Hong Kong housing

Stopping the squeeze: how minimum requirements could come ‘at any time’ to curb Hong Kong’s shrinking flat sizes

Development minister says land sale conditions can be slapped on developers ‘at any time’ if deemed necessary

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 March, 2017, 12:53pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 March, 2017, 10:31pm

Developers could be forced to build flats above a minimum size as the number of tiny homes continues to rise in the world’s least affordable market.

Secretary for Development Eric Ma Siu-cheung said on Sunday that measures could be ­inserted into land sale conditions “at any time” if this was deemed necessary.

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But he stopped short of committing to any immediate action, saying the number of “nano flats” still represented just a fraction of the city’s housing and he was ­confident the market would ­balance and correct itself.

“We are concerned about this [situation],” Ma said during a ­television interview.

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“We hope flats will not become too small. They are OK for one person to live in but [not] for a family.”

In recent years developers have built increasingly smaller flats to meet surging demand for more affordable homes, amid sky-high prices and a perennial shortage of living space.

We hope flats will not become too small
Eric Ma Siu-cheung, development minister

Flats as small as 152 sq ft ­recently hit the market for about HK$20,000 per sq ft and last year a developer announced plans to build the smallest homes in the city at 61 sq ft.

“Of course, we will monitor the situation and, if necessary, we can list out in the land sale conditions, for example, requirements for a unit’s minimal floor area and quantities,” Ma said. “We’ve done this in the past too ... if necessary, we can do it any time. It’s not ­difficult.”

His predecessor, Paul Chan Mo-po, said in December that banning such tiny flats was “not appropriate” at this stage and ­developers should be given flexibility to “respond to the market appropriately”.

Meanwhile, Ma said the ­government was concerned about the recent surge in land prices – largely a result of aggressive bidding by mainland developers. “It has reached a level where we must deal with it ­carefully.”

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But he said the government did not generally intervene in an open market and, regardless of where capital was from, developers were obliged to build flats ­according to the time frame specified in their leases.

He urged prospective buyers to be aware of external economic factors at play, such as anticipated increases in interest rates by the US Federal Reserve this year.