21 April 2019
Doctoral Exchange, a Hong Kong think tank, has suggested “floating communities” as a solution to the city’s housing shortage. Photo: Doctoral Exchange
Doctoral Exchange, a Hong Kong think tank, has suggested “floating communities” as a solution to the city’s housing shortage. Photo: Doctoral Exchange

Think tank proposes cruise ships as temporary housing solutions

Doctoral Exchange (DE), a Hong Kong think tank, has suggested that a “floating community” consisting of several cruise liners could be an efficient solution to the city’s housing shortage and soaring property prices, news website reports.

The think tank estimates that the city’s population will increase to almost ten million people by 2050, making the housing shortage an even more pressing problem as 700,000 more flats will be needed to accommodate the growing population.

It is said that 700,000 flats could take up to 120 square kilometers of land, far more than the government’s estimate of 12 sq. km.

The group’s convenor, Francis Neoton Cheung, said deducting the amount of land to be used as “newly developed areas” or “new town developments”, Hong Kong will only have 53 sq. km. of land left to develop or only 5 percent of Hong Kong’s land.

Another option is to reclaim more land from the sea, but such an option will raise environmental concerns while offering limited potential.

Some have also suggested developing some of the country parks into living areas, but due to environmental reasons, traffic and the terrain of these parks, there would only be around 15 sq. km. for development.

DE said the city could also lease islands from neighboring Zhuhai and reclaim around 120 sq. km. of land on existing islands for future development to avoid controversy over country park development and other contentious land use issues.

This move could potentially enlarge Hong Kong from 2,755 sq. km. to 4,055 sq. km. in size.

If the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress should approve such a proposal and allow the rented area to be under Hong Kong rule, the “floating community” would become a place of “Chinese technology, Chinese costs, and Chinese efficiency”, the think tank said.

Under the proposal, 80 sq. km. of the land can be used for commercial and residential purposes, while the rest should be allocated for other uses.

Around 30 percent of the land for commercial and residential purposes should be allotted for residential uses, which can accommodate up to two million people with an average of 36 sq. meters per household.

DE proposes that the ratio of public residential buildings to private residential buildings remain at around 6:4, meaning that there would be around 480,000 public housing flats to cater to the needs of 1.2 million people.

As for transport, there can be MTR, highways, railways, and boats connecting these islands to Lantau Island and Tung Chung, making the travel time from Central to these islands around an hour and 15 minutes.

With suitable desalination technology and clean energy sources, the transport to and from these islands can reduce a lot of pollution.

Cheung thinks that because of technological advances, reclamation of 2.8 sq. km. of land can be finished within nine months.

The proposed community could be built along the southeast side of Hong Kong where fewer ships pass by.

Each community would comprise 66 cruise ships connected to floating piers and a central deck, with each ship providing some 4,000 flats.

The monthly rent of the flats can range from HK$4,500 to HK$13,500, with each ship accommodating over 5,500 people.

There can be other facilities built as well, such as hospitals and schools.

The report also mentions how there is no specific law banning or limiting Hong Kong citizens from living on the water, and so as long as the cruise ships can meet all requirements by the Marine, Fire and police departments, the entire project should be legal.

Cheung said technologies had been developed to support floating facilities, and many existing hotel projects such as the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, show that the project is feasible.

A copy of the DE report has been sent to Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

The Development Bureau said it will consider all land resources, adding that a task force on land supply is already working to evaluate the feasibility of the plans.

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