Many heritages in Macau are churches which “adhere to the Portuguese tradition of seeking highpoints or prominent locations in relation to mundane residential settlements” (Baracho, 2001).
Macau housing supply has always been short and due to the restriction of buffer zone, as well as the gentrification of gaming industry, the job of spotting venue for public housing has been difficult. Gaming industry and heritage, in other words, development and preservation, together restricts the pattern of housing distribution in the city without meeting the need of population growth.
A recent housing project called “The Fountainside” is located within the buffer zone1. This project advocates its advantages of “reside in generous quarters far away from the casinos, yet still be within short distances to the CBD, renowned schools, shopping and the city’s transportation network. “In addition, the housing design tries to cooperate with the style of heritage. According to Dr Hoyin Lee, assistant professor and director of The University of Hong Kong’s Architectural Conservation master programme, new construction within the buffer zone should reduce its visual impact by height and scale for the consistency of streetscape while mentioning that “The Fountainside meets these criteria with a street level frontage that is sensitive to its surroundings. It is taller than its neighbours, but not by much, thereby reducing its impact.” Therefore, it seems public housings are not suitable for the type of housing within or near these zones.
In fact the recent built public housing projects are all located either in the south area of Cotai or the periphery of border of Zhuhai, including the Seac Pai Van Estate in Coloane(the biggest public housing in Macau), a project along Rua da Tranquilidade do Hipodromo completed in 2013, another housing in Habitacoo Social na Bairro da Ilha Verde along Avenida do Conselheiro Borja in Taipa started in 2011 etc.( Eldus LLP)
For the luxury high-rise developed by private sectors, they are distributed near the CBD and just outside the buffer zone. (Chung, 2009) Developers used heritage as a selling point, making them super expensive and luxurious with fewer units, as Lee said that “They should be boutique, special and priced high” Not only has gaming industry brought gentrification to the district but also the congestion of transportation network and the overload of amenities for the local. The hotel industry which has been part of the casino industry brings temporary tenants. The vast manpower required by this industry also increases population. (OnlineCasinoList). Therefore many residents prefer not to live too close to these area.
The battle between housing and heritage is not always losing. For example in 2008, the MSAR government ignored the historic value of the Mong Ha Military Barrack and proposed to replace the compound by a public housing.(Yu & Chan, 2014). The move is also addressing the public request, in which ” many people prioritized public housing needs over heritage conservation”(Yu & Chan, 2014).
While there are some cases of public housing overriding the needs of preservation or profit of gaming industry, the long term influences on the demand and supply of housing remains. Minimum separation(buffer zone size)seems to be the single strategy in dealing with the conflicts and coexistence between local, developers, tourists and conservationists for now.
1 Chung, Thomas, Valuing Heritage in Macau: On Contexts and Processes of Urban Conservation, Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 38, 1, 129-160. ISSN: 1868-4874 (online), ISSN: 1868-1026 (print)
2 Eldus, Macau Public Housing , 1st Jan 2012, Sunday, https://www.eldus.com/2131488.page
3 Eilo W.Y.YU，Ming K.CHAN, China’s Macao Transformed: Challenge and Development in the 21st Century, 2014, City University of HK Press
4 Onlinecasino, Growth of Gambling Industry in Macau
5 Squarefoot.com.hk, The Fountainside Arrives In The Heart Of Macau, Apr 15, 2015