From bungalows to new towns

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 October, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 October, 2006, 12:00am

The origin of the Shek Kip Mei Estate provides a lesson in the history and development of the modern face of Hong Kong.

As refugees surged into the territory around 1949 during China's civil war, squatter settlements grew up across the city. But cramped squatter conditions were recipes for disaster. On Christmas Day, 1953, a fire raged through the Shek Kip Mei squatter area, displacing about 53,000 settlers.

A year later, the Public Works Department built a series of two-storey bungalow houses for the victims and set up a fund for multi-storey permanent resettlement buildings.

The first of these were eight estate buildings in Shek Kip Mei. Several years later the first massive low-cost housing estate was completed in North Point.

Thus began a government low-cost housing programme. Resettlement blocks became high-rise buildings and flats started to come with balconies and toilets. More than a million people were settled in public housing by 1965.

Development of the so-called new towns began in the 1970s and older estates were redeveloped. By the 1980s, more than 2 million people were living in public housing estates and schemes were introduced to encourage home ownership. New towns boomed throughout the 1990s.

In 2003, the Housing Authority celebrated 50 years of public housing development at Shek Kip Mei Estate.