We will write a custom Critical Writing on Social Cohesion in Hong Kong Transitional Housing specifically for you
301 certified writers online
Hong Kong is experiencing an exponentially growing problem with housing affordability. The booming economic growth of the megalopolis has attracted a massive working-class population influx. However, a shortage of land and available infrastructure has led to the stabilization of housing prices at a level unaffordable to a large number of households. The government has invested heavily in providing public housing to families, but a lengthy period of planning and construction has led to the necessity of semi-permanent transitional housing that can be utilized on a rotational basis without detrimental effect. This report will analyze public and transitional housing in the Hong Kong metropolitan area by examining statistical data and the urban challenges that the city is experiencing. Furthermore, the information will be used to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of particular urban designs and how they can be applied to the floating transitional housing project with the purpose of improving social cohesion.
Hong Kong Housing Situation
In mid-2017, approximately 150,000 families were in the queue for affordable housing, with an average waiting period of 4.7 years. A different and low-priority group of 127,600 non-elderly individuals are also waiting for public housing, at times waiting for more than a decade (Zhao, 2017). In 2016, 44.8% of Hong Kong’s population lived in permanent public housing and 0.6% in temporary housing (Hong Kong Transport and Housing Bureau, 2017). Despite investment in public housing and the formulation of a long-term strategy, the percentages have remained practically the same over a 5-year period. This can be attributed to a lack of significant progress in comparison to the growth rate of the population.
The Long-Term Housing Strategy was finalized at the end of 2014 by the Transport and Housing Bureau with the support of the Housing Department, which seeks to supply 460,000 units by 2026, with 60% of them being public. Out of 280,000 public units, 200,000 will consist of affordable housing and 80,000 will be subsidized sale flats. The strategy focuses on achieving three primary objectives: seeking to construct public rental housing, subsidizing homeownership, and stabilizing the residential property market through efficient use of resources. Interim housing is provided as accommodation for the displaced population that is awaiting the allocation of public housing. These people must prove their homelessness and remain in a transit center for a three-month period while fulfilling eligibility criteria to receive public rental housing (Hong Kong Transport and Housing Bureau, 2016).
Transitional housing has been a popular suggestion to resolve the housing situation in Hong Kong. However, the government does not see it as a practical solution, especially the suggestion to build transitional housing on vacant urban sites. This housing must provide decent living conditions and safe accommodation to the residents. Transitional housing requires urban and public infrastructure development similar to permanent public housing. The length of time and resources necessary for constructing transitional housing with current designs is inefficient in comparison to public housing in practical aspects, including land use (Ying, 2016). Therefore, in the creation of transitional housing, our team had to address these concerns and shift the focus of the project towards more semi-permanent public housing use in order to justify any potential infrastructure investments.
Challenges to Social Cohesion and Environmental Concerns
Floating transitional housing, despite all its challenges, creates a need for social cohesion that incorporates community-based initiatives and service delivery for the population. While the floating housing project ensures safety, accommodation, and proximity to the shoreline, it remains a difficult and relatively isolated living environment. This presents various challenges to accommodating environmental and social concerns such as lack of space and infrastructure in difficult environments, which are detrimental to community cohesion. Environmental health concerns are priority issues for temporary housing residents. Various sanitation issues such as vermin, trash, and the lack of a permanent sewage system lead to accumulating adverse effects on the community ecology. Furthermore, a neighborhood environment with limited space presents limited opportunities for healthy and socially-oriented lifestyle choices. In combination, these factors lead to a lack of trust and unity within a community since the physical environment of transitional housing is traditionally not aimed towards increasing cohesion or improving social capital (Hayward et al., 2015). As a result, communities already physically secluded from the primary urban network will be further isolated internally if these issues are not addressed.
Floating transitional housing will present spatial and technical difficulties in providing various traditional infrastructure elements, or to establishing methods that can be used to resolve these environmental challenges to social cohesion. Therefore the process of urban development in these cases must provide innovative and unorthodox solutions that guarantee the population access to public goods and opportunities. The floating housing technology is based on a sustainable urban design that must extend into neighborhood development. Based on specific examples of sustainable transitional housing on the land, the technology should be adapted to provide public goods and utilities. The modern trend in urban design is the creation of dense urban networks that are energy efficient through a fusion of human and natural systems, thereby ensuring that limited spatial layouts do not result in environmental health concerns or pollution (Xue, Huang, Guan, & Lin, 2014). By addressing fundamental environmental concerns at the urban development stage, the community will be more motivated toward the common goal of sustainability and improving lifestyle choices, which are a step toward establishing cohesiveness.
