Density control and the quality of living space: A case study of private housing development in Hong Kong

Hon Wan Edwin Chan, Bo Sin Tang, Wah Sang Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


The increased concentration of urban populations is a global phenomenon. Hong Kong, like many Asian cities such as Singapore, Tokyo, and Shanghai, is famous for its compactness and high-density living. This paper argues that Hong Kong's floor area control mechanism has a major adverse effect on the development potential of private housing, and more importantly on the quality of living space. Private residential buildings are built in accordance with statutory requirements imposed by the government. Under the current system, private developers attempt to maximize the usable floor area efficiency at the expense of common area. Consequently, building layouts generate the maximum number of housing units clustered around a cruciform, high-rise compact core. The built form does not take adequate consideration of living quality issues. Its undesirable impacts notwithstanding, the dense cruciform floor plate design is now widely replicated in many mainland Chinese cities. This paper argues that, although such a built form appears modern to some city dwellers, it is a direct result of an outdated density control mechanism that fails to meet present day requirements. A review of this mechanism should be undertaken, and this paper suggests some possible solutions to strike a balance between dense living and a better environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-175
Number of pages17
JournalHabitat International
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002


  • Density control
  • Hong Kong
  • Housing quality
  • Residential development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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