20 April 2019
Many Hong Kong families who can't afford the rents in private developments live in subdivided flats. Photo: Internet
Many Hong Kong families who can't afford the rents in private developments live in subdivided flats. Photo: Internet

Hong Kong people and the three little pigs

Remember the children’s bedtime story about the three little pigs who build houses made of straw, wood and bricks, and only the brick house is able keep away the big bad wolf?

It’s only a fairy tale, but the reality is cruel: Hong Kong people have been living in houses measuring 150 square feet, equivalent to the living space of the three little pigs.

Hong Kong residential apartments are among the smallest in Asia, and that has not really changed in the past two decades.

What makes it worse is that Hong Kong is one of the world’s most expensive cities.

That comparison about living spaces was courtesy of Ming Pao Daily, which interviewed a pig owner who raised 2,800 pigs in a 30,000 square foot farm in Yuen Long. Each swinery measures an average of 50 square feet.

“We need to raise our pigs in a good environment because a good environment keeps them healthy,” the owner of Ying Ming Farm was quoted as saying.

In the 1990s, Shanghai homes were called swineries because the average home measured no more than 100 square feet. Now, the average living space over there is 360 square feet.

Unfortunately, there has been little improvement in Hong Kong. More people are coming to the city, and the homes are getting smaller.

Interestingly, Hong Kong has always prided itself on having the largest number of millionaires in the world. But the city’s millionaires are living in shoebox dwellings, when compared with their counterparts in the region.

For HK$2.1 million (US$271,000), you can acquire an 850 square foot, three bedroom home in Tokyo or a 1,000 square foot public housing unit in Singapore. But if you are living in Hong Kong, that would only buy you a couple of parking lots. Even if you have, say, HK$4 million, that wouldn’t go too far.

As of September 2014, 263,000 families are still lining up for public housing. The cost of a flat in some housing estates under the Home Ownership Scheme has surged to over HK$6 million, and many developers are selling increasingly smaller flats for increasingly higher amounts.

One reason why Hong Kong people have a smaller average living space is that 30 percent of the population live in public estates, compared with about 5 percent in Shanghai, Tokyo or Seoul.

The public housing supply started in the 1980s when new towns such as Sha Tin and Tuen Mun were built. But the strategy changed after 2002 when the government called a halt to public housing.

Coupled with the rise of mainland tourism, thanks to the individual visitors scheme, many old building units were converted for mainland travelers and pregnant women. As a result, many local people who could not afford private rentals had to settle for subdivided flats.

No doubt, the home supply has been improving under Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s administration, which plans to put over 74,000 new units into the market in the next three to four years. But the issue is that many of these units are small and expensive.

That is probably why, as far as living spaces are concerned, the government is treating us like pig. Pigs don’t need democracy, either.

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EJ Insight writer

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