This article focuses on the recent re-emergence of third sector housing in Hong Kong, which is at the beginning of a transitional stage from a phase of being crowded out by public housing to a phase of playing a complementary role to other housing sectors in the housing arena. It aims to explore third sector housing in this transitional stage as a socially innovative approach to address Hong Kong’s housing issues. A stakeholder-centred, interview-based and qualitative data collection approach is adopted to examine holistically the different facets of social innovation in relation to such third sector housing efforts. On the basis of interview findings, it is found that recent third sector housing endeavours are a multifaceted innovation, essentially comprising innovation in terms of seven dimensions, namely concepts, resources, delivery, social relations, objectives, advocacy and mentality. The study on which this article is based distinguishes itself by investigating a case of multidimensional housing innovation in the Asian context of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has a large public housing sector that shows strong resilience. Given the approximate half–half public–private housing divide in Hong Kong, officials, housing advocates and the general public envisage housing provision, problems and remedies within the ‘rigid’ framework of private and public housing. Social innovation examples of third sector housing as start-ups in ‘social housing’ have emerged in the early 21st century in Hong Kong, thereby forming a ‘new’ model in housing delivery amidst the public–private binary housing market. This study focuses on the gap filled by third sector housing in Hong Kong through serving as a complement to the private and public housing sectors in meeting unsatisfied general housing needs and as a supplement to both sectors in catering for neglected specialist housing needs. The exact future trajectory of third sector housing development will highly depend on the synergy of different stakeholders in public, private and third sectors as well as the common citizens in its nurturance.