How small can Hong Kong’s apartments get? This builder is aiming for a record at 123 sq ft

With first-time buyers severely limited on how much they can pay, micro-apartments – those smaller than 200 sq ft – continue to be developers’ favourite

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 April, 2018, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 11:11am

Hong Kong’s developers are shrinking their apartments, as surging prices severely limit the amount of money that first-time buyers can put down on their property, putting all but the smallest units beyond their budgets.

In Sham Shui Po, Kowloon City and Tin Shui Wai, 15 per cent of the 3,300 apartment units in six projects approved for construction will be smaller than 200 square feet (18.6 square metres) in usable area, according to data released by the Buildings Department. 

Setting the record will be Wing Kwok Enterprises, a privately owned local developer in Sham Shui Po, a dense, working-class neighbourhood in the northwestern corner of the Kowloon peninsula. It plans to build a 27-storey residential block, with the smallest unit having a usable area of 123 sq ft, smaller than a standard 20-ft shipping container or a typical American parking space. 

“At that size, the unit will most likely feature only an open kitchen, and a shower room, which typically add about 10 per cent to the total area,” said Victor Lai Kin-fai, a managing director of Centaline Surveyors.

Data shows that 27 per cent of Hongkongers do not expect to ever be able to afford a home, which “definitely deserves everyone’s attention,” said Nerida Conisbee, chief economist of REA Group, a digital advertising firm that specialises in property. In its survey of 1,003 respondents, REA Group also found that another 16 per cent of people have no plan to buy property because prices are beyond their reach.

Ready to feel more cramped? Hong Kong flats to get ‘even smaller’

Across the world’s most expensive city, micro-apartments – abodes smaller than 200 sq ft in usable area – continue to be the favourite for developers. 

“The average square footage price of smaller flats will be higher than larger apartments, which will further encourage developers to build ever smaller units,” said Lai.

From now until 2020, at least 510 of these tiny homes will be built every year, triple the 151 units built across the city between 2014 and 2016, property consultant JLL said.

To the east of Sham Shui Po, 86 per cent of the 294 units at a 28-storey block at the junction of Sheung Heung Road and Kowloon City Road will comprise flats starting from 165 sq ft in usable area, in a venture between New World Development and the Urban Renewal Authority (URA).

Vanke Property (Hong Kong), which paid HK$1.3 billion (US$165 million) for its plot of land in the same neighbourhood, is putting up a 466-unit block at the junction of Fuk Wing Street, Camp Street and Fuk Wah Street, 53 units of which will start from 177 sq ft in usable not counting the space for a kitchen and bathroom. 

The largest unit in the block will measure 960 sq ft, according to the Buildings Department’s data.

Further north in Tin Shui Wai, Sun Hung Kai Properties plans to build a 1,770-unit project with units ranging from 183 to 1,087 sq ft in usable area. According to government data, 55 units will measure 183 sq ft, excluding kitchens and bathrooms.

For instance, Kowloon Development sold a 209-sq ft flat at its 63 Pok Fu Lam project in Sai Ying Pun for HK$8.82 million, or HK$42,238 sq ft, the most expensive for a studio in Hong Kong.