Housing the nascent middle class: the first high-rise planned community in post-war Hong Kong

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


How have high-density, high-rise planned communities become the predominant housing choice of Hong Kong residents and a vital feature of the city’s vertical urbanism? This article reconstructs the history of a gigantic housing estate called Mei Foo Sun Chuen, which was completed in Hong Kong between 1968 and 1978 by an American joint venture led by Mobil Oil Corporation. The estate was redeveloped from a former oil depot into a vast housing estate of 99 residential towers for 80,000 tenants. By the time of its completion, the estate was the largest privately financed residential development in the world, and it was heralded as the first high-rise planned community in Hong Kong. In studying Mei Foo Sun Chuen, this article discusses how a mega-scale residential development established a new dimension of Hong Kong’s new middle-class housing market. It argues that Mei Foo Sun Chuen’s new idea of a planned community, its modern flat design, and its comprehensive housing management met the requirements of a nascent middle class, which demanded a comfortable lifestyle that Hong Kong’s traditional housing market could not provide at the time. Since the completion of Mei Foo Sun Chuen, its popular housing model has proliferated throughout Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-759
Number of pages25
JournalPlanning Perspectives
Issue number4
Early online date27 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work described in this article was fully supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No. CityU 21607215). The author thanks the two interviewees who shared their stories of becoming first-time homebuyers when they acquired their flats at Mei Foo Sun Chuen in the early 1970s. She is also grateful for the research assistance from Martin Fung, May Ho and Ophios Chow.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • High-rise planned community
  • Hong Kong housing
  • flatted development
  • middle-class housing
  • private-sector housing history


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