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Mei Ho House – The First and Last Public Housing of its Kind

March 10, 2020

Name(English): Mei Ho House
Name(Chinese): 美荷樓
Culture and History
Address(English): Block 41, Shek Kip Mei Estate, 70 Berwick Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
Address(Chinese): 九龍深水埗巴域街70號石硤尾邨41座
Address Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/EE8HAtQ66VMSx7f98
Address longitude and latitude: 22.334043804958117, 114.16379279691259
Nearest MTR Station: Sham Shui Po MTR exit D2
Nearest MTR Station Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/nUUdgDWN5Bc2RFED6
Nearest MTR Station longitude and latitude: 22.331499763148496, 114.16222171761895
How far from the nearest MTR Station: 8-min walk from Sham Shui Po MTR exit D2
Opening hours: 
MON 09:30–17:00
TUE 09:30–17:00
WED 09:30–17:00
THU 09:30–17:00
FRI 09:30–17:00
SAT 09:30–17:00
SUN 09:30–17:00
Recommended Time to Visit: Noon to enjoy the guided tour
Accessibility Note: need to walk up staircases

While there are lots of historical buildings worth visiting in Hong Kong, not many allow you to stay over to experience, Mei Ho House is one of the few heritages that has transformed into hostel for you to stay in.  It is the ONLY surviving H-shaped resettlement block among the Shek Kip Mei estate preserved which was built in 1954, located adjacent to Sham Shui Po, the most grassroot area of Hong Kong.

Entrance of the H Shape Mei Ho House

The area was once a shanty town where migrants from mainland China inhabited, with poor facilities, unsanitary conditions and dense population.  At the Christmas’s Eve in 1953, the huts caught a disastrous fire and displaced 53,000 people overnight. Consequently, the colonial government built a resettlement estate comprised total 29 blocks, while 8 blocks amongst were constructed in a H-shaped configuration which had two residential wings linked with a central core of communal facilities. That accident initiated Hong Kong first public housing programme and contributed to the development of housing policy later on.

Mei Ho House during 1956 Riot

As time went on, the government decided to redevelop and modernize the estate to cater the demand of growing population and the changing standard of way of living. As of September 2018, about 50% of Hong Kong’s population live in public housing. This figure usually shocks a lot of foreign visitors as public housing abroad is normally regarded as unsafe and underprivileged neighborhood. It can be puzzling to understand a high public housing ratio with the prosperity you see at the Victoria Harbour. Join our Kowloon Free Tours to find out more.

Being the first public housing ever built, Mei Ho House was selected to be preserved to represent the commencement of the first public housing estate whilst the old blocks were demolished.  Government then appointed Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association to revitalize and manage the block, reopening to the public in October 2013 as the YHA Mei Ho House Youth Hostel until now. For those who are not staying in the hostel can still visit the building since it consists of an exhibition area with free guided tour, showcasing the livelihood in the past and public housing history.

Shek Kip Mei Estate – Next to Mei Ho House

The free guided tour in English is on alternate Sundays from 11:30am to 12:15pm, booking with YHA in advance by phone or email. It covers the significance of the building from historical, architectural, cultural and social perspective, and how it passed down through the revitalisation scheme. You will be surprised to know how different the way of living has changed in 50 years from the stories of the resettlement block residents.

So what if you want to have a deeper experience and spend more time in this grassroot community area than in the modern Central area?  You can book your accommodation at YHA website.  It provides various types of room including dormitory bed, and it is well equipped with internet, kitchen, cafeteria and convenience store like any other hostels, but in a nostalgic style with its unique cultural background.

What’s more is a hidden gem next to Mei Ho House that you don’t want to miss – Garden Hill. In addition, Sham Shui Po will not disappoint you if you look for something raw and authentic to experience, and of course, also for memorial photo shots.

Growing up with public housing is a common memory for a lot of Hong Kong people. If you are interested to visit a few more of these housing blocks, we highly recommend visiting Lai Tak Tsuen, Choi Hung, and Ping Shek Estate. They are also famous Instagram spots in its own right.

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Valerie Ma

Hi everyone. I’m Valerie, a holistic wellness curator and a certified yoga teacher. Entering my early adulthood, I experienced cancer and it taught me the lesson of "life is short, live in the moment".