Past Sunday, state-owned newspaper Wen Wei Pao urged the Government to take action in light of the fact that many HongKongers are living in homes not much bigger than the size of prison cells. The paper reported that the average area per person in Hong Kong is 161 square feet. The number falls to 51 square feet for people living in subdivided flats. For your information, a prison cell in Stanley Prison offers 81 square feet of living space.
No statutory control on flat size
In Singapore, the government sets rules for new homes to be at least 753 square feet outside the core district and limits smaller units of at least 538 square feet. The minimum size of a unit in Japan is 269 square feet but the target is 431 square feet in urban districts and 592 square feet in the countryside. No size requirements exist in Hong Kong, where flats are getting smaller and smaller (and more expensive).
Record-breaking flat sizes
In October 2016, Emperor International Holdings filed with the Buildings Department its plan to launch a project in Yik Yam Street, Happy Valley, where each unit measures 61.4 square feet. This will probably be one of the smallest flats in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, a buyer in September 2016 paid HK$3.9 million for a 163-square foot unit in Henderson Land’s One Prestige apartments in North Point. That’s about HK$24,000 per square feet.
Helping the young to buy
Why is this happening? According to the developers, they are building their flats smaller and smaller in prime locations to “help young people get onto the property ladder.” Their logic is this – since property is getting more and more expensive, they will build smaller and smaller flats which would require smaller sums of cash to buy, although the price per square foot will be ever more expensive. Meanwhile, developers profit.
But no matter how small these prison cells get, people will continue to buy them. While housing is now out of reach for many HongKongers, sales of new properties continue to transact at record prices, as developers offer mortgage arrangements through their subsidiaries when banks would not grant them. From 2012, the average price of private housing rose about 50%, far beyond the growth of income of the average family. Sooner or later, something’s got to give.