• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 5:13pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 May, 2014, 2:32am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 May, 2014, 5:58am

New York going the way of Hong Kong with its 'micro-apartments'

We in Hong Kong are accustomed to idolising real world cities like New York. But there is at least one crucial respect in which the Big Apple is following our example: increasingly cramped apartments and shrinking living space.

Writing in The Atlantic magazine, journalist Jacoba Urist points out the obvious: New York has a serious housing problem when "it has 1.8 million one- and two-person households, and only one million studios and one-bedroom apartments".

The solution, advocated by former mayor Michael Bloomberg and followed by developers, is to build more "micro-apartments", tiny flats of 250 and 370 square feet. Sound familiar?

New York, of course, has always had small flats. But the point is that they are being promoted as the wave of the future from tycoons like Bloomberg on down.

Developers love it. Why? Because such flats increase the ground value that they can extract from each square foot of space. Property tycoons like Li Ka-shing know all about this.

Over time, this will make housing more expensive for the average Joe or Wong: they either have to pay more to live in the same-sized flats they rent or pay the same to live in ever-smaller flats. Sad to say, Hongkongers know all about it while New Yorkers, especially new arrivals, are just beginning to realise it - hence Urist treating it as news.

This has led to declining housing standards and living conditions as well as an erosion of zoning laws. "Countless New Yorkers illegally share apartments, and current zoning rules can create poor living environments - dilapidated kitchens or dark, dingy rooms," Urist writes.

But the central message of her article is not economics; rather the psychological impact that living in cramped space has on the well-being of its inhabitants.

It increases stress, which is related to domestic violence and substance abuse, not to say bad relations with neighbours.

But since most of us are born and raised in small homes in Hong Kong, it's less of a big deal. People who grew up in open spaces will feel worse, as expats and outsiders who move to Hong Kong have long discovered.

Urist should perhaps visit Hong Kong, where she will see the future of Big Apple.


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This article is now closed to comments

The effect of these new small apartments for young singles in a neighborhood must go through assessment for approval. Their location is the exception and not ubiquitously spread out in increasing density everywhere in the City.
It’s already been half a decade such small apartment buildings which are also being built in San Francisco and Boston. The trend is attributed to a young developer with high idealism from Boston who is building small flats in those aforementioned cities. Mayor Bloomberg caught on his idea and followed the other two cities.
AL should stand to be corrected for misconstruing The Atlantic article thinking NYC is catching up with Hong Kong or LKS. The contrary would be true.
What we need is a NJ and CT so that people who desire more space can live in Fort Lee or Greenwich. The difference between Hong Kong and NYC is the lack of alternatives. A lot of people working in NYC or London commute up to 1 hour to work. It is a lifestyle choice. Hong Kong needs to work with BJ and get the alternative. Hong Kong is just too small and too crowded.
If u watch "million dollar listing" shows mostly NY, they were still a lot cheaper than HK and much better quality than hk properties. Plus these young people working in manhattan are making good money....
"real world cities"? So NY is a "real world city" and HK is not? Confused by what those terms mean
The motive in building small apartments from scratch in New York City is to avail housing to newly college graduates who seek work in the City. Mayor Bloomberg deemed it as vital that the City must accommodate those just beginning their job which is vital to the well-being of New York City.
The comparison to Hong Kong’s small flats is totally misdirected. Hong Kong’s motive is to improve profitability to developers by cutting down area in order to get more units to a plot of land.
Too, the new small apartments are 30 square feet less than a traditional studio apartment of 400 square feet. Innovation in design compensates the reduction. The small apartments are for single occupancy only with an affordable rent. Hong Kong’s small flats are for family use as property to own.
This situation only applies to Manhattan apartment buildings. You must remember that if you want to live outside Manhattan Island and have a one hour or so commute to work then you can easily rent or buy a 1000 sq foot, or larger, apartment or house at a very reasonable price. If you commute one hour in HK you still end up living in a tiny little flat (homes are only available to the very rich) and pay a very high rent or purchase price.
To the Dislike (1),
Tell me what you dislike about? Some facts? Wouldn't it be silly to do that for mostly a non mutiple choice fact? Or your mind are so mindlessly skewed for probably being a property developer empolyee or a property agent in Hong Kong? Don't be thin skinned only. Defend your position or I stand by my discription of you.
John Yuan


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