Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong real estate chamber pushing for more public space to rebuild lost neighbourhoods

Property industry group in move to rebuild neighbourhoods lost in city's concrete jungle

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 July, 2015, 12:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2015, 4:52pm

A non-profit-making body representing the property sector is reaching out to similar organisations to raise awareness for the need to increase public space in a bid to rebuild lost neighbourhoods in the city.

Ivan Ko Kwong-woon, the chairman of the China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce, said it had formed a group to study the issue but had not yet submitted a proposal to the government.

"When we were young, we had close neighbourhoods," Ko said. "Nowadays, people do not say hello to their neighbours.

"They do not stay in the area they live during holidays. They go out to look for entertainment.

"We have lost the kind of neighbours we used to have."

The city's concentration of tall buildings had transformed the community from a horizontal one to a vertical one, which in turn had changed the way the people behaved and "especially the way we treat our neighbours", he said. "The value or importance of neighbours has diminished."

The chamber's counterpart in Beijing has about 5,000 members including big developers such as Dalian Wanda Group, Evergrande Real Estate Group, Poly Real Estate and Soho China.

Ko cited High Line in New York's Manhattan as a successful example of developing public space and creating a new neighbourhood. It involved the conversion of the elevated railway tracks in the city's West Side, unused since the 1980s, into a spectacular public park.

"It has been proven as a successful example that can attract visitors to stay and play," said Ko, adding that building up neighbourhoods was important as it provided the social recognition that people were looking for in a metropolitan city like Hong Kong.

"We make up the neighbourhood while our neighbours build up our community," he said.

Besides public space, the chamber is also concerned about other social issues such as the quality of life, although Ko said its main goal was to promote the business interests of members.

"We will try to create business opportunities for them," he said.

In C-Suite, Ko explains the changing role of the chapter  in the wake of the rapid growth in the mainland Chinese economy and its real estate market