Delivery of Basic Community Services
While the housing crisis in Hong Kong is being addressed, it may be years or decades before affordable public housing is available to accommodate the metropolitan population. This creates the possibility that any type of transitional housing may become semi-permanent. The statement by the Hong Kong Housing Authority holds true that transitional housing is ineffective since it requires a similar quality of public infrastructure and services that permanent housing would. Essential services and public goods cannot be disregarded, since they serve as a crucial mechanism for combating poverty and other factors that can divide a community. The delivery of social services should be balanced between short-term objectives, which are inherent to transitional housing, and long-term development that enhances the quality of life for the population (Duflo, Galiani, & Mobarak, 2012).
Most of the families living in transitional housing are searching for stability in their living conditions, including access to community services and utilities. Access to electricity and clean water can be ensured in a floating housing community through specifically developed technologies such as filtration systems and underground cables. Social protection services such as medical care and police services can be accommodated given the proximity to Hong Kong’s urban center. However, given the number of people in the floating community, it is essential that urgent care units are available. The Housing Authority maintains a number of programs to improve the quality of life in public housing. It provides a Total Maintenance Scheme which oversees the inspection and proactive maintenance services without cost to residents. There is a continuing dedication to improving occupational health and fire safety, a critical issue in often overcrowded public housing. Furthermore, all housing is planned as a barrier-free environment that provides accessibility options for the elderly and disabled (Hong Kong Housing Authority, 2017). The facilities are enhanced to provide additional structural and aesthetic improvements, which are part of the initiative to ensure the safety and well-being of residential communities within a limited housing space.
Community-based initiatives are interventions that are centered around population-driven development through projects which address their needs. Through the process of governance and urban planning, community-based initiatives seek to provide programs, institutions, and public spaces that can be used to benefit individuals and bring families together, which improves cohesiveness. Community-based initiatives are effective at raising morale for underprivileged groups in transitional housing who are seeking opportunities for growth and guidance to navigate a difficult social situation. It empowers marginalized populations by strengthening the links between individuals and civil society. Community participation in such interventions ensures long-term effects using a ground-up organizational approach.
An effective means of bringing a neighborhood together is by providing a common community space, which can then be used for projects or interaction. These spaces may include community centers or recreational facilities. In a floating housing urban plan, there is a limited area to insert large spaces for non-housing purposes. Therefore unique solutions must be implemented, similar to many public housing projects in urban centers around China. Residential design in an industrial environment suggests the use of architectural patterns to the community’s advantage.
For example, based on the current designs of the floating housing, the buildings are centered around intersecting walkways. Space can be used to create a courtyard with a centerpiece monument, which can be used as a place for outdoor social events. The first floor of buildings can be converted to use for various purposes such as retail space, recreational facilities, or a community center, although at the cost of housing units. These facilities do not have to be large or complex, but they can provide an essential space where people can gather for activities and meetings. Another solution would be to utilize rooftop buildings for the creation of ecological social space. It is common to create small gardens or other landscape features that are part of an initiative for the horticultural greening of public housing. These inherently small initiatives introduced during the planning of floating housing are helpful for creating valuable community space to provide an opportunity for residents to connect socially through their pastimes.
Education has been widely used as a community-based intervention. It has been proven to have a positive impact on community cohesion by creating trust and shared values, which promotes helping neighbors and the community. Residents involved in community learning programs focused on family activities showed a change in behavior toward increased neighborhood cohesion. Community-based interventions provided a routine opportunity for residents to gather, interact, and learn within a physical space, which naturally led to the formation of interpersonal relationships (Shen et al., 2017).
