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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Low-income public housing in Hong Kong and Singapore 1950-1980 : a comparative analysis Shen, Qing


This thesis discusses the role of urban low-income housing in the process of socio-economic development of developing countries and examines the ways in which government housing policy and housing planning can contribute to the socio-economic effectiveness of urban low-income housing in these countries. The study focuses on low-income public housing, and is conducted through a critical and comparative analysis of the development of the low-income public housing programs in Hong Kong and Singapore between 1950 and 1980. To understand the role of urban low-income housing, it is essential to explore the nature of housing. Three aspects of the nature are defined: (i) housing as a basic human need; (ii) housing as an economic activity; and (iii) housing as a major component of the physical environment. While the problem of housing shortage is deeply rooted in the socio-economic circumstances of developing countries, the nature of housing suggests that housing plays a dynamic role in the process of socio-economic development of these countries. Government housing policy and housing planning are therefore critical factors in determining the socio-economic effectiveness of housing. The important questions that guide this comparative analysis of the low-income public housing programs in Hong Kong and Singapore are: (i) What were the political, social, and economic circumstances for their respective public housing programs? (ii) How did Hong Kong and Singapore organize, finance, and administer low-income public housing programs, in particular, subsidize and distribute public housing units? (iii) How did planning and design contribute to the policy goals for the low-income public housing? (iv) What was the socioeconomic effectiveness of the public housing programs? The assumptions for the analysis are that housing played a dynamic role in the socio-economic development of the two urban-states; that financial and administrative measures were major determinants of the achievement of the social goals for public housing programs; and that the economic resources for low-income housing were constrained by the developing economy and the social system of Hong Kong and Singapore. Planning and design were therefore critical to achieve low-income public housing programs that have the attributes of large scale, low rents, reasonable quality and accessibility. One additional assumption is that Hong Kong and Singapore shared both similarities and differences in the political, social, and economic backgrounds for low-income public housing, both of which were reflected in their housing policy and planning. Whilst the purpose of the study is to explore general principles for low-income public housing in developing countries is a purpose of of the study, it is also the intention to emphasize that each country should determine its housing policy and housing planning based on its own socio-economic circumstances. It is important to notice that these differences are reflected in the different planning and design measures in Hong Kong and Singapore, in particular the different design standards they adopted. Hong Kong and Singapore are two of the few developing countries in the world which have achieved success in public housing policies and programs. It is important that countries and cities with comparable conditions learn from their experience. As an effort towards such learning, Shanghai, the largest and most densely populated industrial and commercial centre in China, is analyzed in the last chapter as a comparable case.

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