Cottage Resettlement Areas: The Making of Aided Self-Help Communities in Post-war Hong Kong, 1948-2001

Project: Research

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Due to rapid population growth and urbanization, many cities have squatter settlements,creating challenging societal and planning issues. Hong Kong is often considered asuccess regarding the resettlement of a large squatter population after the Second WorldWar. This experience can serve as a useful reference for countries with burgeoninginformal settlements. This research is a historical study on the cottage resettlementareas designated by the government since 1948 in which relocated squatters could buildsimple shelters at their own expense. It challenges the official narrative that oftendescribes the cottage resettlement as a failed squatter resettlement strategy that wasquickly replaced by a massive program to construct multi-storied resettlement estates.Not only did the cottage resettlement areas survive after the introduction of multistoriedresettlement estates in 1954, but they also thrived in the 1960s, accommodatingover 87,000 settlers in 15 locations. The continuation of cottage resettlement areas forfive decades before the last one was eradicated in 2001 indicates their indispensable rolein long-term housing development in Hong Kong. The lack of studies on cottageresettlement areas prevents a comprehensive understanding of Hong Kong’sresettlement and housing history.The government’s indifference towards cottage resettlement areas reinforces a commonmisconception that formal, government-built housing is the only solution to theworldwide issue of informal settlement. Hence, settlers have often been incorrectlyviewed as passive, helpless receivers of government aid. To counter this prejudice, thisresearch uses the cottage resettlement areas in Hong Kong as examples to demonstratethe multiplexity in affordable housing solutions and the housing effort of the grassroots.The self-help nature of the cottage areas offers a flexible, economical, and quickapproach to squatter resettlements, without which the government could never have theopportunities to develop a long-term housing program for Hong Kong. The originality ofthis research is that it considers the cottage resettlement areas not as temporaryhousing arrangements for squatters but as self-help communities built by settlers andsometimes philanthropic organizations and churches with minimal assistance from thegovernment. The significance of this research is that it offers a more balanced view ofthe colony’s housing history by recognizing the efforts of the Hong Kong people, whohave worked diligently to improve their living environments despite unfavorableconditions. It can also help inform the international debate on the strategies for informalsettlements.


Project number9042589
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/1815/08/21