Forget “airbed and breakfast.” It seems that some people in Hong Kong are getting by with a sofa bed and washroom.
An online advertisement calling for a monthly rental of HK$2,900 (US$381) went viral this week. The rent might seem very reasonable for an apartment located in Wah Tak Building, a mere three minutes’ walk from Mong Kok station.
The catch is that the unit advertised measures just 40 square feet and has only two things – a sofa bed and a toilet. In other words, the tenant will be sleeping right next to said toilet.
Hong Kong is well-known for its “Tong Fong,” which translates from Cantonese as “subdivided flats.”
Netizens wasted no time in calculating that the rental per square feet was over HK$72.5 – higher than the price per square foot in The Arch, a high-end residential development above Kowloon station. A near 400 square-foot unit at The Arch may be leased for around HK$26,000, or HK$66 per square feet, according to the records of Centanet, a leading property agency in Hong Kong.
The subdivided flat has become a symptom of how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in Hong Kong.
In a city where equity and property are at historic highs, more and more residents are finding the cost of living prohibitively expensive. Hong Kong was ranked the least affordable city in the world for housing by Demographia for an eighth consecutive year this month.
The subdivided flat runs counter to the principle set forth by Michael Wright, Hong Kong’s late former director of public works, that kitchens and private toilets should be considered basic necessities in public housing
With housing prices showing no sign of retreat, Hong Kong – which has a higher density of millionaires than any other city in the world – sees a situation where the size of flats most can afford to live in gets smaller and smaller.
Almost half of all newly constructed flats are less than 400 square feet in size. The studio flat, measuring roughly the size of two standard parking spaces, has also become a staple fixture. These flats are not equipped with kitchens, and in some cases they do not have a separate washroom.
Developers and property owners are testing buyers’ limits by making units smaller and smaller – because smaller units mean higher yields for them.
Instead of leasing a small flat, renters on low budgets are increasingly settling for co-sharing units, or indeed subdivided flats.
In 2016, there were close to 200,000 families living in subdivided flats. The typical rent was HK$4,200, and most were in old and high-density districts such as Mong Kok and Shum Shui Po.
The subdivided flat runs counter to the principle set forth by Michael Wright, Hong Kong’s former director of public works, that kitchens and private toilets should be considered basic necessities in public housing.
Wright, who was credited as Hong Kong’s ‘Godfather of public housing’ and had a public housing estate named in his honor after his retirement, passed away on Friday at the age of 105.