As housing prices spiral in Hong Kong, young professionals are living in ever-shrinking spaces, with box-like “nano-flats” and co-shares touted as fashionable solutions.
Blocks of sleek miniature apartments packed with mod cons are springing up around the densely packed city, pitched as an attractive and more affordable lifestyle choice, but still at an eye-watering cost. Finance worker Adrian Law, 25, paid more than HK$6 million ($765,000) two years ago for his tiny studio apartment in a new development in the gentrified Sai Ying Pun neighborhood.
The slim glass building squeezes four apartments onto each floor and includes “nano-flats”, a new term for homes of under 215 square feet (20 square meters).
Law’s studio is a fraction bigger at 292 square feet, with a price per square foot of nearly HK$20,000.
He has adapted to the limited space by buying transformable furniture — his bed folds away against the wall to reveal a desk tucked underneath — and he keeps most of his belongings at his parents’ home. But with a fingerprint-activated door lock, washing machine, TV, fridge and even curtains, Law says the flat came with everything he needed.
“Property developers are marketing the concept to buyers that they only need a place to sleep and can do anything else outside,” he said, admitting he eats mostly take-away food as the kitchen is too small for cooking.
Law’s parents helped him put down a 30 percent deposit when he bought the apartment and he sees it as an investment. He pays HK$24,000 per month for the mortgage, around 40 percent of his salary.
“One can only get into a winning position by owning a place,” he said. “If you’re renting, you are spending all your money without gaining anything at the end.”
Hong Kong’s real estate is the most expensive in the world, with median house prices at 19.4 times median incomes — the worst ratio globally according to this year’s Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.
Property prices have been fueled by an influx of money from wealthy Chinese investors and developers, and the city government stands accused of failing to control the red-hot property market.
More than 60 percent of new flats under 430 square feet are taken up by investment buyers, according to government figures.
With the ability to buy a flat increasingly out of reach for the majority of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million residents, developers are creating smaller spaces to reach a wider market. Under Hong Kong law there is no limit to how small a flat can be.
Ryan Ip, senior researcher at public policy think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation, describes it as an “unhealthy” trend with developers putting profit above quality of life.
“If you count the per-square-foot price for smaller-size flats, it is even higher than larger flats,” said Ip, who believes mental and physical health will suffer if properties continue to shrink.
Rental prices have also rocketed and the wait for government-subsidized public housing can be five years. Ip says expanding land supply by any means, including reclamation from the sea, is the only way to solve the affordable housing shortage.
But other local land research groups argue Hong Kong should develop under-utilized brownfield sites and idle government land first.
The government is considering a host of options, from new artificial islands to developing the city’s cherished country parks. Designers are also putting forward their own new concepts, including converting concrete pipes into living spaces and transforming shipping containers into homes.
Many poorer Hong Kong residents resort to renting dingy “subdivided” flats — apartments carved up into multiple living spaces. But even for those on a good salary, a decent home is often unaffordable.
Jezz Ng, 29, earns a monthly wage of HK$32,000 as a teacher and has chosen to live in a new co-share housing set-up, rather than shelling out for her own rent. At weekends she goes home to her parents.
Ng shares a unit with seven other women where she has her own small room, which can fit a single bed and a desk. Housed in a revitalized residential building in the working class neighborhood of Yau Ma Tei, privately owned Bibliotheque offers 166 bed spaces across 15 units, with monthly rents ranging from HK$3,500 to HK$6,200.
All tenants have access to communal facilities, from shower areas and a kitchen to activity rooms and study rooms.
“When I started to look for places to rent, my maximum budget was HK$8,000 including utilities, but a simple, decent studio room could easily go over this price,” Ng said.
She now pays HK$5,600 per month, which she says allows her to support her parents financially and pay her sister’s tuition fees for a master’s degree — a common practice for young adults who are working.
Ng adds she feels less cramped than when she lived at home. Founder of the co-share, Keith Wong, says it is designed for young professionals who need time to “accumulate wealth” by limiting their outgoings. For now it is an ideal solution, says Ng.
“I want to strive for an apartment, but at the moment, there’s no way for me to achieve that goal,” she explained.
“Even though I have a stable job and the salary goes up steadily, it will never catch up with the increase in property prices.”
The town of Baolai (寶來) is located along the Southern Cross-Island Highway in the upper reaches of Kaohsiung City. After suffering a devastating setback at the hands of Typhoon Morakot, the town’s tourism industry is finally showing signs of recovery. While the town itself has many commercial hot spring offerings for tourists, the adjacent Baolai River also has at least five different wild hot springs available to those with a more adventurous spirit. SHIDONG AND WUKENG Just before entering the town of Baolai, make two right turns to reach the bridge across the Baolai River. Immediately after crossing this bridge, there is
In October of 2002 the James Ossuary exploded into the public consciousness. The artifact, a burial box in which bones were interred, was announced at a press conference in Washington prior to undergoing any form of scholarly authentication. It had an inscription that read in Aramaic: Ya’akov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua (“James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”). Its promoters presented the thing as the first real concrete link to the historical Jesus. It was an obvious fake, and at that time I was administrating two enormous discussion groups devoted to early Christian history, which hosted numerous scholars in
Jan. 25 to Jan. 30 It was the beginning of the end when Dutch sergeant Hans Jurgen Radis walked out of Fort Zeelandia and surrendered to the besieging army of Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功, also known as Koxinga). The Dutch had already been trapped in the fort for nine months, and they were sick, hungry and in despair. After one defection during the early days of the siege, Dutch commander Frederick Coyett set up checkpoints around the fort’s perimeter, in what is today’s Tainan. Radis told his bunkmate he was going hunting, but by the time they realized where
“Well, if it cannot happen this year because of the pandemic,” Tourism Bureau Director General Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰) says at the end of his interview with Cycling Shorts last week, “at least we’ll be ready to promote it next year.” Chang is discussing the Year of Cycling Tourism (自行車旅遊年) that has long been planned for this year. He has spent the previous 30 minutes introducing the various infrastructure projects undertaken over recent years and those proposed for the next few. Essentially, the Bureau, under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), has been pulling together resources from a wide range of