The so-called “nano” homes, averaging not much more than 20 square meters (215 square feet), are becoming the future of Hong Kong’s young couples.
In other major financial centers,such as New York or London, more and more young professionals choose to rent tiny apartments near to where they work and entertain rather than buying houses in the suburbs, which their fathers did when they were the same age.
But in Hong Kong, “nano” homes are often the only choice for young people because they simply cannot afford to buy or rent “regular” homes anywhere, not only in the city but also in the satellite towns. Even subsidized apartments in government-built housing estates now sell at prices that have caught up with the market average.
In London, for instance, the average monthly rental for a studio flat with floor space of under 24 square meters in the city is the equivalent of about HK$12,000. In comparison, a studio apartment in a relatively new building with modern amenities in Wan Chai district commands rent of well above HK$30,000 a month.
Obviously the privilege of living near a workplace in prime business and commercial districts is affordable only to the highlypaid professionals in finance and information technology. For the rest of the salary earners with young families, the only alternative is to look further afield for affordable housing.
The reality, harsh as it may seem, is unavoidable for a combination of reasons. The complexity of the market, dominated by the property oligarchy, has consistently frustrated government efforts to solve the housing problem arising from escalating prices.
As a result, sub-divided flats reminiscent of the squalid quarters that provided the backdrops in many 1950s Cantonese movies are making a comeback. At that time, Hong Kong was nothing more than a struggling trading outpost in the region. Now, it is ranked among the world’s leading developed economies.
The people of this city certainly deserve better.