Saturday, 18 April 2015

Short-Term Thinking

Many families in Hong Kong live in cramped conditions like this
Yesterday a colleague asked me if I knew of any places available for rent.

It turns out her landlord is increasing the monthly rent of her 270-square-foot flat in a 30-year-old building in Sham Shui Po to HK$13,200.

That amount is just mind-boggling as it's just enough room for a bed, one's worldly possessions and a tiny kitchen and bathroom.

I've lived in 300 square feet, but for over HK$13,000?

She has been looking for alternatives, but only has a few more days until she has to let the landlord know if she's staying or not.

My colleague is no spring chicken, but she doesn't make much money, though enough to cover living expenses, including looking after three cats. However, the rent increase would be too much to bear financially.

"Everyone is snapping up cheaper flats, not the luxury ones, and not everyone can get the lower priced flats, so rents are going up," she says matter-of-fact. "I can't even begin to think of buying a flat -- HK$4 million doesn't get you much these days."

Mont Vert microflats in Tai Po, far from the MTR station...
It's true -- and as developers find more ways to screw buyers, the only affordable housing are microflats, where there's basically only enough room for a bed and bathroom. You'll be lucky if you have room for a hot plate and a bar fridge. Did we mention these places are located in areas that aren't near public transport?

Young people in Hong Kong who don't have parents with fat bank accounts have the short end of the stick. How is society supposed to develop when salaries are frozen from 10 years ago, so the next generation has no choice but to live with their parents well into adulthood, the opportunity to move out getting increasingly remote as property prices skyrocket.

Depressed salaries do not help the economy -- it prevents young people from buying flats, getting married and having children. Meanwhile the rich get richer, and the social inequality worsens.

I hope my coworker does find a decent place that isn't exorbitant soon... it also illustrates how greedy landlords can be. Maybe it's time Hong Kong introduces some kind of rent controls? But the rich will probably kick up a fuss and the government will back down...

The other shocking news was that The Excelsior hotel in Causeway Bay may be torn down to make way for an office building. The hotel has been there for 42 years and has a fantastic location by the MTR and shopping areas, and the basement holds Dickens bar where many go there to grab a drink or watch football games on the big screens.

While it is a fact office buildings are much less labour-intensive than hotels, the possibility of tearing down The Excelsior is so short-sighted.

Central used to have the Hilton (now Cheung Kong Centre), Furama (now AIA Central) and the former Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong (now another office building). The only hotels in the main Central district are the Mandarin Oriental and its sister property in the Landmark.

Despite many objections, 27 Lugard Road will be developed
It seems ironic that while Macau is building more hotels, Hong Kong is keen to knock them down and instead have places for guests to stay in the oddest locations like the Murray Building, and the Peak.

The Town Planning Board has approved the development of a boutique hotel on 27 Lugard Road on Victoria Peak, which is where many tourists, and locals like to walk around the Peak. Despite 3,215 objections to the proposal and only 278 expressions of support, the plan was given the green light unanimously by the board.

Does everyone in Hong Kong have short-term thinking?


  1. Can something be wrong with HK Chinks? Landlords. renters, pols alike? Maybe we need Japs to remind us of a few lessons in social discipline?? Just wondering...

  2. wondering how much suffering can people in HK take before starting a true revolt? PRC China is stepping on the chest (and soon the head) of the HK much more can HK people suffer quietly??

    HK gov't haven't built a new single public estate flat since the handover (aside from replacing ones that fell apart. ie Ngau Tau Kok Lower and Upper)

    would you want to live in Guangdong/Shenzhen/Zhuhai to commute to HK where wages stagnates since 2000?

    You must be very happy with the Chinese gov't from the lack of anger on the streets of HK, saying "thank you very much" after being kicked in the shins by the CCP :)

    next, we would have a police state like PRC China..