Throughout our research, we found a number of catalysts for neighborhood change in Hong Kong. These included foreign speculation in the real estate market, private development, constrained supply and rising housing prices due to the narrative of land scarcity, real and perceived.
However, the URA’s developments consistently arose as one of the most distinctive causes of neighborhood change in Hong Kong. Although the organization’s projects often help improve physical conditions within the city, significant populations are also directly or indirectly displaced. Crucially, that displacement includes not only physical displacement, but also cultural displacement for even those who are not forced to relocate. The burdens are particularly notable for ethnic minorities, recent immigrants, and those without formal documentation.
We garnered specific insights from our region-wide typologies and case studies that point to two different but related trends. Our quantitative analysis showed that with a growing percentage of sole tenants and private permanent housing in Hong Kong from 2001 to 2016, the displacement pressures are largely concentrated in and around Kowloon City, while exclusionary areas are dispersed throughout the entire region. Our case studies also specifically show how URA development is impacting thousands of residents in both Sham Shui Po and To Kwa Wan, as well as the steps residents and community organizations are taking to resist individual projects.
We believe that the magnitude of the displacement caused by URA projects could be mitigated through a variety of means. These include:
- Amending the Urban Renewal Strategy (URS) to have a stricter definition of the Authority’s obligations to residents in a redevelopment area before, during, and after the project.
- Better informing existing residents of their rights, and consistently providing translation services for those who do not speak English or Cantonese.
- Engaging with community groups ahead of selecting development sites.
- Standardizing the relocation process for existing residents.
- Loosening relocation requirements to accommodate those who live in subdivided flats, are nonresidents, or have limited documentation.
- Encouraging the URA to develop more sites in the New Territories, rather than exclusively in Kowloon City and on Hong Kong Island.
- Re-introducing rent control, perhaps in a limited capacity, in those areas slated for redevelopment, to preempt rent hikes and forced evictions.