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Public Housing for Some, Instagram Selfie Backdrop for Others

Category: Art & Culture,Arts & Design

In the decades since, the Hong Kong government has aggressively pursued a policy of housing its citizens. Today, 30 percent of the population lives in public rental housing, while 16 percent lives in apartments purchased with the help of government subsidies.

The city “has a massive public sector housing program on a scale that is unprecedented in free-market economies,” according to a report on housing policy by Our Hong Kong Foundation, a research organization. “It is undeniable that the government of Hong Kong is the single largest landlord, developer and operator of housing within the territory.”

In spite of this, the city faces a severe housing crisis, and demand for public housing far outstrips supply. Families are now waiting more than five years for apartments, which in turn has pushed prices in the private market to astronomical highs.

Older housing estates like Choi Hung remind people of a more affordable era, Mr. DeWolf said. Many of them were built in the 1960s, when the city transformed itself into a booming manufacturing hub, and 1970s, when the economy took off.

“In hindsight, there’s this optimism,” Mr. DeWolf said, “a yearning for a time that maybe seemed more simple, when it seemed like everyone in Hong Kong had a shot at success.”

K. Pang, a retired civil servant in his 50s, recently returned with his family to Choi Hung, where he had spent much of his childhood.

“It’s nostalgic, to see an old estate like this now attracting tourists,” Mr. Pang said as he watched his children pose for photos. In the old days, he said, estates like these were associated with crime, but he now appreciates that they have become a popular attraction.

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