Since 1985, the United Nations has declared the first Monday of October as World Habitat Day to promote the idea that everyone deserves a decent place to live. In response to World Habitat Day, Habitat has joined hands with Baker & McKenzie to organize an Executive Briefing on October 3 with the topic of “Understanding the case of urban slums in Hong Kong”. We are honored to have Mr. Vincent Ng, President of The Hong Kong Institute of Architects, Mr. Yip Ngai-ming, Professor of City University of Hong Kong and Mr. Tony Chan, the Chief Executive Officer of Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong as our speakers. Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong along with our featured speakers urged all sectors of society to work for the elimination of “Urban Slums” in Hong Kong.
As one of the most advanced economies in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong has been rated as “the least affordable city for housing” in the world for 6 years in a row. In Hong Kong, many people resorted to live in subdivided housing units, industrial buildings, rooftops, etc., which are often subjected to overcrowding and fire hazards.
“The tenants don’t know how dangerous it is to live in industrial buildings”, Vincent Ng, the President of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects. He commented that the owners did not take care of hygiene, lighting and ventilation for these industrial housing units, “They want to make money and divide units for rent.” The tenants have no other housing choices but to live in the industrial flats. “We cannot just throw them to the street, we have to give them alternatives,” Vincent suggested to provide small flat (150 sq ft) for young people to get access to decent shelter. “The flats in Hong Kong are getting smaller and smaller.” He also suggested to release the height of ceiling to 3.7m so as to fully utilize the volume of the flat and become more creative with space usage.
Professor Yip Ngai-ming recalled the government policies on housing, “In the past, interim housing and the temporary housing were provided to those who lived in poor environment as a temporary solution. However, Government nowadays has reduced these units drastically and they are no longer available for allocations to deserving residents.” Mr. Yip said, “The physical facilities have improved but in terms of hygiene and safety is worse than before, especially in subdivided flats.” He also pointed out that the policies are now focusing more on permanent housing but not the comprehensive housing situation, “the problem of urban slums in Hong Kong will only get worse if we don’t address the problem comprehensively.”
Tony Chan, the Chief Executive Officer of Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong urged all sectors of society to work together on solving housing problem. “Poverty housing is a pressing issue in Hong Kong. We urge government, commercial sectors, charities, and public to be united to tackle housing issues. We hope to work conjunctively with different parties on this issue.”
As the event sponsor, Mr. Brian Henderson, Chief Operating Officer for Baker & McKenzie’s Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Vietnam offices, showed his great support on solving the housing issue in Hong Kong. “Poverty is a pressing social issue across Asia. As a Firm that has been in the region for more than 50 years, we are keen to support the local communities where we live and operate,” Mr. Henderson said “Helping alleviate poverty not only can help our communities thrive, but also helps ensure the sustainability of our economy. We would very much like to play our part.”
The Executive Briefing series aims at raising public awareness on poverty housing in Hong Kong through discussion panels led by local experts. In the future, Habitat will continue to engage the government, businesses, community partners, volunteers and supporters to join together in spreading the message that everyone deserves a decent place to live, and how decent housing opens the door to improved health, a stable growth environment for children, women empowerment, greater economic opportunities and increased community cohesion.