Research Project
Tenant Purchase, Assisted Home Ownership and Social and Residential Mobility

Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world in which to purchase property. Space standards are very low. Income differentials are very high. Median Price-Median Income ratios are such that a significant section of the population will be unlikely to gain access to home ownership unless they are helped to do so via some kind of direct or indirect subsidy. In the past, the government has experimented with a limited sitting tenant purchase scheme (TPS) and with a more prolonged and extensive form of low cost home ownership (HOS). The latter has recently been reintroduced in a new form but not on a scale which is likely to make any major impact on the substantial number of households wishing to enter home ownership but currently unable to do so.

This is a challenge facing many governments but the situation in Hong Kong is particularly problematic because of the very high land and property prices, the nature of the dwelling stock and built form and the income structure. For example, whilst the high density, high rise form has enabled effective and efficient mass housing solutions it is a more difficult to implement privatization policies in such contexts. Low rise social housing found in European countries can be relatively easily sold off with the right discount incentives and provided tenants have sufficient income. With high rise, however, there are more collective action problems, issues of maintenance and repair, and scattered sales create mixed tenure blocks with attendant housing management and policy difficulties. Moreover, some properties may not be as marketable as others.

One way to boost the level of home ownership in Hong Kong, and to give access to lower income households, would be to embark on a new and more extensive privatization policy. This has been suggested by some analysts. There has, however, been little systematic research on the longer term consequences of the previous TPS scheme. With the passing of time we are now in a position to undertake this research. Who buys these properties? Where did the buyers live previously? Where do they fit in the market? How saleable are they? Similarly, whilst the HKHA has some information on the buyers of HOS properties, we know relatively little about where they fit into the market and how that may have changed over time. This project engages directly with these key issues of how assisted home ownership and tenant purchase schemes impact on housing and social mobility and will inform very pressing current debates on housing policy.

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Prof. Ray ForrestProf. Yip Ngai Ming 2016-2017Public Policy Research - CENTRAL POLICY UNIT$657.000

Frontier City: Place, belonging, and community in contemporary Shenzhen

Frontier City focuses on China’s rapid urbanization, and how it is experienced by urban residents. How do people feel about city life in contemporary China? To what extent do they have a strong sense of belonging, community or neighbourhood? Is the city experienced as a place of unity or division, integration or segregation? Are people concerned about these issues -do they matter and in what ways? What do the attitudes and practices of residents indicate about policy development with regard to governance and social participation? By addressing these questions, the research will contribute to a growing body of literature on rural-urban migration and urban social cohesion in the Chinese context.

The focus of the project is Shenzen. The city provides an exceptionally interesting study case, and one that has received little attention when compared to Guangzhou, Shanghai or Beijing. Shenzen presents one of the fastest growth in the world, and it’s at the forefront of policy and political experimentation as a Special Economic Zone.

The research will involve a mixed methodology of secondary data analysis, social survey, focus groups and in-depth interviews. Its empirical core will be a series of face-to-face interviews with 1000 Shenzhen residents.

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Ray FORREST Ngai-ming YIP2015-2018Research Grants Council Hong Kong, General Research Fund855,775

"I Want this Place to Survive and Thrive" Territorialization, Moral Citizenship, and Mobile Cultural Workforce in China

This project is concerned with understanding how the technology of territorialization is used in the development of Chinese cultural cities. Recent scholarship has linked the ascendency of cultural cities to nodes where flows of ideas, people, capital and creative goods encounter situated aspirations and practices. Local governments design and implement policies aimed at maintaining desirable populations on their land. In a Foucauldian reading, we are looking at technologies of territorialization for the “right” disposition of land and population. In this context, the cultural community has been assigned a “flexible specialization” production mode. In it, two identities seem to coexist: the creative class with “cool” jobs in “buzzing” places, and, the cultural workforce, who is employed on a project basis and thus lives precariously. ‘Glamorized risk’ is used to justify moral citizenship, which operates as a state-regulated mechanism of inclusion and exclusion. In other words, it detaches welfare entitlement from the place of residence and reserves them to the deserving individuals who can demonstrate their value for the economy.

There are two reasons for adding a geographic dimensions to moral citizenship studies in China. First, a large troop of migrant workers, who are self-employed and have little bargaining power, has joined the new economy and floats in various cultural cities or zones. Second, the hukou system, which has been deployed as an instrument to attract desired workforce and block others, has been reformed with neoliberal morality that promotes self-improvement. The research will explore how the hukou moral standard is instrumentalized to enable the productivity-oriented disposition of cultural workforce and cultural zones, leading to a dynamic process of de-territorialization and re-territorialization.

