How To Find Healthy Neighbourhoods In A City Like Hong Kong
Health is Wealth. There is nothing in our life that is more valuable than good health.A person can have everything; money, success, fame and more, but without health there is no true happiness, peace or even the ability to enjoy all the blessings than life has to offer. This made us think - how much of a factor does our residential neighbourhood play in to our overall health? What kind of qualities should we be looking for during our hunt for our next home?
Finding the right neighbourhood to live in could significantly contribute to the state of your health and overall wellbeing, so it only makes logical sense to seek out the ways to finding the most healthy neighbourhoods in your city. Seeking out healthy neighbourhoods, in terms of anything from green space to traffic volume can be easier to do in some cities than in others. Hong Kong for example, is not famed for its green culture and healthy living lifestyles. Other cities like Singapore, Perth (Australia), Copenhagen (Denmark), Monaco, and even many major U.S cities are ranked some of the greenest and healthiest destinations across the globe. Generally speaking, we have a relatively well-informed idea of which cities are considered healthy and which aren’t so much, but what factors precisely make up a “healthy” city? Well, there’s a combination of factors that can range from easily accessible green spaces to quality public transit systems to readily available healthcare. Whether you’re shopping for a home in Hong Kong or overseas, there’s a list of common must-haves that define what is considered a healthy place of living.
Read on to find out the qualities to keep an eye out for in your city’s neighbourhoods on your next house or apartment hunt. If you are not currently looking for a place, this is still a good list to help judge whether your current residing neighbourhood is adding positive or negative marks to your health scale. The “healthiness” of a city can also factor in to the success of your real estate portfolio as a real estate investor.
Let me give you an example:
Say you are a real estate investor looking to expand on your property portfolio. You are juggling on the decision of two homes to purchase. One home is beautiful and luxurious in every way with a lower price tag but located in a neighbourhood that would rate lower than a 5 on the health scale. The other home is smaller, more conservative with a higher price point but located in a prominent up and coming green neighbourhood. Which one would you choose? It’s all about perspective; whether you view your investments and real estate portfolio with short-term or long-term returns. Someone who sees things only short term would most likely choose the first option. It’s a cheaper investment with more to offer except for the health factor. Someone who sees things in to the far distance would most probably choose the latter option. Although the investment comes at a higher price point, he or she understands that the returns with be significantly more due to its health factor and the way our societal trends are moving towards - which is everything green and all things health. More and more people will become educated about the importance of health and green-living as time goes on, which means there will be a demand for healthy residential homes. The health of your chosen neighbourhood does matter, even if it’s still in its early stages at the moment. By investing in healthy neighbourhoods, you are essentially planting the seeds in your garden for a new harvest of wealth in the future seasons. It may not be this coming season, but it could very well be the next or the one after that. The most important factor is that the seeds have been planted, and therefore, the returns will flow in when the time is right. After all, the real estate game is all about timing and location.
Now that you have a better understanding of why a healthy neighbourhood is so important on so many levels (as a resident and as a real estate investor), let’s get back to our list of neighbourhood checklist of must-haves to look out for now:
Are there any designated sidewalks and bike lanes?
Most current metropolitans are usually highly congested with lots of traffic, and noise/air pollution. Most cities like these generally do not make room for designated sidewalks and/or bike lanes. This is starting to change, especially in the cities that are starting to understand the importance of health for its people and for our planet. Being able to walk and/or bike for exercise or as a mode of transportation to and from work is not only good for your body but for our earth as well. Having public city planning features like this can contribute to a healthier lifestyle since it encourages people to be more active as opposed to just sitting in their cars and contributing to extra noise and air pollution. Also, keep an eye out for accessibility and efficiency of public transportation. The better the public transportation system is in a city, the more readily people will be willing to forgo their private cars and taxis for mass transit - which is both safer and healthier for city living. In major cities in China, such as Shanghai, bike-for-rent (by the hour) companies are starting to pop up all over the place like wildflowers, and it’s actually helping to promote people to engage in more active daily living; one of the milestones that the Chinese government has set out to reach in the next five years. Now, the Chinese aren’t just getting wealthier, they’re also getting fitter. Welcome to the great Chinese Fitness Boom! Health-focused city planning and venture investors that back emerging health and wellness companies are helping to drive China’s current health-obsessed culture. If we are going to get our people obsessed in something, we can’t think of a more fitting thing to get crazed for.
How much greenery is there in the communal spaces?
Next time you are walking around your neighbourhood or in a new neighbourhood, take a look around and take a mental calculation of how many tree canopies there are. A lot of cities that are densely developed tend to have very sparse greenery, and that’s not a good thing for upping a property’s market value. Trees and green canopies actually enhance the property values because they are both aesthetically pleasing and also contribute to a healthier neighbourhood. People like an ambiance of relaxation and tranquility in and around their living spaces, and tree canopies provide just the right kind of landscape for aesthetics and functionality. Trees and greenery provide places to escape from the heat, and lush green spaces have been proven in studies to decrease stress and even mitigate symptoms of anxiety, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and many other common mental and emotional disorders. The more access you have to nature, the healthier your lifestyle will naturally become. This is why locating healthy neighbourhoods to reside in and to invest in has become increasingly attractive and indispensable for many buyers in the market today. Healthy and green amenities promote healthy activities, which results in healthy living and healthier people.
