23 February 2019
A shoe box-sized flat leased to a mainland student in Hong Kong. An influx of students from across the border is adding to the rental woes in the city. Photo: Gangpiaoquan
A shoe box-sized flat leased to a mainland student in Hong Kong. An influx of students from across the border is adding to the rental woes in the city. Photo: Gangpiaoquan

Mainland students crowd out locals in HK rental housing

With thousands of mainland students coming to Hong Kong every year to pursue their academic dreams, the city’s property rentals get an additional push, giving the locals — ok, the non-property owners — a further reason to complain about their brethren from across the border.

The scarcity of hostel places has long been an issue at Hong Kong educational institutions, but that hasn’t stopped the inflow of students into the city. As many as 11,376 mainland students were admitted into University Grants Committee-funded programs last year.

The universities never bother about not having enough places to accommodate the students on campus. Instead, they believe the students will take care of the problem themselves.

No on-campus accommodation is provided for those taking one-year taught postgraduate programs. As for undergraduate students, most local universities only guarantee a hostel place for no more than two years.

The summer season is always a red-hot period in the local rental market, with spikes usually seen both in prices and transactions. The reason is simple: new batches of mainland students try to find a home before they start college life in September.

Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly, EJ Insight’s sister publication, reports that private housing estates that are in close vicinity of universities have witnessed significant rise in rentals. Whampoa Gardens in Hung Hom and City One in Shatin, for instance, recorded 6.3 percent and 5.7 percent increases respectively in rentals in August, according to figures from realty brokerage firm Centaline.

It is also reported that up to 70 percent of rental flats leased out in Tai Wai in July, a major commuter town that enables convenient travel to the Chinese University, City University, Baptist University and Polytechnic University, were snapped up by mainlanders.

Some realty brokers say other districts that are also close to universities — like Kennedy Town, Tai Po and northern Tseung Kwan O — are also on the forefront of rental surges in recent years.

It seems that local tenants who are yet to own a home will never gain an upper hand in the race to limited rental flats as more and more landlords like to lease their properties to mainland students than locals.

One reason is that, on top of the usual three-month rent deposit, mainland students will pay the rent for up to six months or even for the entire year in advance. It is said that a student who studies at the Polytechnic University once paid a lump sum of HK$230,000 (US$29,700) to rent a 600-square-foot flat at Harbour Place, a large residential estate near seaside in Hung Hom, for one year.

As mainland students are less price-sensitive, they are coveted by landlords. Reports say some landlords who commission realty agents to lease out their flats now only accept inquiries from mainlanders.

Subdividing flats into smaller ones to house more students is now a common practice. And, it is also interesting to see that some serviced apartments, like Harbourfront Horizon and Harbourview Horizon in Hung Hom and Horizon Suite Hotel in Ma On Shan — all are managed by Hutchison Whampoa with monthly rent as high as HK$40,000 — are always fully occupied throughout the year. More than two thirds of the tenants are mainland students enrolled at nearby universities.

Property firms are wasting no time to tap the robust demand. HKEJ Monthly notes that an 11-storey residential building located between Sham Shui Po and Shek Kip Mei MTR Stations in central Kowloon was recently acquired by a private firm and renovated into a serviced apartment tower for mainland students featuring home-style furnishing, cleaning services and 24-hour security guards.

Called Uni Hall, monthly rent for a single-bedroom unit in the building can be around HK$2,000 more than that commanded by an ordinary subdivided flat within the same district. It is said that tenants must pay rent for six months in advance plus a two-month rent deposit and management fee. Despite all these conditions, units at the building have been fully taken up.

Similar student-only serviced apartments can also be found in Mong Kok, Hung Hom and Shatin.

Related stories:

Why mainland students fancy HK postgraduate degree

What mainlanders love about Hong Kong

Life in Hong Kong for mainland graduate student

Why Tai Wai rental flats are looking pretty

– Contact the writer at [email protected]


Due to close proximity to Polytechnic University, flats in Hung Hom are in short supply on the rental market. Photo: Hung Yat

Whampoa Gardens in Hung Hom, where monthly rental for a 600-square feet unit can be HK$18,000, has a sizable cluster of mainland student tenants. Photo: Wing1990hk

EJ Insight writer

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