18 February 2019
In Amsterdam, the Keetwonen container homes project was designed to meet the housing needs of students and migrants. Photo: Internet
In Amsterdam, the Keetwonen container homes project was designed to meet the housing needs of students and migrants. Photo: Internet

Govt said to mull ‘container homes’ for transitional housing

Hong Kong authorities are reported to be considering a “container homes” proposal as part of efforts to provide temporary housing for those in need.

Under the plan, which references initiatives undertaken in some cities overseas, shipping container boxes could be modified and stacked next to and on top of each other to provide temporary shelters for those in urgent need of housing.

The container flats, which could be built in urban districts could go up to ten storeys in height, sources told the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

As the government attempts to tackle the housing problem from a new perspective, some experts have suggested that container housing would be a plausible solution, according to the report.

Following the suggestion, authorities are said to be looking at the feasibility of replicating container houses in other countries and in mainland China to provide transitional housing for those in need.

Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun was recently in Jiangmen city in Guangdong province. There is speculation that he made the trip in order to take a look at a container housing initiative there.

Container homes already exist in some New Territories districts like Yuen Long, but the units are illegal.

Overseas, such homes can be found in the Keetwonen project in Amsterdam, with the units designed to meet the housing needs of youth and migrants.

In Keetwonen, which commenced ten years ago, around 1,000 container boxes were used to erect homes measuring 320 square feet each. The units come with individual toilets and balconies.

Occupants pay the equivalent of around HK$3,000 as rent every month. and the scheme has been popular among migrant families and students.

Ho Man-yiu from the Hong Kong Institute of Architects does not agree that container homes are a workable option for Hong Kong. There is a stark difference in the living environments in Amsterdam and Hong Kong, he says.

Given the urban density in Hong Kong, it would be hard to find the right space to build container homes in the first place.

Also, if there are ten storeys, there will be a lot of other problems to tackle, such as fire safety issues, Ho said.

Apart from these problems, the weather in Hong Kong could be too hot for containers to be used as homes, he added.

However, Chan Kwok-cheung from the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers believes it is possible to use containers as housing in this city.

“The containers can be installed with suitable heat insulation, and iron frames can be added to secure the containers. It will be safe to stack them up or install water pipes,” Chan said.

A lot of construction sites already use container boxes as temporary offices, he noted, adding that working inside them is not much different to working in a real office.

According to news website, Andrew Wan Siu-kin, Vice Chairman of Legislative Council’s Panel on Housing, has said that it is possible to build short-term container buildings on some vacant sites. The units can be used for about five years to help solve the housing problem in the city, he was quoted as saying.

As the current waiting time for a public housing unit is at least 10 to 15 years, Wan feels it is a good idea to build more transitional housing. The homes can be offered to those who have been in the queue for public housing for more than three years to take shelter in the interim, he said.

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