Space under flyovers could house young people, campaign suggests

Shipping containers slotted under flyovers would serve as temporary flats for young people priced off property ladder under new proposal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 3:50am

Young people struggling with staggering property prices could live in shipping containers stacked beneath flyovers, a campaign has suggested.

Pressure group Underneath Flyover Action launched a campaign yesterday to seek community support for the idea.

"Policy-wise, it's beneficial to society that the government releases the vacant areas underneath flyovers for public use," Chinese University associate professor of architecture Wallace Chang Ping-hung, a member of the group, said. Lawmaker Chan Yuen-han and prominent art critic Mathias Woo Yan-wai are also members.

The group says there are 1,213 vehicle flyovers and 693 pedestrian overpasses in the city. Most of these sites have potential for further development, although there is no official data on this.

The group will make a further assessment and pass the proposal to the government soon.

Chang estimated that the space below the flyover at Hoi Bun Road in Kwun Tong, which is currently office space for the redevelopment of Kowloon East, could hold 300 to 400 containers.

But the idea drew a lukewarm response from the public. University student Gloria Lin said building cheap, temporary flats would not solve the city's housing problem in the long run.

"To be honest, who wants to live under galvanised-iron roofs?" she asked.

Merchant Ronald Chan noted that not all vacant areas under such structures were suitable for development, highlighting the Canal Road flyover in Causeway Bay as an example.

"Just like here, there are pedestrians walking through and buses passing by," he said. "Converting the vacant spaces may trigger relocation issues."

Chief executive Leung Chun-ying has already pledged to spend HK$1 billion on a new scheme to build flats for young people who cannot afford private housing. But officials said this month it would take up to four years to finish the first lot of just under 300 flats.

Home Affairs Bureau permanent secretary Raymond Young Lap-moon said then that the scheme was never intended to solve the housing shortage.

Rather, he explained, it was a "youth development scheme" to allow young people to save while living in subsidised flats.

Art critic Woo said yesterday that building the temporary shelters would be relatively quick and would give the government time to consider its long-term housing planning.

Leung has also promised to meet the short-term housing needs of young individuals and couples by providing flats at a 40 per cent discount on the market rate for up to five years.

He also claims the administration has found suitable sites for the 75,000 new public housing flats that will be built over the five years from this financial year.