Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Incredible Shrinking Homes

How small a space are you willing to live in? Or rather you can afford?
The housing issue in Hong Kong continues to heat up. In the last day or so, there have been reports that there will be more and more microflats coming into the market in the next few years.

Last year there were 691 units on the market, over eight times more than the 79 in 2015; smaller flats between 215 sq ft and 430 sq ft jumped to 6,200 last year, from 2,056 in 2015. The Hong Kong government forecasts 6,852 private flats smaller than 430 sq ft will be completed this year, accounting for 38 percent of the overall supply of 18,130 private flats this year.

Tiny spaces leave people feeling claustrophobic and depressed
There have been calls to regulate the minimum size -- some of which are smaller than the dimensions of a jail cell here. Our Hong Kong Foundation that's run by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa has estimated the average size of private flats completed between 2018 and 2022 would be 681 sq ft, or equivalent to five standard parking space -- an 18 percent decrease from the average of 833 sq ft in the past decade.

Researchers say the trend of building microflats getting smaller will continue. Developers say that's because there is a demand for them, especially from those buyers who want to finally own a home, but at what cost financially and in terms of mental health? How is a tiny cramped space good for one's self esteem? How many years will it take for them to pay off the mortgage?

Pro-government lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen from the Federation of Trade Unions said the government needs to safeguard buyers' rights.

"I know that many buyers now feel regret after purchasing nano flats. Even if the government won't legislate a flat's minimum size, will you consider introducing guidelines about it?" she asked.

How long can someone live in a tiny space like this?
However, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan said there was no need to regulate the size of flats because buyers wouldn't be able to afford bigger ones due to rising property prices.

"If we set out some guidelines stipulating the minimum floor area of a flat, it means that aspiring home buyers will face a minimum price for a larger unit. Will they be able to afford this [greater] minimum price? We have big reservations about this," Chan said.

Land supply, he says is the issue. Perhaps that's because the government is constantly pushing its agenda of reclaiming more land on Lantau that has received a lot of opposition because it disrupts the environment and the species that live in the area.

We've been calling for the government to put more effort into re-developing brown sites, but there hasn't been much in the news about it seriously looking into these areas. The sites may seem small, but they add up and it's the more sustainable way to go. And maybe it's time to stop the quota of allowing 150 mainlanders to settle here everyday? Just a thought.

It's time for the government to be more creative; blaming market demand is not the answer.

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