My Take

So-called nano flats are just a ruse to enrich developers

Square foot by square foot, such living spaces can be more expensive than larger units; it’s time for the government to impose a minimum size on flats

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 4:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 11:00am

The person who came up with the term “nano flats” deserves a big bonus for making a disgustingly exploitative real estate trend sound sexy and hi-tech.

Contrary to claims that developers are making flats affordable to young people and couples, they are actually squeezing every square foot to make an extra buck. 

Most of these units are less than 200 sq ft but sell at an average of HK$4 million. You do the maths: at about HK$20,000 per sq ft, they cost more than many larger sized homes, square foot for square foot.

Opinion: City cannot afford to carry on living with even smaller homes

And the real estate boys are aided and abetted by our government, which has supposedly made bringing down flat prices a policy priority. 

During a visit to a rundown subdivided unit early in his tenure, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan apparently became emotional and tearful upon seeing children living in squalor. 

Chan, however, has no problem with nano flats. Despite bipartisan support, he told lawmakers last week he would not consider imposing a minimum size on private flats.

Why not? 

One: Hong Kong is a free market. 

Two: without nano flats, many people may not be able to afford owning a home at all.

The falsity and absurdity of his claims make you laugh, until you cry. How is it a free market when the government owns all the land and controls its supply?

Hong Kong flats will shrink until the government changes course

Granted, private nano flats are glorified subdivided flats with designer furniture, so maybe we shouldn’t take too much pity on their buyers.

But actually, they have an impact on keeping home prices high, just as derelict subdivided flats make their effects felt in the rental market. 

Contrary to what Chan says, nano flats entice people into buying inflated assets when they really shouldn’t be buying into this crazy market with their limited life savings.

More micro flats in Hong Kong will further erode quality of life

Despite the government’s support for home ownership, it is neither a right nor is it desirable for everyone at all times. 

Surely to rent or to buy varies depending on one’s circumstances in life. Oftentimes, with rising mortgage rates, ownership becomes pure financial hardship.

The government should impose a minimum size on flats. If this forces some people out of the market, it may even be a good thing. They shouldn’t be buying barely habitable flats at inflated prices.

Instead, let them save enough and/or the market has a correction before taking the big plunge.