The city’s new home sales have defied predictions during the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Developers are seizing this opportunity to sell their housing stock, taking advantage of improving market confidence. But given the challenges Hong Kong faces, whether these early positive signs develop into a sustained recovery is yet to be confirmed. Kowloon East, which includes Kwun Tong, the fast-developing Kai Tak area where gentrification is transforming neighbourhoods, will remain a major source of new housing supply in the coming months. With the final development site recently sold, cranes will continue to tower above Lohas Park and Tseung Kwan O for the next two or three years. Initially, home sales fell to new lows in the first quarter of 2020 when the pandemic first took hold. Monthly home sales hit rock-bottom in January; fewer than 3,000 homes traded in that month amid widespread Covid-19 concerns. Sales staged a modest recovery to reach levels above 4,000 in the ensuing months, according to Land Registry figures, and by October 2020, property consultant Knight Frank reported that monthly home sales had improved further to 5,024 over the month of September, up 15 per cent on the preceding month. Once a manufacturing mecca, Kowloon East is transforming into a trendy residential hub that appeals to professionals and young couples, with new property projects scattered around Kai Tak, Kwun Tong and nearby areas. Kwun Tong has been given a large-scale facelift with new buildings and increased public space since the Urban Renewal Authority began working on rejuvenating the area in 2007. Another plus is that Kowloon East has green spaces and a range of community facilities. The Sha Tin-Central rail link, part of Hong Kong’s famed mass public transport system, promises high future connectivity. Phase one of the MTR’s Tuen Ma Line opened for business on February 14 this year, extending the existing Ma On Shan Line from Tai Wai through Lion Rock to the eastern part of Kowloon. The extension connects to two new stations, Hin Keng and Kai Tak, as well as an interchange to the Kwun Tong Line at Diamond Hill. “I am glad to see our railway expanding,” MTR Corporation CEO Dr Jacob Kam told the Railway Gazette . “Tuen Ma Line phase one will foster the linkage between New Territories East and Kowloon East, extending railway service to new communities in the Kai Tak area.” In particular, the interchange at Diamond Hill is expected to relieve the congested link between East Rail and the Kwun Tong Line at Kowloon Tong. The second phase of the Tuen Ma Line will connect Kai Tak with the West Rail Line from Hung Hom to Tuen Mun, creating an east-west thoroughfare through Kowloon and the New Territories. The build on this section has been delayed by construction problems at Hung Hom and, of course, the pandemic, but the MTR Corporation is hoping it will open by the end of 2021. Demand is more resilient than expected, although more price concessions are now expected by buyers. At least 10 per cent of the respondents to the Citi Hong Kong Residential Property Ownership Survey, which was released in October 2020, said they would consider now a good time to buy a home. Those who indicated interest in buying a home said they are waiting for prices to soften by 20 per cent before they make a purchase. “Strong new home sales in recent months are supported by solid buyer-occupier demand, somehow suggesting that they are confident in Hong Kong’s future,” said Donald Choi, CEO of Chinachem Group, adding that most developers now price new homes at levels very close to the secondary market to keep the momentum going. “The low interest rate environment will continue on for a while, and this factor is very important for people to commit themselves to home ownership,” said Choi. The pandemic has changed the way we think about buildings. Boundaries between where people work, live and shop are becoming blurred. Therefore, Choi – a veteran architect – expects future home design to integrate workspace and community shopping while emphasising on natural ventilation. By the end of October, Chinachem was waiting for permission to sell its latest residential project at Anderson Road, which is designed as a community that encourages young families to live close to their parents. In May 2020, Cheung Kong Property Development Limited purchased a site in the same location for HK$4.95 billion, which will combine private and government subsidised housing. In Kai Tak, K. Wah International has resumed the marketing of the K.Summit project with the release of 168 flats in October 2020. When factoring in discounts, the units are priced at between HK$6.9 million and HK$23 million. The layout mix includes studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom flats, in addition to a small number of houses that will be sold separately, said Tony Wan, director of sales and marketing (Hong Kong properties), K. Wah International. Wheelock Properties is set to launch its latest residential project at 10-12 Muk Tai Street in Kai Tak, according to the Land Registry report, which will offer 647 flats on completion. The project will be developed in two phases. The first will comprise 399 units ranging in size from studio to three-bedroom, according to Ricky Wong, managing director at Wheelock Properties. Henderson Land is also working on a project at 8 Muk Tai Street, which the company had earlier said would likely go on sale by the end of 2020. The project consists of two towers built to 32 storeys tall, and four five-storey buildings. Elsewhere in Kowloon East, Wheelock Properties is marketing the Koko Hills project, located at Sin Fat Road in Lam Tin. The project is being developed in three phases, the first of which includes 413 units between 345 sq ft to 2,024 sq ft. Nearby is Montego Bay, built by Minmetals Land, in Yau Tong. The seafront project comprises four towers and offers 688 flats between approx 230 sq ft and 2,000 sq ft. In Tseung Kwan O, Nan Fung is currently marketing the Lohas Park phase 10 project, which comprises 894 flats configured as two-, three- and four-bedrooms. The phase six project, located nearby, is now complete. In October 2020, a consortium formed by Sino Land, Kerry Properties, K. Wah International Holdings and China Merchants Land won a tender for the purchase of the phase 13 site in Lohas Park for about HK$5.57 billion. The site will accommodate as many as 2,550 homes.