Hong Kong housing minister dismisses calls for minimum size for new private flats, saying it will impact affordability
Lawmakers had called for the government to regulate the size of private flats as the number of micro flats in the city continues to rise
Hong Kong’s housing chief has ruled out imposing a minimum size on private flats being built in the city, despite complaints about a growing trend of people being squeezed into smaller homes.
Speaking at a special finance committee meeting of the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan dismissed calls to regulate private developers’ supply of micro flats, saying aspiring homebuyers might not be able to afford larger homes, given skyrocketing property prices.
“If we set out some guidelines stipulating the minimum floor area of a flat, it means that aspiring homebuyers will face a minimum price for a larger unit. Will they be able to afford this [greater] minimum price? We have big reservations about this,” he said.
Lawmakers across the political spectrum called for the government to regulate the size of private flats churned out by developers as government figures showed the number of micro flats with a saleable area of less than 206 sq ft was on the rise.
In 2017, 691 micro flats were available on the market, over eight times more than the 79 in 2015, while smaller flats between 215 sq ft and 430 sq ft soared to 6,200 last year from 2,056 in 2015. The government forecast that 6,852 private flats smaller than 430 sq ft will be completed this year, accounting for about 38 per cent of the overall supply of 18,130 private flats this year.
Our Hong Kong Foundation also estimated that the average size of private flats completed between 2018 and 2022 would be 681 sq ft or equivalent to five standard parking spaces – an 18 per cent slide from the average of 833 sq ft in the past decade.
Researchers pointed out that the shrinking average size was largely due to developers building more micro flats.
Heung Yee Kuk’s leader Kenneth Lau Ip-keung said he was worried that the growing trend of micro flat supply would compromise the living quality of Hong Kong residents.
“I believe this growing trend is not something that Hongkongers would like to see. It’s an irony that Hong Kong is getting more prosperous but its residents are forced to live in smaller flats,” he said.
Pro-government lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen, from the Federation of Trade Unions, also weighed in, calling for the government to safeguard homebuyers’ rights.
“I know that many buyers now feel regret after purchasing nano flats. Even if the government won’t legislate a flat’s minimum size, will you consider introducing guidelines about it?” she asked.
But Chan insisted regulation of the size of private flats would not resolve the housing needs of Hongkongers, saying more supply of land should be the ultimate solution.
“Property prices have indeed soared drastically beyond the affordability of most people and the supply of smaller flats has also greatly increased. But I believe this market situation only reflects people’s housing demand and the acute shortage of land supply,” he said.
“In the long run, we hope to explore more sites for the supply of more housing and bigger units. After all, resolving the housing needs of residents hinges on the development of more land,” he said, adding that he hoped the Task Force on Land Supply could come up with more ideas.