Exploring policy options to combat illegal microapartments in Hong Kong

Yung YAU, Daniel Chi Wing HO

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Illegal building can take multiple forms, including squatter settlements and illegal building extensions. Among the various forms of illegal building, illegal microapartments (IMAs), which take the form of unauthorised subdivided housing units, have recently aroused wide public concern in Hong Kong. On account of their unlawful nature, IMAs pose serious threats to the safety of local communities by undermining structural stability and fire safety in buildings. They may also adversely affect natural lighting and ventilation for building occupants. Fatal fires in buildings with IMAs in recent years have demonstrated the painful consequence of ignoring this issue in the city. Nonetheless, the problem of IMAs has seldom attracted scholarly attention around the world. In light of the seriousness of the IMA problem in Hong Kong, this study explores workable policy options for cracking down on the problem. It reviews policies or proposals in different jurisdictions to crack down on IMAs. Then a three-round policy Delphi study is carried out with a panel of stakeholders to identify and prioritise policy options for combating IMAs in Hong Kong. Various measures are proposed or identified by the panel members, ranging from increasing the frequency of building inspections and imposing stricter penalties on non-conforming owners to licensing IMAs for private renting. Among these options, stricter enforcement is considered the most workable option. The results of the policy Delphi study are discussed and policy recommendations are made.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-95
Number of pages13
JournalUrbani Izziv
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

The work described in this article was fully supported by a grant under the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme administered by the Central Policy Unit of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (project no. 2014.A1.019.15B). A previous version of the article was presented in the First Conference of Interdisciplinary Research on Real Estate held in Ljubljana in September 2016. The authors would like to thank the delegates for their valuable comments and suggestions on the article.


  • Building inspection
  • Delphi study
  • Illegal housing
  • Microapartments
  • Private rental
  • Unauthorised building work


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