Planning and Housing Supply in Hong Kong and China

Hong Kong was under direct British ‘colonial’ rule until relatively recently, with a direct transfer to China under a special ‘one nation, two systems’ agreement in 1997. As such it displays more elements of British influence in planning, land, housing and general administration. At the same time, with its overwhelmingly Chinese population (most descended from migrants from the mainland) and vigorous entrepreneurial culture, it may be seen as something of a hybrid. It clearly has substantial achievements to its credit, including a large well-functioning public housing sector, successful planned new towns and city extensions, and excellent transport infrastructure. In the context of this volume, we are particularly interested in the Hong Kong experience with a land development process in which the state plays a key role. From an Anglo-centric perspective, it is also interesting as a case of how super-high-density urban living can be made to work. At the same time, the picture is not all positive, as Hong Kong has been affected (as other Asian markets) by wide swings in the property cycle and by a pervasive problem of very high housing prices and affordability difficulties.

The pre-1997 British colonial administration was characterised by a fairly top-down, ‘paternalistic’ style of administration with little

© The Author(s) 2017

N. Gurran, G. Bramley, Urban Planning and the Housing Market, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-46403-3_8

opportunity for democratic or community participation, whether in planning, housing or anything else. Paradoxically, the post-1997 regime, although not subject to direct election of the top positions, has been one which appears more sensitive to public opinion, and more cautious about upsetting particular communities, and urban planning is one area which has been opened up to more participation (Wan and Chiu 2008). It remains particularly sensitive, some would say overly responsive, to key economic interests (Poon 2005).

One final, and not insignificant reason for studying Hong Kong is that it has a well-established infrastructure of universities with a strong group of academics who have studied its system and others in depth. There is a strong body of published work and authoritative independent insight can be gained from the experience of this group of scholars, who are also actively engaged in research, policy and practice in mainland China as well as Hong Kong. This chapter draws freely on recent discussion with these scholars as well as their and others’ published works. Whilst we focus initially and in detail on the Hong Kong experience, in the last part of the chapter we turn attention to the cities of mainland China to draw out parallels and differences.

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