The issues of affordable real estate in Hong Kong remains a pain point for its residents. Being the toughest place in the world for homeowners has left many residents looking at homeownership being a pipe dream.
In a bid to cover the necessities of having a roof over their heads, Hong Kongers on the fringe of society have been relegated to “coffin cubicles”. No more than 15 sq ft, a result from the combined strains of unaffordability, and unavailability, with waiting times for families to get housing bordering on 4 years.
In a comprehensive report, comparing Singapore and Hong Kong regarding the housing situation, the abundance of hilly land mass in Hong Kong leaves a smaller amount of land that can be developed for housing. With just 24% of landmass developed, only 7% is set aside for housing, while 40% consists of nature parks and reserves. With plans to develop land along the nature parks facing legislative issues at every turn, solving the housing issues and moving away from subdivided accommodation could lie in a re-examination of the existing developed space.
Hong Kong movie star Nicholas Tse, co-owner of Post Production Office Group, a post-production firm with 3 offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai, has stated in an interview about his stance on care and respect for his staff. In a video case study done by HKUST Business School, Tse mentioned how he involved his staff in the process of him finding a new office space, his goal to make the workplace as comfortable and as conducive an environment. Likening the work environment to home, to drive the happiness and productivity of his staff.
Exorbitant rent has priced out both consumers and businesses
This is but one example of how the order of work-life balance as we know is getting dissolved to be replaced by work-life integration. Big organisations are taking heed to follow leaner, smaller startups, and emulating the business models and to an extent, the culture that is responsible for fuelling the rapid growth we see in modern times.
We are seeing the effectiveness of such scalability, where collaboration between small businesses and their employees, opens up possibilities. To soften the financial strain of rent, coworking spaces have been a direction that real estate investors have been heading towards. The lower overheads, access to building and facilities, and comprehensive pricing structure offers a reprieve to rental woes that plague business owners in Hong Kong.
Property developers and landlords need to reevaluate their approach
Going a step further beyond coworking spaces, coliving is the avenue to look at.With reports of coliving arrangements working well for foreign students in Hong Kong, real estate developers and business owners can take a page from Tse’s playbook, striking a balance between the personal, and professional lives of workers.
Real estate investors are already setting the wheels in motion to facilitate the cowork and colive movement. Investors and business owners in Hong Kong know that despite the urban concentration, there areas that draw specific crowds. Take Wong Chuk Hang for example, a neighbourhood steeped in art, design, bars, and restaurants. Taking a coliving model through to the district will allow artists, designers, and media professionals to congregate, pool their resources and carve a sustainable niche for themselves. Scaling up the approach of one Nicholas Tse across an entire community.
Though we have made progress, the memory of Kowloon’s Walled City, with the effects from the gross concentration of inhabitants and the resultant chaos and societal ills that were born from that environment wasn’t too long ago. And that could be a glimpse that we see through the widening cracks, in growing, visible pockets, if we do not start making improvements to lift the overall state of accommodation in Hong Kong. I believe with the lack of a safety net, and with the burgeoning red tape causing a disconnect between the needs of Hong Kongers and the current real estate climate, the solution lies in community and coliving as we take a proactive stance in this matter.
Pooling talent, and resources to empower both businesses and individuals