Building a Culture of Homeownership: A History of Condominium in Hong Kong, 1950s - 1980s

Project: Research

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Since its introduction in 1948, the condominium has become the most popular housingchoice in Hong Kong. How did this historically overlooked and under-theorizedarchitectural type become so widespread in Hong Kong, and why did it take its currentform? The popularity of the condominium is commonly attributed to Hong Kong’s limitedland availability and large population. Although this simplistic view holds some truth, itfails to address the postwar social conditions that enabled the spectacular growth of thehomeownership rate from 20% in 1961 to 52% in 2012. The proposed research will bebased on the hypothesis that the dominance of the condominium in postwar Hong Kongis a result of decades of concerted efforts from property developers to instill anideologically grounded belief in the superiority of homeownership. The objective of theresearch will be to explore how such a homeownership culture was created and how itaffects Hong Kong’s residential landscape and condominium design.The literature on the dominance of homeownership in societies such as the United Stateand Singapore mainly emphasizes state intervention. The originality of this research isthat it provides another perspective to study the role of property developers in expandinghomeownership, and suggests that the postwar home-buying culture is the result of aseries of market initiatives. The first initiative was the invention of new legal andfinancial mechanisms in the 1950s, such as split of titles of multistory buildings andinstallment purchases of real property. The second initiative was the development oflarge-scale planned communities in the 1960s that fulfilled the housing demands of thegrowing middle-class. The last initiative was the development of mini-condominiumflats, usually less than 40 square meters, in Hong Kong’s new towns in the 1970s. All ofthese initiatives have successfully lowered the financial threshold for becoming ahomeowner and made condominium ownership a materialized form of middle-classaspiration.The significance of this research is that it will make Hong Kong people realize thathomeownership is not a natural or superior preference, but a socially constructed conceptpromoted by the property developers. The research will also provide a historicalreference to policymakers to better understand the current housing problem, and showthat one of the keys to the growth of homeownership lies in the willingness of propertydevelopers to provide affordable housing, and that failure to do so will clog the path ofupward social mobility.


Project number9048057
Grant typeECS
Effective start/end date1/01/1622/06/20

    Research areas

  • housing history,condominium,housing design,homeownership culture,