Hong Kong’s Housing Crisis

Posted by Alex Frew McMillan of Urban Land Magazine

Public policy experts and investors wave warning flags about the world’s most expensive housing market. ”More-practical solutions than concrete tubes also are springing up. The operators of Weave Co-Living have spent HK$ 535 million (US$ 70 million) to refurbish and convert a business hotel into 160 mini-apartments. Each rental unit of about 11 square metres (115 sq ft) has its own bathroom. But the development is designed for residents to spend much of their time outside their units, in 557 square metres (6,000 sq ft) of common areas, including a shared “semi-pantry” on each of the ten storeys, a residents-only floor, a rooftop lounge, a gym, and a restaurant.

Weave on Boundary, the first of what the company intends as many projects, is in the crowded Prince Edward neighbourhood, close to the MTR subway stop and therefore the rest of the centre of the city. The location was a “very deliberate choice,” Weave founder Sachin Doshi says. “Young people generally want to be in urban infill locations, which, by definition, means you’re not going to have a house with a backyard.”

Doshi, who previously managed the Asia property portfolio for the Dutch pension fund manager APG Asset Management, says that Weave attempts to re-create elements of the home outside the four walls of an individual apartment. “Clearly, housing in Hong Kong is not affordable for young people,” he notes. “The model will need to be different.”

Millennials are looking for ways to enhance their lifestyle, Doshi says, and would rather spend money on travel and experiences then save it up to buy a place. “Sharing is deeply ingrained in this demographic,” he says. Weave intends to “curate” the tenant mix to ensure a vibrant community, as well as preventing it from becoming simply a cheaper alternative for families than typical apartments in the city.

“We want different people from different academic backgrounds, different career backgrounds, people who have grown up in different places and all call Hong Kong home,” Doshi explains. “It’s not just about filling up the property.”