Co-living becomes quite the rage among Hong Kong’s young professionals
Little things, such as clothes hangers made out of old water-pipes, a wooden ceiling and small paintings, coupled with modern elements, make even the smallest flats more homey
Co-living spaces are appealing to more young professionals, with their offer of an upscale lifestyle at relatively modest prices.
“We see an increasing demand for nicer, affordable space,” said Denis Ma, head of research at JLL.
“I am surprised that even some small, individual flats scattered across different buildings, are seeing really high occupancy rates.”
The firm we r urban, founded in 2016, is one of a number of small co-living space operators, targeting those looking for a stylish space on a limited budget.
Dominik Wiesent, a director of the operator, said: “I come from Switzerland, where houses are also very expensive. But after I saw 60 plus flats when I first arrived, I just could not find a suitable one – they were either too expensive or in a condition that was hard to accept – mini, cubical-sized places with no furniture and shabby bathrooms are unacceptable.”
Wiesent, a designer, started to look at flats in older buildings, many in sloppy condition, which were cheaper to rent.
The company then leased the spaces from landlords, renovated the flats and gave them a new lease of life with designer-led interiors, and sub-let them to tenants.
One 300 sq ft flat currently available in a 43-year-old building in Sheung Wan, near the city’s financial centre, for example, has been turned into a three-bedroom flat, boasting double beds and big windows which let in huge amounts of sunlight.
It has an open-plan kitchen equipped with a washing machine and refrigerator, a bright and freshly painted bathroom and shared living space with a handmade wooden table and sofa.
Little things, such as clothes hangers made out of old water pipes, a wooden ceiling in the kitchen and small paintings, coupled with modern elements make the flats more homey.
“The whole idea is to provide a comfortable, affordable home in the heart of the city,” he added.
The company currently runs 30 such small, co-living flats housing 70 tenants, spread throughout Central and Sheung Wan, attracting mainly young professionals. They range in price from HK$6,500 (US$828) to HK$12,500 per room, and are fully occupied.
Market watchers say there is a burgeoning market for such shared homes as the pool of affordable, appealing flats available for young professionals remains limited.
Edina Wong, Savills Hong Kong’s head of residential service, said: “You cannot find many such decent properties on Hong Kong Island even with a budget up to HK$20,000.”
She said only around 700 such rental flats have come onto the market in the past 12 to 18 months, far from enough to meet a growing demand, especially among millennials who cannot afford to buy in the city but yearn for a trendy spot right near their workplaces.
Yoan Kamalski, CEO and co-founder of Singapore co-living company firm Hmlet, spotted the trend too, and acquired we r urban at the end of July.
“Hong Kong is a natural next move for Hmlet, and this investment allows us to impact millennials across the city,” said Kamalski.
“We r urban is now scaling up from offering scattered flats to renovating entire buildings, which will double its number of sites by the end of this year.”