Reporting By Ray Au | Photos By Rachel Sadler
Arranged across three floors, each of 700 square feet, plus a 700-square-foot roof, one of the big draws of a village house is the living space it provides. More than one family can live in the same house with separate entrances to their homes but these days, most people prefer to lease or buy a whole village house, gaining 2,800 square feet and often a small garden for their exclusive use.
Built to home extended families, village house interiors were originally broken into multiple small rooms but there is the option to open them up by removing interior walls and many village houses in Tong Fuk have already been updated in this way. The good news is that you are not required to apply to the government for permission to make changes to a village house interior. This means that families have the luxury to personalise their space to suit their needs, often removing nonstructural walls to maximise floor-plan potential and replacing existing windows and doors. While this will create more space and improve the flow of light, renovating dollars are also well spent on modernising the kitchens and bathrooms, and installing split-type air conditioners that both heat and cool rooms.
You need to be aware that the government no longer allows residents to create additional living spaces on the roof or in the garden. At this time, no new rooftop structures are being approved by the government, and non-declared structures are officially illegal.
Previously, the government allowed homeowners to declare any additional spaces built and have them inspected by structural engineers every five years to qualify for a grey area of legality. If you rent or buy a house with structures that have been properly declared, you may keep the spaces as long as they continue to meet safety requirements. As a tenant, be sure to ask permission from your landlord prior to making any renovations. If you’re a homeowner in doubt, chat with the village chief to ensure his approval and support, and always review the current building and government policy for each home.