Saturday, 19 November 2016

Justifying Microflats in Hong Kong

Not everyone is clamouring for a matchbox-sized flat in the sky
Hong Kong government officials are disconnected as ever from the rest of us 7 million people, and they still wonder why the Umbrella protests happened two years ago.

One of the gripes was that housing had become unaffordable. And what has happened since? Flats have become even more unaffordable.

Developers then hit on the idea of making flats smaller and smaller so that prices would seem more within reach of first-time home buyers -- care for a 152 square foot flat anyone?

There is public outrage about these microflats -- the smallest ones are smaller than a prison cell. How is that humane?

Chan says there won't be size restrictions on building flats
But Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po says there is no need to impose restrictions on how small flats should be, because flexibility was needed for market adjustments, given the uncertainties during the period when the flats are under construction.

We all know real estate is a winning investment. How could one lose? There are no uncertainties in selling them because everyone needs a roof over their heads.

And then Chan twists the justification even further.

"There is a demand for such small units," he said. For example, he explained, young people who want to move out of their parents' houses could only afford these flats due to their limited budget. "It is not suitable for us to decide what size of the homes they are allowed to live in."

These flats are in demand because investors want to rent them out to people who want to move out of their parents' home. These buyers are even willing to pay the 15 percent stamp duty for buying a second, third, fourth... whatever number home.

Is it fair for people to have to live in such tiny spaces?
Would a first-time home owner really want to buy a 152-sq-ft flat, and pay over HK$3 million for it in a mortgage that will take over 20 years to pay off?

Hardly seems worth it for a matchbox-sized home in the sky.

Chan is mistaken for thinking the majority of buyers of these microflats are first-time buyers.

We should also keep in mind that Chan and his wife Frieda Hui owned a company that owned several flats that were illegally subdivided. Seems like Chan doesn't mind packing people in like sardines either.

Edward Yiu Chung-yim, associate professor at the Chinese University's department of geography and resource management, said the government should tackle the housing problem by improving the affordability of homes instead of imposing size regulation.

"If the high land price policy does not change, size restrictions would do more harm than good," Yiu said, adding such a policy would further discourage people from buying homes.

Has Chan even been in one of these microflats and tried to imagine how he would live in one of them?

It's amazing how someone who grew up in a housing estate doesn't even care to empathize with how people are struggling these days...

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