Date
4 December 2016
This Sai Ying Pun capsule comes with free air-conditioning, WiFi, LED lighting system, telly, dressing table, as well as pillows and blankets, but don't look for space. Photo: 591.com
This Sai Ying Pun capsule comes with free air-conditioning, WiFi, LED lighting system, telly, dressing table, as well as pillows and blankets, but don't look for space. Photo: 591.com

Living in a spacecraft without space

One reason why mankind wants to explore space and conquer new worlds must be the skyrocketing cost of living on this planet, especially in this city.

Don’t you feel a bit downtrodden to know that a two-bedroom flat on Hong Kong Island fetches an eight-digit figure, while a one-bedroom unit costs more than HK$5 million? That even a tiny parking space in the New Territories demands over HK$2 million?

Now, let’s look at something smaller: a capsule. It’s been reported that a unit measuring around six cubic feet in Sai Ying Pun has just been rented out for HK$5,100 a month.

The units, apparently patterned after Japan’s capsule hotels, come with free air-conditioning, WiFi, LED lighting system, telly, dressing table, as well as pillows and blankets, according to rental website 591.com.

Appropriately enough, the ad for the units says: “Living in a capsule, and flying in the universe.”

Residing in such claustrophobic space will certainly make you feel like an astronaut traveling in outer space.

You’d probably think the owner won’t be making much out of the deal, but guess what, there are 12 such capsules in that particular unit located in a 30-year-old building. The flat itself is around 830 square feet in gross area, or 659 square feet in actual size.

Assuming the owner can lease all 12 units, he’d earn over HK$61,000 every month, or almost triple the average rent for a similar unit, which is HK$23,000 a month.

And we haven’t mentioned yet the opportunity of turning the unit into an Airbnb or hourly hotel, which may further boost the return from these capsules.

Convenience is all that matters. It is only a three-minute walk from the Sai Ying Pun MTR station, which opened last year.

And because it is located in a good district, it commands a premium to the HK$2,800 monthly rental for a similar capsule available in Sham Shui Po, the center of subdivided flats in Hong Kong.

Because of the surge in home prices, some subdivided flat owners have thought of various ways to enhance the yields of their units, and their usual strategy is to further subdivide the units until each can accommodate nothing else but a small bed – plus the tenant and their pair of shoes, of course.

Thus, like in the case of the Sai Ying Pun capsules, subdivided flat owners can turn a space normally intended for four tenants into something that can accommodate 12.

These 30-square-foot bed spaces have seen their rent go up over 15 percent in the past two years. The current rate for such space is HK$3,500 a month.

In other words, one pays an extra 50 percent to live in a miniscule spacecraft with WiFi and other high-tech pretensions.

You may think it’s ridiculous to pay a rent of over HK$100 per square foot, which is higher than some of the priciest units at the Peak.

But if you live in Hong Kong, that’s the reality – unless you want to fly yourself to the moon or be part of the Mars One mission.

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BK/AC/CG

EJ Insight writer

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