Limited land is blamed for the high prices of Hong Kong’s homes, consistently among the world’s most expensive in terms of cost per square foot. That has put them out of the reach of many people, so property developers have responded by building ever-smaller flats popularly known as “nano” to make them affordable. With usable area sizes of 250 sq ft and less becoming increasingly commonplace and rising community concern about the need for decent living standards for raising families, it is understandable that authorities have promised to look into the issue. Questions therefore have to be raised as to why the government’s Housing Authority plans units as tiny as 186 sq ft for a Home Ownership Scheme project at Kai Tak. There is no definition of what constitutes a “decent” standard of living. The Housing Authority, the city’s biggest provider of subsidised housing, lists flats among its batch of more than 8,900 for release next year no bigger than 479 sq ft, with about 30 per cent smaller than 322 sq ft and the tiniest just 186 sq ft, one-and-a-half times the size of a car parking space. No flats as small have ever been sold under the scheme, which provides homes at a substantial discount to people ineligible for public housing but unable to buy into the private sector. Officials say details of the new flats are provisional, so sizes and prices could change. Over 780 shoebox flats in Hong Kong’s subsidised housing scheme still unsold But the authority has been under pressure to meet the government’s housing targets. Officials have pledged to build 301,000 public flats in the coming decade, their eye on reducing the current average waiting time of 5.9 years. The majority of Hong Kong’s housing is private and flats have been built as small as 128 sq ft, while surveys have found the per-person living area in subdivided flats is as little as 50 sq ft. Authorities have acknowledged that cramped living spaces are a “pain point” for society and pledged to gradually increase the size of public housing units by 10 or 20 per cent in the long run and establish minimum sizes for the private sector. Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun in October gave no specifics, although referred to the Urban Renewal Authority, another government-backed housing provider, which raised the minimum area of its flats from 260 to 300 sq ft in 2018. The Housing Society, the city’s second-biggest provider of public housing, is building homes of between 313 and 644 sq ft at its project at Kai Tak. But bigger, better and more affordable housing is not something that will happen any time soon. It is good that the government says it intends to reverse trends, although the message is mixed when it adopts the practices of the private sector. When it comes to quality of life, authorities have to set an example.