framework for much of what occurs in that city today. Drawing on different specialisations and professional perspectives (from architecture, planning, geography, real estate, building to public and social administration), Yeung and his associates have meticulously explicated the distinctive characteristics (sometimes little appreciated dimensions) of Hong Kong's public housing development and reviewed performance in three core areas - physical and infrastructure provision, housing policy trends and development, and building for better living.

Beyond looking at the commonly discussed aspects of the public housing programme such as new town development and design, financial arrangements and home ownership schemes, the volume also examines the less trodden but contributory aspects of housing development success including the provision and contribution of commercial premises, social and recreational facilities, the needy in public rental housing, effective housing management and the role of residents' organisations. …