As property prices have risen in Hong Kong, developers have been building ever-tinier homes to make them affordable. How small is too small has been the inevitable question asked by those worried about livability. The government promised an answer and just before the new year, set a figure of 280 sq ft as the minimum floor area for a flat built on its land. It is not as low as some had feared and perhaps even comfortable for a single person, but is still far less than what many developed societies elsewhere consider acceptable. The smallest self-contained flats in the private sector have been 128 sq ft, the size of a car parking space. Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun’s announcement last Thursday that the new rule would be tested in a project of 2,020 flats in Tuen Mun more than doubles that size and is above market expectations of between 200 and 250 sq ft. The decision coincides with the government expanding the supply of land for residential use to a four-year high in the next three months to tackle a severe housing shortfall. Authorities had been considering building even smaller homes to boost stocks. Another major developer, the MTR, has pledged to follow suit and the Urban Renewal Authority, a government-backed housing provider, already adheres to a higher minimum of about 300 sq ft. Some in the property sector consider the government’s limit too small; they contend it will make homes unaffordable. Death of the nano flat? Hong Kong sets minimum size for new homes The thinking is that there should be a wide range of usable floor areas available to cater for all budgets. But with the term “nano flat” synonymous with the city, matters of perception, living standards, affordability and reputation also have to be considered. With an ageing population and declining birth rate, authorities have been under pressure to make Hong Kong a more desirable place in which to live and raise a family. They have acknowledged cramped living spaces are a “pain point” for society. There has been particular concerns about rising numbers only able to afford rooms in subdivided flats. The government is finally taking the lead with setting limits, but it is to be hoped that as more usable land is found, minimum sizes can be raised.