This study will contribute to global discussions on how far and in what ways moral citizenship is construed to mobilize, fix, and/or block population segments who live with a precarious pattern. Through investigation at the community level, it attempts to examine territorialization not only as ideological rhetoric, or as economic strategy, but also as the state’s political project of space production.

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Jun WANG2015-2018Research Grants Council Hong Kong, General Research Fund530,920

Neighbourhood in an Increasingly Mobile Society

This project intends to examine the impacts of the neighbourhood in an increasingly mobile world. The neighbourhood is an important arena, not only to peoples’ creation of identity and social networks, but also to many government policies that aim at solving social problems. Yet as people are increasingly mobile and the need to interact with neighbours decreases, it begs the question of whether the neighbourhood is still significant to individuals. There is, however, ample evidence that patterns of mobility are highly varied among people of different backgrounds and mobility differentials may be widening. Thus, it is possible that the neighbourhood may continue to be significant but its impacts may not be the same for different groups of people. This project will employ a smart phone app which has been newly developed by the research team to track people’s mobility and activity patterns. Such data will be combined with information on personal attributes that are collected from a survey and with neighbourhood attributes derived from a variety of sources in order to examine the impacts of mobility on people’s sense of neighbourhood and neighbouring interaction. This research will cover 1250 residents in 25 neighbourhoods in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, with its popular and efficient public transport system as well as a large but relatively mixed public housing sector offers a distinct research site for comparison with the findings of similar research which has been conducted in the very different urban contexts of US cities. The research will offer valuable inputs to social mix and neighbourhood-based social policy as well as inform and extend theoretical debate on neighbourhoods within the new mobilities perspective.

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Ngai-ming YIPRay FORREST2015-2018Research Grants Council Hong Kong, General Research Fund927,500

How green turns into gold? Optimizing the dual effect of ‘price premium for green’ and ‘cost premium for green’ of HK-BEAM Plus certified housing

Green building is widely believed to be an optimal solution to excessive energy consumption and huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions by building related activities. Although governments have made a great effort to promote the development of green buildings, their diffusion has been too slow to date. Such slow progress is primarily caused by the reluctance of the private sector to translate the green building philosophy into practice. As with the long-standing and contentious debate on ecology and economy, private sector firms often take the view that the additional costs and risks involved in green practice will erode their financial performance. Lack of concrete evidence on how “green” can turn into “gold” has reduced the enthusiasm of developers in the adoption of green design and technologies, and thus hindered the diffusion of green buildings. Based on data concerning HK-BEAM Plus certified residential buildings, this research will investigate the price premium and cost premium associated with the various categories of green building, so as to assist developers in deciding how to choose the most cost-effective green design methods and technologies.

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Xiaoling ZHANGRGC General Research Fund (GRF)

Outcome of Urban Movements and Local Governance

Research related to social movements has paid little attention to urban movements and their long-term consequences. This research will fill this gap by focusing on how municipal governments respond to the demands of urban movements. In particular, it will distinguish between institutional and non-institutional outcomes and between intended and unintended outcomes to assess which are more effective and consistent with the social and political objectives of such movements. Furthermore, it will determine the extent to which local governments comprising former urban activists are able to meet the goals of such movements. Spain provides an exceptional setting for fulfilling the aims of this project. The mobilisations that took place in Spain beginning in May 2011, known as the 15M or Indignados movement, were internationally relevant and closely connected to other Occupy-like movements. The proposed project will assess the performance of various new municipal governments in Spanish cities to determine 1) how the institutional co-optation of former activists has contributed to fulfilling the goals of urban movements and 2) which of the institutional and non-institutional outcomes of urban movements have been most effective and persistent under the new local governance relations. The research design of the project will thus involve careful examination of the outcomes of urban movements during the cycle of mobilisations opened up by the 15M movement, four years before and two years after the municipal elections of May 2015 and in cities with different electoral results and governance arrangements. The project will hypothesise that urban movements were more successful where municipal governments shifted away from bi-partisan domination towards new electoral platforms with substantial activist input due to the continuing pressure of active movements. Therefore it will focus on four cities where the local government experienced such a shift in addition to examine two more cities that act as ‘control cases.’ The main information to be gathered will stem from interviews and documents. Afterwards, critical discourse analysis will be applied.

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Miguel MARTINEZ LOPEZHong Kong Research Grants Council

Hong Kong Housing Home Page

This project is jointly sponsored by the Department of Public and Social Administration, City University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Housing Authority. The main objective of the project is to upload government policy, consultative documents, information and statistics on housing in the City University web site ( It also serves as an arena for the dissemination of research and archives on housing. By creating an on-line housing database, it will enable local as well as overseas students, academics, practitioners and members of the public who are interested in housing to search for housing-related information of Hong Kong on the Internet.

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Dr. KY LauN/A 1999-the City University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Housing AuthorityN/A