Just how low can you go?
Living space per capita in the city has been shrinking over the past two decades after the 1997 handover
Hong Kong is a small city, so we all minimize our expectations to live in a small home. But just how far are people willing to compromise to live in a core urban district?
All eyes will be watching what happens at the latest offering by Sun Hung Kai Properties, the city’s largest real estate developer – Cullinan West.
The new residential project above the Nam Cheong MTR station of the West Rail Line would offer a studio flat with a usable floor area of 267 square feet. Most of the 210 units on offer is said to be studio size.
The 267 square foot flat will become the smallest unit along the subway line in an urban district, breaking the record of the 306 square foot apartment launched by New World Development last month in The Pavilia Bay in Tsuen Wan in the New Territories.
Last October, K. Wah Group sold a 203 square foot apartment in the Spectra in Yuen Long in the northeast New Territories, which is considered a suburban district.
Although the Cullinan West price list for 1,050 flats has yet to be released, the luxury estate is definitely not tailor-made for low-income families in Sham Shui Po. The smallest flat is most likely priced at around HK$5 million (US$644,018).
Let’s stop and examine the realities of living in such a small space. It seems that the apartment is still affordable for Hong Kong’s middle class. The company press release states that Cullinan West “offers … units that come in diverse layouts from studio to four-bedroom units, suitable for residents with different housing needs.”
Think how a couple would spend a lifetime of savings to buy a home equivalent to the size of two car parking lots or two prison cells. It seems more like a pathetic story than a middle-class couple realizing their dream of home ownership.
China’s former leader Deng Xiaoping should be held responsible for this situation as he had promised in the Basic Law that Hong Kong should remain unchanged for 50 years after the 1997 handover. But he did not state clearly that “living space per capita” in the city should not be shrinking.
Testing the limit
Interestingly enough, local developers created a new formula amid the booming property market – reducing the size of flats to maximize profits as much as possible.
In other words, these developers, most of whom are on the Forbes rich list, want to test Hong Kong people’s limit on just how small a flat they are willing to accept.
Last year, small company Chun Wo Property Development made headlines by offering a student studio flat of 128 square feet in Tuen Mun in New Territories East.
The developer said students living in small places are happy because all they need is a bed, just like an emperor, who found comfort in just a small bed even if they were living in a place as big as the Forbidden City.
In some circumstances, such harsh words make sense. Yau Wai-ching, who won a seat in the Legislative Council last September but was later disqualified, said many of Hong Kong’s young people could not find a place to bang due to high property prices.
Oh well, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, or sex, and everything comes at a price, especially when it comes to buying a home.