1.1. Quality of Life and Housing
Quality of Life (QoL) is an important measurement for cities’ liveability and habitability. According to WHO’s extensive definition, QoL refers to “individual’s perception of his or her position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in relation to goals, expectations, standards and concerns” [1
]. For a detailed review of theoretical perspectives on QoL, Sirgy [2
] classified six major theoretical concepts: socio-economic development, personal utility, just society, human development, sustainability, and functioning. Fassio, Rollero, & De Piccoli [3
] categorized three main aspects for defining QoL: individual (physical and psychological health), interpersonal (social relationships) and contextual (environment) aspects. Marans [4
] addressed that QoL is a multi-faceted concept and has a complex composition that defies precise definition. So, it is perhaps not surprising that there is neither an agreed upon definition nor a standard form of measurement.
In spite of there being no agreed upon definition or standard form of measurement, various organizations have attempted to rate cities and countries in terms of QoL. These attempts have tried to use different sets of characteristics to measure QoL. Kahn [5
] suggested that the QoL had many dimensions including families, jobs, financial situation, health, faith, and leisure; therefore, it is a composite on an individual’s psychological and physical well-being and closely linked to concepts like satisfaction, human development, happiness, and wellness. Węziak-Białowolska [6
] investigated aspects of urban quality of life in European cities and analysed the following dimensions which are potentially related to QoL: availability of services, environment and social aspects in cities and neighbourhood, socio-demographic factors; and city characteristics such as economic development, labour market pressures, size, location, quality of institutions and safety. Mercer’s Quality of Living Ranking covers 10 categories: political and social environment, economic environment, socio-cultural environment, medical and health considerations, schools and education, public services and transportation, recreation, consumer goods, housing, and natural environment [7
]. However, quantifying QoL faces numerous debates, for example: what aspects should be measured and what is the relative weight of different aspects [8
Recent literature on QoL has started to focus on specific contextual factors instead of general rating or weighting. These contextual factors are such as rural and urban/metropolitan areas [9
] and population density [3
]. It has been clearly shown that people’s relation to their living environments is a key issue in their quality of life [12
]. Well-designed housing has been identified as an important factor in promoting quality of life [19
]. Good quality housing is also instrumental in fulfilling the health and social care agendas [20
]. Meanwhile, there is a long track of research on housing satisfaction which investigated aspects that determined occupants’ satisfaction of their housing conditions [22
]. Ukoha & Beamish [23
] examined the residential satisfaction with public housing in Nigeria and the relationship of satisfaction with specific housing features to overall housing satisfaction, pointing out that residents were dissatisfied with structure types, building features, housing conditions, and housing management while they were satisfied with the neighborhood facilities. Liu [24
] identified key factors that had a positive correlation with residential satisfaction in Hong Kong: spatial movement within the housing, convenience of location, appropriateness of site, management and maintenance of the estate and the surroundings. Elsinga and Hoekstra [25
] addressed the importance of home ownership or tenure in occupants’ satisfaction with their housing conditions, which is supported by Thomsen and Eikemo [26
], Teck-Hong [27
] and Herbers & Mulder [28
1.2. Quality of Life in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated territories in the world. In different global cities’ ranking systems, Hong Kong is highly ranked in terms of economic prosperity while moderately or even lowly ranked in terms of QoL due to pricy housing and poor living conditions. The complexity and contradiction make Hong Kong an interesting case to explore the relationship between QoL and Housing Environment.
The local QoL Index, developed by the Faculty of Social Science of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, covers a wide range of life domains and consists of 23 indicators that are grouped into five sub-indices: Health, Social, Culture and Leisure, Economic, and Environmental [29
]. The indicators are selected according to the coverage, measurability, representativeness, and importance to the quality of life in Hong Kong. The higher the score is, the better the performance. The index uses the year 2002 as the base year of the study. The index scores demonstrate that in general the quality of life in Hong Kong had improved slightly regardless of ups and downs. Specifically, the Culture & Leisure and Environmental sub-indices slightly improved, while the Health and Social sub-indices dropped in different degrees. Particularly, the Social sub-index dropped significantly. Among all sub-indicators, the housing affordability index dropped to a record low, a result indicating that housing has become continuously less affordable. Along with this, the stress index, general life satisfaction, press criticism index, government performance index, cultural programs attendance, recreation and sport activities participation, public expenditure on education, real wage index and the water index also worsened [30
On the whole, despite the rapid and sustained economic development in Hong Kong over the last decades, large-scale democratic, environmental, and spiritual movements in Hong Kong did not happen, especially when the economy was in good shape. The rapidly escalating social inequality and life stresses have caused a less impressive standard of living for many people living in Hong Kong. Sing [31
] examined how Hong Kong people valued and prioritized various life attributes that might affect quality of life. The study used five spheres (personal life, interpersonal life, material life, non-material life, and public life) and related 16 life domains (including housing, friendships, marriage, health, education, job and so forth). It indicated that 38% of people claimed that they rarely or never experienced enjoyment, and 44% said they had very little or no accomplishment. 59% of respondents voted “having a comfortable home” as the most prized life attribute. Obviously, the living condition has become the main affect for the quality of life in Hong Kong. This is supported by a recent QoL study in Hong Kong which found that living environment was a significant predictor of resident’s QoL [32
]. Improving housing environments is of great importance to enhance QoL index for Hong Kong. To meet this end, research is needed to better understand people’s needs on QoL and related living environments.
1.3. Research Objectives
The first objective of this study is to understand the role of housing environments in people’s QoL. QoL is significantly shaped by evaluation of personal lives or the place individuals live in; while the individuals’ evaluation of the place they live in is affected by the residential environmental characteristics. Although there is a long track of research about housing or residential satisfaction, few correlated the satisfaction studies with quality of life. The correlation of housing environments with QoL could help understand the importance of housing in improving cities’ habitability. There are many housing environmental characteristics including physical environments (such as ventilation, lighting and noise) and social-psychological environments (such as facilities and connections). This research also aims to find out specific housing environmental characteristics that influence QoL, which helps to inform housing planning and design decision making.
The second objective of this study is to find out needs of residents from different housing sectors on QoL and related housing environment. In Hong Kong, there are three housing sectors: Public Rental Housing, Subsidised Sale Housing and Private Housing, which represents three different levels of economic statuses. Although local researchers had pointed out the importance of housing conditions in general quality of life and well-being, the specific housing environmental needs of different groups of residents are missing in the literature. Public Rental Housing is most vulnerable group in terms of economic statuses; therefore, their housing needs should be prioritized in housing policy and related practice. This research aims to find their needs in comparison with the needs from the other two groups, which can help inform housing policy making to improve the QoL of the low-income group.