Touring Smallness in Hong Kong Housing

A recent tour through housing developments in Hong Kong shows that the large spaces Americans treasure in homes are not necessarily the best method for urbanizing areas, according to this post.

"Hong Kong takes smallness to the extreme. It appears to be driven more by high housing costs than by concern for the environment. Most new housing takes the form of high-rise apartment buildings with tiny units. A 430-square-foot apartment in the recently completed Ching Ho Public Housing Estate, for example, was designed to be occupied by a family of five. Ching Ho represents the state-of-the-art in public housing design in Hong Kong, and the 70 square feet per occupant is the most generous allotment yet by the Hong Kong Housing Authority.

By comparison, we Americans are veritable space hogs. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average size of a new single-family home in the U.S. swelled to more than 2,500 square feet in 2007, although it has dipped slightly in recent years. Average household size in the U.S. is less than three people."

The smaller sizes reduce consumption of energy and goods, but the author concedes that living in a 430-square foot apartment might be difficult to get used to.

Full Story: Space Hogs in Hong Kong



Why Hong Kong?

If we pay more attention to the economics of any place, we can better understand why a place looks the way it does.

Using rough numbers, about 70% of Hong Kong is not allowed to be built on. There is no private ownership of land per se, as land rents account for a sizable share of Hong Kong's budget. Because the rent is 3% of a lat's rental value, it becomes necessary for the land that is open to development to be built as compactly and densely as possible.

The market makes Hong Kong attractive, and the government helps by having relatively low taxes on labor and capital. Much housing is market developed, not public:

Some have written that the density and small living quarters is a negative. I disagree. It puts people out into the streets to live their lives, make friends, enjoy the many wonderful parks and transit system, and of course eat all the great food "al fresco."

Joshua Vincent, Executive Director
Center for the Study of Economics
413 South 10th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
215.923.7800 Extension 1

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