How socially connected is your neighbourhood?
In big cities, it’s natural to feel that living as an individual is normal, but actually, having a sense of security and happiness can come from the degree of social connectivity amongst you and your neighbours. It’s not to say that you need to be best buddies with everyone who lives in your building and in your neighbourhood, but being able to socialize and connect with the people that you share common spaces with can promote healthier and happier lives. How can you tell if a neighbourhood is socially connected? You can visit the neighbourhood of interest at various times of day on different days (weekdays and weekends) to see if people are out and about sharing what they have in the community. Do you see neighbours chatting with each other? Are there people jogging on the neighbourhood streets, and sidewalks? Are there people out walking their dogs? Do you see families taking their kids out to the playground? Are their any fitness and wellness activities happening in the outdoor parks and recreational areas? Do you feel a sense of community? If you do, these are all positive signs that a neighbourhood has a healthy and thriving, active and mutually supportive community. Living in neighbourhoods like this can make you healthier as well, physically, mentally and emotionally.
How much does your neighbourhood have to offer in terms of healthy, recreational and active living?
To extend on the previous point, the healthiest neighbourhoods often offer the most variety and versatility when it comes to recreation and active living. We have already discussed about the importance of communal green spaces, like outdoor parks, walking trails and greenways for pedestrians, but in addition to that, also look for neighbourhoods that offer recreational activities such as tennis courts, basketball courts, swimming pools, fitness centers…etc. When there are options that are easily accessible, the ability to engage in and diversify your fitness activities in to your daily life is much more natural and can lead to greater health and fitness. There’s a reason why neighbourhoods and buildings with more amenities tend to have high price points. It’s the return on investments both literally and metaphorically that make them such great assets.
How is the traffic volume in the area?
This factor is a very important one. Take Hong Kong for example, we are met with noise and traffic pollution almost everywhere we go in the city. Living in the city can be exhausting and stressful, which is why so many people here like to go on hikes and holiday retreats in the suburbs of Hong Kong where there is controlled and limited traffic. Imagine if you could live in a place where it was serene and away from high density traffic but still enjoy urban city lifestyle?
High traffic volume means more noise, congestion, pollution, less safety and can create a sense of overwhelming stress, anxiety and hectic daily life. Whereas, limited traffic means less noise and sound pollution, less cars on the road, less accidents, more safety - which all can contribute to a healthier neighbourhood. Places with high traffic are so unhealthy because of the noise levels and pollution issues. Such problems can affect your sleep and stress levels, leading to a decreasing quality of life. How would you like to be woken up everyday to cars honking and walking out of your building to be met with smoke and smog? It’s not good for children, the youth, adults, the elderly or pets. Not to mention, pollution is detrimental to the health of our green earth.
Are there any healthy essentials and establishments within walking distance?
A healthy neighbourhood is also determined by the number of healthy establishments that can be found within walking distance. Healthy neighbourhoods incorporate plenty of ways for people to stay active and to remain wellness and health focused. Check to see if you can find all of the essential health services nearby you neighbourhood, such as hospitals, doctor’s clinics, pharmacies, and daycare centers. Do you see health-centric businesses everywhere? Are there quality supermarkets or farmers markets that sell fresh, sustainable produce? Living nearby healthy fresh markets can decrease your likelihood of eating junk - which means less obesity and stress on your health. Are there any wellness stores? What about restaurants and cafes that serve healthy food and drinks? The more healthy businesses there are in your neighbourhood, the better it is, and bonus points if any of these are within walking distance! Neighbourhoods like these can taken off the market very quickly and for excellent reason!
There is a neighbourhood spanning one street long in Phuket, Thailand, called “Fighter’s Street”. It is dubbed as the healthiest and safest neighbourhood in the world for many of the above factors. The entire street is dedicated to everything fitness and wellness-related. There are gyms, fitness centers, wellness clinics, massage salons, organic cafés, healthy restaurants, and raw juice and smoothie bars along the entire length of the street. Everyone who goes there naturally becomes healthier and fitter because of all that they are surrounded by. People from all over the world visit this street and live there for months at a time as a method of detox from their chaotic and unhealthy lifestyles, and is now seen as a safe haven where one can go to find themselves again. There’s a very strong sense of community there, where everyone supports and helps each other. It’s also known as the safest street in Thailand and probably in the world because everyone who goes there believes in one thing and one thing only - “becoming fitter, healthier versions of themselves and helping others do so along the way”. If our city planning across the globe could follow the footsteps of this place, we would be able to live healthier and happier lives anywhere in the world.
Health is everything and our health starts from the place we call home. Let’s start seeking out neighbourhoods that are healthy for us and our world.
What do you look for in a healthy neighbourhood and what do you consider as a happy home? We would love to hear your feedback!