Shek Kip Mei Estate

Shek Kip Mei Estate

Shek Kip Mei Estate (Chinese: 石硤尾邨) is the first public housing estate in Hong Kong. It is located in Sham Shui Po and is under the management of the Hong Kong Housing Authority. The estate was constructed as a result of a fire in Shek Kip Mei in 1953, to settle the families of inhabitants in the squats over the hill who lost their homes in one night.

Originally constructed in 1953 to alleviate the immediate housing need, the units in this "Mark I" estate were utilitarian. Redevelopment of the estate commenced in 1972, with new towers coming on stream between 1979 and 1982 [cite web
last = Choi
first = Barry
title = Thousands to get new estate homes
date = August 27, 1975
publisher = South China Morning Post
accessdate = 2007-02-07
] . A later phase was scheduled for occupation in 2006.

The estate now consists of 26 blocks, containing 7,363 units/flats of between 11.1 and 55.7 square metres in floor area. The estate has an authorised capacity of 13,900 [cite web
title = Estate description
date = current
publisher = Hong Kong Housing Authority
accessdate = 2007-02-07
] .


Following the Second World War, a large number of migrants from the mainland arrived in Hong Kong. Due to the lack of housing policy, and thus non-availability of affordable housing, the migrants lived illegally in wooden shanties in a hillside ghetto in the Sham Shui Po area. Poor facilities, insanitary conditions, the high density of huts represented a serious safety hazard. On Christmas Eve in 1953, the ghetto caught fire. The blaze lasted for 6 hours and was put under control on Christmas Day at around 2:30am. It left an estimated 53,000 people without shelter.

Consequently, the Colonial Government built a 29-block resettlement estate on the site of the burnt-down shanties to house the homeless victims [cite web
last = Choi
first = Barry
title = Housing means more than a roof
date = June 30, 1975
publisher = South China Morning Post
accessdate = 2007-02-07
] . Eight blocks (Blocks A to H), now renumbered as Blocks 10 through 13 and 35 through to 41, were constructed with the financial aid of the United Nations. These 7 storey blocks were constructed in an 'H' configuration consisting of 2 residential wings, with communal sanitary facilities linking them. Later towers were constructed with the single block configuration.

The massive fire gave birth formally to the public housing policy of the Government. In 1961, the subsidised rent policy was launched with the construction of 7 towers at the junction of Tai Hang Road West and Nam Cheong Street. The Shek Kip Mei Estate was subdivided into "Upper" and "Lower" estates, with the Upper estate being designated a "low-rent estate" (廉租屋邨), and the Lower estate was designated a "Resettlement estate" (徙置屋邨). Occupation of these blocks commenced in 1963.

Housing units were little more than small cubicles, and the original plan was to allocate convert|24|sqft|m2 per adult and half that for each child under 12 [cite web
last = Choi
first = Barry
title = Focus on small flats
date = October 14, 1978
publisher = South China Morning Post
accessdate = 2007-02-07
] . However, they were in reality often occupied by more than one family due to the extreme shortage of available housing [cite web
last = Choi
first = Barry
title = Vital task is to satisfy slum dwellers who see luxury on doorstep
date = August 13, 1973
publisher = South China Morning Post
accessdate = 2007-02-07
] . Facilities and sanitation were primitive, and communal.

Until the establishment of the Housing Authority in 1973, Hong Kong's public housing was administered by the "Resettlement Department" . By that time, eleven old blocks of the estate had been pulled down, and modernisation of 18 blocks of the resettlement estate had commenced. Phased re-occupation of the re-numbered estate took place between 1978 and 1984. The distinction between "Upper" and "Lower" estates ceased to exist henceforth. Mei Yu House (美如樓) and Mei Ying House (美映樓) representing the latest phase, was built on the location of Blocks 1 - 7 (the resettlement estate), and was occupied in 2006.


All remaining 1950's blocks were vacated and officially condemned on October 16, 2006, with demolition scheduled for the end of 2006.

Block 41 of the estate, Mei Ho House (美荷樓), the last remaining example of the "Mark II" building in a single-block configuration, is graded as "Grade I historic building" [ [ List of Graded Historic Buildings in Hong Kong (as at 6 Jan 2007)] ] , and will be preserved tentatively as a record of Hong Kong's public housing development.

ee also

*List of public housing estates in Hong Kong


External links

* [ 12 minutes CBC audio program about Shek Kip Mei estates]
* [ Photo gallery of Shek Kip Mei Estate]
* [ Picture of seven-storey blocks in Shek Kip Mei Estate]
* [ Shek Kip Mei Estate: Taste the 60s and 70s in the old housing]
* [ Virtual tour of Block 41]


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