Residential mobility in Hong Kong 1991–2016: Demographics, policies and housing market dynamics

Si-ming LI, Huimin DU*, Shuang WU

*Corresponding author for this work

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

1 Citation (Scopus)


Hong Kong has experienced rounds of property bubble inflation and burst, underscoring heightened market volatility amidst the financialization of the world economy. Irrespective of its fame as an exemplar of laissez faire capitalism, the city's massive public housing programme consisting of public rental housing (PRH) and the Homeownership Scheme (HOS) places the Hong Kong government among the world's biggest landlords and developers. It is within such varying and heavily manipulated choice sets that residential decisions in Hong Kong are exercised. Employing the past five population censuses (by-censuses), this paper studies the city's changing scenes of residential mobility over the period 1991–2016, juxtaposing against changes in housing and land policies and the broader socioeconomic environment. The results reveal relatively frequent moves in the 1990s, but drastic and consistent declines in the mobility rates thereafter, especially for HOS and PRH residents. Private renters, however, stayed mobile throughout the 25-year period. Such variations in trend point towards the recent dismantling of the housing ladder with PRH and HOS being major steps in the transition from private renting to owner-occupation. Particularly affected are the younger generations. Expectedly, recent immigrants from mainland China fare less well in the housing realm. Nevertheless, with the attainment of the permanent resident status in Hong Kong, mainlanders and local born increasingly exhibit similar patterns of residential movements.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2556
Number of pages13
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Issue number4
Early online date24 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This study was supported by the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme, Policy Innovation and Co‐ordination Office (PICO) of Hong Kong SAR Government [grant number 2019.A2.039.19D].


  • cohorts
  • Hong Kong
  • housing and land policies
  • housing tenure
  • residential mobility


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