Big change to small flats

Top News | Carine Chow and Wallis Wang 15 Oct 2021

The minimum size for private homes could be set at slightly more than 210 square feet next year at the earliest, the Secretary for Development, Michael Wong Wai-lun, says.

Authorities are considering a new requirement for private residential plots to stop developers from building "nano flats" - super-small studio flats.

A study on flat sizes will be launched soon, Wong said. New measures could be introduced as soon as next year. "When we have proposed a vision of 'living bigger' in 'Hong Kong 2030+,' I believe we will continue in this direction," he said in a radio program.

Wong said he was aware of comments that setting a lower limit on the size of private homes will increase property prices, making it even more difficult for citizens to buy flats.

On whether 210 square feet is the goal, Wong said this is what some people have suggested, adding that the size of the Urban Renewal Authority's apartments are slightly bigger. The median per capita floor area of accommodation of all domestic households is 161.5 square feet, said the population by-census in 2016.

"But which size will be deemed suitable, we will have to strike a new balance," Wong said.

During last week's press conference on the 2021 Policy Address, Wong said he planned to improve the living space to fulfill the public's vision of "living bigger," and noted that everyone would have between 215 and 237 square feet of living space if the average per person is increased by 10 to 20 percent.

He also noted the average living space per person in Tokyo is 210 square feet, Shanghai 260, Singapore 270 and Shenzhen 300.

Lawmaker Wilson Or Chong-shing, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, told The Standard yesterday that a minimum flat size limit is needed.

"Although there is demand for small private flats in the market, the overall outlook for Hongkongers' living situation is bad," he said.

Or said a limit of 210 square feet is acceptable, but the government still needs to focus on land development in the long run to ensure sufficient residential units can be provided.

"Otherwise, there will always be demands for small units in the market."

Chan Kim-ching, researcher of Liber Research Community, said authorities should consider setting the minimum size for private homes at 260 square feet per unit, as it would be illogical for the size to be set at 210 square feet when officials have proposed a vision of increasing the living space per capita to between 215 and 237 square feet in "Hong Kong 2030+."

He said flats below 260 square feet should be considered as "nano flats," and suggested that the government can set regulations in land sale conditions to ban flats smaller than that.

Private apartment sizes in Hong Kong have become increasingly small in recent years.

T Plus in Tuen Mun was dubbed "dragon bed flats" as the smallest apartment in the block is only 128 square feet, with many visitors saying it is difficult to even fit a bed in the studio unit.

A 128-square-foot flat saw its second sale at HK$2.35 million in March - an average of HK$18,360 per square foot.

One of its mid-level units is equipped with a windowless toilet, a balcony and a rectangular area that acts as living and dining area, and an open kitchen, which has a shallow sink and appliances such as an induction cooker and a washing machine.

Kowloon Development revealed its latest project, Manor Hill in Tseung Kwan O, last week with 80 to 90 percent of homes being studio or one-room flats.

Their sizes will start from 200 and 280 square feet. The studio unit is the smallest in Tseung Kwan O. No price list was available.

On public housing, Wong said flats to be constructed in the Lantau Tomorrow project will come with a minimum area and the smallest flats will be 20 percent bigger than existing ones.

A four-person flat is less than 400 square feet now but authorities are considering making such flats 440 or even 480 square feet.

Wong said the amount of land needed to give to the Housing Authority has been calculated "and the result showed that we are able to build bigger flats."



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