Date
18 August 2017
From across the Shing Mun River, Shatin cuts a striking skyline against a mountain backdrop. Rental rates in the district have been driven up by demand for student accommodation. Photo: wikimedia.org
From across the Shing Mun River, Shatin cuts a striking skyline against a mountain backdrop. Rental rates in the district have been driven up by demand for student accommodation. Photo: wikimedia.org

Why Shatin is the hottest town in summer

They may not come and buy gold like crazy anymore, nor snap up residential units without so much as a second look, but mainlanders still manage to drive up rental prices in Hong Kong.

In the latest instance, it was a student who did the honors. Local papers reported that the student bid HK$12,300 for a 284 square foot flat in One Shatin City. At about HK$43.30 per square foot, the offer broke the record in the housing estate and put Shatin on par with Taikooshing.

A side bar to the story had the Chinese student trumping a Hong Kong bidder by offering an additional HK$300 monthly rental.

The story seemed to suggest that Hong Kong landlords and property agents prefer mainlanders because they are more generous than Hong Kong tenants.

In another instance, a mainland student at Polytechnic University paid a year’s rent up front for a 770 square foot flat in Harbour Place in Hung Hom district to the tune of HK$276,000.

Chinese renters customarily prefer upfront payment which is not the usual practice in Hong Kong.

This time each year, Hong Kong sees a wave of rental activity, especially in Shatin, Tai Wai, Hung Hom, Tseung Kwan O and Sai Wan, where most universities are located.

But Kowloon Tong, home to City University and Baptist University, has no such rush. It is considered unfriendly to university students looking for accommodation because it is already one of the most expensive districts thanks to the presence there of Hong Kong’s top secondary schools.

There are 11,376 students in University Grants Committee-funded institutions, according to official data.

But the figure seems to be under-reported given that in any university campus, you’re likely to find more than 20 per cent of the students mainlanders, even more in graduate schools where many of them have won Hong Kong scholarships.

The sudden increase in housing demand also coincides with the peak rental season in Hong Kong when parents with school-age children make the switch to quieter surroundings to avoid the summer crush.

I hadn’t noticed the seasonality factor until a recent dinner in which I found that four of my six dinner companions were moving house this summer.

I helped one of them with the move and managed to speak to a worker from a moving company. The guy had been moving so much stuff he described himself as busy as hell.

That is also why I have seen the same movers every day during the past two weeks. Spare a thought for these guys who have to do such back-breaking work in hot and humid weather.

That reminds me of a Taikooshing joke. Residents are happy to live in the 40-year-old estate in one of the best residential locations in Hong Kong but they have one complaint: they can’t keep up with all the comings and goings. There’s always a new tenant moving in and another moving out.

Moving home is a way of life in Hong Kong but it’s no fun.

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BK/JP/RA

EJ Insight writer

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