The availability of educational opportunities gives the population a chance to acquire new skills and knowledge that can be used for the improvement of their livelihoods and for professional development. This can include work-specific skills and vocational training for in-demand jobs that will provide a source of income and potentially help the family to acquire permanent housing. It can also be used for social rehabilitation and the life-skills that may be necessary for an urban environment. Since many migrant families live in transitional housing, their rural background can make it difficult to adapt. Communication training and other related skills for cooperation and conflict resolution can be helpful for residents when engaging with the community, thus improving social cohesion. Education and development opportunities for youth as well as supervised activities will encourage the adults within a community to become more engaged in attempting to ensure a better future for their families. Educational opportunities do not require significant infrastructure other than the availability of the community space discussed earlier. However, educational opportunities can be complicated to organize and may require collaboration among several floating housing communities to create efficient structures, thereby spreading the concept of cohesiveness outside of a single neighborhood.
Developing Social Capital
The development of social capital is the last step in enhancing community cohesiveness through developing interconnected networks of interaction. Developing social capital is part of a social innovation governance system that seeks to fulfill population needs through the formulation of new dimensions in public relations, thus improving quality of life and citizen satisfaction. Enhanced social capital can be achieved through the participation of the population in various aspects of the community, ranging from economic to political involvement. This is beneficial for increasing the desire of citizens to participate in the decision-making process, thus unifying the community and improving overall stability (Czischke, 2013).
Get your first paper with 15% OFF
Social cohesion is formed when people socialize within their living environment and form social networks among their neighbors. The community is not bound by physical territory. Instead, it is a series of overlapping social networks striving toward similar objectives. Within this dimension, social capital is formed through various means of participation. Civic engagement remains a proven mechanism for establishing networking opportunities. Limited space within the floating housing districts provides an opportunity to interconnect people by creating opportunities for participation and engagement. The formation of neighborhood councils is an effective method to connect people through community-based activities. These councils can serve as an organizational entity to unify the community while also serving as a representative body to oversee any significant developments and amplifying the community’s opinions to the government. Civic engagement can be used as a means for the population to participate in the political process, to exert its influence, and to demand improved housing conditions in the city. Citizen involvement can be implemented through participatory design, which helps address the concerns of the population in the preliminary stages of urban planning. As a result, there is improved satisfaction and cohesion in the community. Unlike other stages of improving social cohesion, the formation of social capital does not require significant infrastructure investment other than a standard community space and organizational structure. This makes it adaptable to floating-housing communities that have limited space.
This report highlighted the troubling housing crisis in Hong Kong and analyzed long-term strategies that can be implemented in urban development. Despite the Hong Kong Housing Authority choosing to see transitional housing as an ineffective solution, an adequately designed floating housing project can address various resources, land usage, and sustainability concerns of the government. In urban planning, floating housing presents a number of challenges to the provision of public goods and services that promote social cohesion. It is clear that addressing the basic needs of the population and creating innovative social spaces with opportunities for development will help enhance cohesiveness and unity within the transitional housing community.
Czischke, D. (2013). Social innovation in housing: Learning from practice across Europe. Web.
Duflo, E., Galiani, S., & Mobarak, M. (2012). Improving access to urban services for the poor. Web.
Hayward, E., Ibe, C., Young, J.H., Potti, K., Jones, P., Pollack, C.E., & Gudzune, K.A. (2015). Linking social and built environmental factors to the health of public housing residents: a focus group study. BMC Public Health, 15, 351. Web.
Hong Kong Housing Authority. (2017). Building for the community fostering harmony. Web.
Hong Kong Transport and Housing Bureau. (2016). Housing. Web.
Hong Kong Transport and Housing Bureau. (2017). Housing in figures 2017. Web.
Shen, C., Wan, A., Kwok, L.T., Pang, S., Wang, X., Stewart, S.M… Chan, S. (2017). A community based intervention program to enhance neighborhood cohesion: The Learning Families Project in Hong Kong. PLOS One, 12(8). Web.
Xue, D., Huang, G., Guan, J., & Lin, J. (2014). Changing concepts of city and urban planning practices in Guangzhou (1949–2010): An approach to sustainable urban development. Chinese Geographic Science, 24(5), 607-619. Web.
Zhao, S. (2017). Hong Kong shared housing project set to provide relief for 1,000 needy families. Web.