FNRA • Selected Projects

Public Housing Redevelopment vs. Heritage Conservation : A case study of engaging the Wah Fu Estate community



Project Abstract


Conservation is a crucial and knotty issue in land redevelopment. In Hong Kong, public housing enjoys a history of more than 60 years. Nowadays, with over 3.3 million people living in public housing estates, life in Hong Kong’s public housing estates has become a crucial part of our collective memory. For over seven decades, the architecture, the culture and lifestyle in public housing estates have been evolving and accumulating a rich heritage treasured by many in Hong Kong. This heritage has contributed to Hong Kong’s social cohesion, political stability and economic growth. “Historicity” is an important part of residents’ feeling at home and contributes to the city’s communal and social cohesion.


Our study addresses a research topic of immense public interests and social impacts in short and long terms - how to strike a better balance between public housing redevelopment and heritage conservation in Hong Kong. While it is of public interest to redevelop old public housing estates to improve building safety, this process unavoidably destroys some part of community heritage, both tangible (including historical architecture and facilities) and intangible (such as communal festivals and collective memories). To resolve the dilemma, this research seeks to contribute to designing a public policy-making framework that facilitates preservation of community heritage in public housing redevelopment with a view to generating positive social impacts that include strengthening social capital, promoting community cohesion and enriching social life of the elderly people.


Our research plan of using a mix of methods that have been well adopted in several disciplines of social sciences and historical research is new in public policy research. This process is innovative in capturing different types of data (quantitative and qualitative) using multiple methods that are complimentary to each other. Research output includes conference papers, scholarly articles, policy brief, and opinion pieces. In addition, a valuable database from this research will be compiled for the research team to analyze, compare and evaluate the data with a view to coming up with useful data analyses and policy ideas. The data results and database will be valuable to other researchers interested in public policy, history, geography, education, social work and other social sciences disciplines. Policy recommendations will be made on relatively solid base of the pilot test in the case study of Wah Fu.


This study will produce long-term impacts on public housing redevelopment and heritage conservation in Hong Kong in the following ways.


1. It improves the understanding of the residents living in public housing estate, as current understandings are either meagre or poorly articulated.


2. The current understanding is technical in that it concentrates mostly on supplying sufficient public housing flats to meet the ever-increasing, long waiting list for public housing; or it focuses on the provision of material artefacts to satisfy physical needs.


3. There is a need to go beyond this technical understanding. In particular, it has over-looked the socio-economic and psychological needs of the elderly residents who have lived in their flats mostly since the concerned public housing estate was first constructed decades ago.


4. This understanding must be situated with the larger socio-economic context of the development of Hong Kong, as public housing has always been deployed for the purpose of governance.


5. These non-technical and socially situated understanding must be situated in material space, as this is the basic reality of how people live their lives over time and space.


6. Such an improved understanding would allow both the Government and the community to improve over the current process of estate redevelopment. The Government not only can increase the number of flats available to meeting the ever-increasing demand but also provide the flats of such a quality that new and relocated residents would find a strong feel of belonging both in the community and in the city. Since the redeveloped flats in the redeveloped estates have taken into consideration their life path over time and across space, there would be fewer complaints and resistance from the residents.


7. We propose to search for innovative solutions of public engagement through collaboration with different policy actors (including NGO and government agencies such as Housing Department) in the Wah Fu redevelopment. Trust among the policy actors concerned that will be strengthened in the research process may benefit the redevelopment of Wah Fu Estate. In the long term, this will foster a stronger sense of community in the redeveloped Wah Fu.


8. We will evaluate the impacts of pilot policy solutions in the study to generalize some policy recommendations that seek to strike a better balance between public housing redevelopment and heritage conservation. Our recommendations will be disseminated to the relevant policy makers so that a more lasting impact on the policy making process can be made.


9. The project will include a pilot cultural and historical inventory/database for Wah Fu and its neighboring area. The heritage inventory/database would be set up in the Hong Kong Baptist University Library for the benefit of pursuing the conservation initiatives by researchers, non-government groups, government departments and other members of public. The content of the pilot database will include 3D scanning graphic, historical pictures and maps, photos of daily items used by residents, extracts from interviews with residents who have lived in Wah Fu in different eras. After our project is completed, government agencies, civil society groups or other researchers may adapt our pilot work and continue with preserving the Wah Fu heritage. Government agencies and other policy actors may also consider exhibitions for public education and cultural enrichment.


In Sum, our findings will have substantial practical impact on Hong Kong’s policy engagement and heritage conservation practice. It will provide concrete qualitative (oral history), quantitative (questionnaire survey) and pictorial data (3D scanning graphic, historic photos and maps) that policy makers and conservation practitioners working in urban redevelopment require for their planning exercises.



Project Team Members


Principal Investigator


Prof. Po Yin Stephanie CHUNG (Department of Histroy, HKBU)



  • Dr. Wai Chun CHEUNG (Department of Education Studies, HKBU)
  • Dr. Kam Chau KWOK (Department of History, HKBU)
  • Dr. King Lai WONG (Department of Social Work, HKBU)



Research Outputs