The project has shown me how, through cross-sector partnership, empty buildings can be converted in an innovative and cost effective way, providing a viable alternative solution to the housing deficit in Hong Kong. The overwhelming demand from the nonprofit sector to use the pop-up community space has also shown that quality spaces are desperately needed to deliver critical social services to local residents.
Text: Katherine Rumble, Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong
07 November 2022
After moving from the UK to Hong Kong with my family in 2016, I volunteered at Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong for a few months and started to learn about the city’s housing ecosystem. I noticed the shortage of adequate and affordable housing, the long waiting list for public housing, the empty buildings sitting unused for years and the cramped subdivided units in the city’s urban centres. I was inspired to apply for a role at Habitat and started working there in 2017, focusing on creating strategic partnerships with the private sector. Over the years, our programmes evolved to meet the changing needs of the local community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have recently been collaborating with HKU’s Faculty of Architecture on a groundbreaking three-year project, led by Professor Juan Du, Director of the Urban Ecologies Design Lab (UEDL). The ‘Housing in Place: Quality Living for Sustainable Hong Kong’ (HiP) project explores how the thousands of underutilised buildings that are temporarily vacant or awaiting redevelopment could be used to create quality housing spaces inaccessible locations, improve existing housing stocks, and provide community spaces in areas with the highest concentration of population in need of social services.
I’m excited to be starting a newly created role at Habitat as Director of Growth & Governance. We are looking to the future, developing a new strategy to increase our impact and address the systemic housing issues in our city. Together we can build homes, communities and hope.