HK's $240k micro-flats
AT A glitzy show stall for a new residential development in Hong Kong, property agents with loudspeakers are promoting the latest trend in the overcrowded city - high-end "micro-flats" which come with an eye-watering price tag.
Although they are part of swish modern complexes, some of the newly built studio flats measure as little as 16 sq m and are on sale for HK$1.5 million (about S$242,000).
Single entrepreneur Mike Ko is typical of the buyers that developers are targeting: aspiring home owners who are priced out of the overheated Hong Kong housing market. "I'm 33 years old and I really need my own place," said Mr Ko. "Studios are good enough. They're quite hip and cool as well."
He lives with his parents in public housing and has been saving up, but said that at current prices he can afford only tiny properties.
"The market is too expensive, so buying a studio flat is a good first step to home ownership," he said.
Agents are selling the pint-sized flats on the basis that the market boom will only continue. "You want to buy now because prices will just go up," said one agent at the new Mont Vert development in the suburban neighbourhood of Tai Po. "You are saving, in a sense."
Mont Vert boasts a clubhouse, sea views and surrounding greenery but, at 16 sq m, its smallest units are only three times larger than cells in Hong Kong's most populous prison.
The main space doubles as both bedroom and living room, with a kitchen and bathroom tucked away in the corners.
Developer Cheung Kong says that 10 per cent of the 1,000 apartments on offer are studios, but could not say how many of those had been sold.
The development is not yet completed, and - despite being a massive investment for potential buyers - there were no show flats, models, or pictures of the interiors of the studio units immediately available.
While some prospective buyers are desperate enough to snap up the tiny flats, there are those who are outraged by the conditions Hong Kong residents are having to bear.
"They are not only small, it is repressive. You are paying that much to be living there, it's ridiculous," said Kenneth Tong, a spokesman for No Flat Slaves, a local NGO.
The organisation believes the government is to blame for a lack of affordable housing and being slow in building more public rental housing.
"People have no other choice," said Mr Tong.
But developers say the micro-flats will attract single "yuppies" and young families.
"A lot of people who have studied overseas and returned love this kind of lifestyle," said David Fong, managing director of the tower's private developer, Hip Shing Hong.
"In London, and even in metropolitan New York, the flat size is both small and old. We are small but beautiful," he added.