HCMC: Minimize townhouses, develop high-rise buildings to rearrange the urban area
Ho Chi Minh City is facing many urban problems such as traffic jams, flooding, lack of green parks, etc. This will be radically changed if Ho Chi Minh City is more drastic and stronger in changing the housing structure: minimize townhouses, increase high-rise buildings.
The problem of "alley houses, motorbikes"
We look at three areas representing the development of Ho Chi Minh City (including District 4 from before the doi moi period, Go Vap district in the 1990s and 2000s, Hoc Mon district from about a decade ago) inadequacies: densely packed houses; there is very little land for traffic, mainly small alleys; there is almost no land for parks and other public facilities. This urban structure is only suitable for motorbikes, and the quality of life will be difficult to improve. The city has had policies and programs to widen the alley for decades, but with limited results. With this momentum continuing, it is almost impossible for Ho Chi Minh City to solve the problem of "alley houses, motorbikes".
The future of the city depends on the choices of the whole society, in which the key is the determination and effectiveness of the State, the consensus of the people. If most people are satisfied with the current urban structure and still want to own houses that are difficult to upgrade with amenities (especially traffic and shared spaces), the existing situation will last a long time. On the contrary, if a significant proportion of people can adapt to high-rise buildings with higher utilities (like developed countries), there will be an exit for the city.
THG takes for example, nearly 11,000 houses/km2 in District 4 currently mainly about 2-3 floors in height. If the average height were raised to 10 stories, things would be very different. For every 3-4 existing houses that overlap, we only need about 1/3 of the current area for housing, 1/3 of the area for traffic, parks, trees and shared infrastructure. The remaining area will be for the private space of each apartment block. At that time, the city will be much greener and more comfortable, which other places like Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo... have done.
Restructuring the urban development form from existing tube houses and motorbikes to high-rise buildings and public transport should be a focus of the general planning development that Ho Chi Minh City is carrying out. If it cannot be improved, it will be very difficult for Ho Chi Minh City to become a modern city with good quality of life, capable of competing with other cities in the region.
Lessons from countries
International experience abounds. Here, I would like to share the experiences of Singapore, Korea and China.
In the 1960s, Singapore had the same problem as many other cities in the region. The informal economy and housing are predominant. The government of this country has launched a housing development strategy, the state has a decisive role in housing construction along with regulations on conditions for individual housing construction, to ensure that houses are built new or renovated to meet the area requirements for common spaces.
The result behind a green and developed Singapore as it is today is that more than 80% population is living in good quality high-rise apartments built by the state. The number of people living in individual houses accounts for a very modest proportion. In general, Singapore's formula for success is to apply a very effective push-pull policy. Pull is to encourage people to live in high-rise apartments with good amenities; The push is to discourage people from living in separate houses – creating a lot of burden on society.
Seoul has been very consistent in its housing policy so that most people live in high-rise apartments, and they have succeeded. In the early 1960s, Gangnam (Jiangnan or South of the Han River) was an agricultural land of pears and cabbage and more than 2 million people lived mainly in Gangbuk (Jiangbei). When developing the South as well as elsewhere, apartment housing is the main form of housing provided, with the active role of state-owned enterprises and private enterprises. As a result, not only people in Seoul but the majority of Koreans live in high-rise apartments. According to official statistics in 2021, in Korea, single-family homes account for 20.6% and apartment-style houses account for 79.4%. In which, high-rise apartments account for 63.5%.
China is often the extreme in development, and so is housing. For decades, apartment-type housing (mainly high-rises) accounted for about 95% of new housing created. Cities, especially central ones, are developed in the direction of high-rise buildings and are clearly oriented towards public transport. For example, Chau Van Son, although it is a mountainous unit with a sparse land in Yunnan province, China, but houses are just apartments.
With what is happening, perhaps the current urban and housing form in HCMC will last a long time. Without reasonable policies, this pattern will continue to spread to new areas of development. In order to limit the situation of rampant development, the city should encourage and focus on apartment-type housing development, and limit the development of individual housing, especially in areas where there is a risk of informal development. .
Highlights of HCMC projects in 2023 are here:
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