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Hong Kong housing

Homes made from old shipping containers set to be built for 100 needy families in Sham Shui Po

Henderson Land Development offers site for project to the Hong Kong Council of Social Service

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 April, 2018, 8:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 April, 2018, 10:21am

Set to be the first of their kind in Hong Kong, stackable units converted from shipping containers are to be erected in the downtown residential district of Sham Shui Po as a new form of housing for needy families.

Private developers Henderson Land Development has confirmed it had offered the site, at No 202-220 Nam Cheong Street, to the Hong Kong Council of Social Service – an umbrella group of welfare organisations – for its transitional social housing project.

Three blocks of prefabricated modular housing units will be built on the site, providing temporary housing for some 100 needy families for as long as two years, according to the council’s initial plans.

A spokesman for Henderson said on Wednesday that the site, about 1,870 square metres, would be offered to the council at a token rental of HK$1 for two years.

“The site is planned for one of our urban redevelopment projects. Half of the site has been cleared and there is still an old four-storey block there that we are going to tear down soon,” the spokesman said. “It should not take much longer than two or three months. After that, we shall hand over the site to the council.

“Discussion with the council has been held some time. And we are pleased to be able to play a role in helping the society. So, we offer the urban site to the council as we do not expect immediate redevelopment of the site for the next two years,” the spokesman said.

But Henderson would not be involved in the building of the social housing units, nor would it plan to fund the construction, the spokesman added.

Why is Hong Kong getting container homes? And will they work?

A spokesman for the council could not be reached for comment by press time on Wednesday.

But council chief executive Chua Hoi-wai last month revealed that an urban site would be leased to it by a developer to build “container homes”, while declining to confirm Henderson’s involvement. Chua also said their plans were to move the modular units to another site after the lease expired, and as the units were prefabricated, it was not expected to take too long to build them up again.

The council has been exploring the possibility of turning shipping containers into housing units to provide transitional accommodation for those needy families squeezed in illegal subdivided cubicle flats while waiting for government public housing.

The council had last year sent staff to the Netherlands to see how container homes were managed and concluded that Hong Kong could take reference from it.

Sham Shui Po district councillor Ho Kai-ming, from the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood, said he was pleased with the container home plan for the district but said the scale was too small. “We are talking about 100 units only,” said Ho, who claimed the government was evading the responsibility of providing temporary housing to the needy, but letting welfare groups step in to help.

Community organiser Sze Lai-shan, from the Society for Community Organisation – a welfare group serving mainly grassroots families in Sham Shui Po – said it was too early to say if her organisation would apply to the council to operate the container homes but believed the urban site should be popular with the grassroots families in the area.