Subdivided flats tend to have a very negative reputation in Hong Kong – some people are so disconcerted with this housing arrangement idea that they strongly believe the government should make them illegal. According to the Standard, more than 170,000 people currently live in subdivided flats in Hong Kong. Due to the increasing Hong Kong housing price, low-income families and immigrants are forced to live in these cramped spaces and still pay an exorbitant amount of rent. But are these types of flats really that unlivable in the concrete jungle?


For those unfamiliar with this term, subdivided flats refer to an original apartment which is subdivided into two or more individual rooms. Despite the small space (100 too 200sq ft on average), the subdivided flat is equipped with basic bathroom and kitchen facilities and additional or altered internal drains. Due to the flexible arrangement of subdivided flats, these types of flats are commonly found in old residential buildings.

Fire safety

Normally subdivided flats are considered legal in the city as long as they adhere to structural and fire-safety regulations, but a modified apartment unit without accurate planning could violate certain legal conditions. For example, if the inside walls aren’t fireproofed or if the exit is too far from a particular apartment, this could create serious safety and fire hazards.

Subdivided flats serve a purpose

Despite the negative reputation of subdivided flats, they cater to a certain niche in Hong Kong. For example, when university students or single individuals look for apartments for rent, this type of housing arrangement is ideal for them due to the luxury of privacy and basic facilities. As the lifestyle of young people tend to be outdoors oriented, they do not need a lot of space in their flats, as they simply require a bed, bathroom and kitchen to live comfortably. Unlike shared apartments with several roommates, subdivided flats also ensure privacy, a rare quality to be found in the hustle and bustle of the city.

If subdivided flats were to be deemed as illegal structures in Hong Kong, this would have a detrimental effect on immigrant families and young people – young people still have the option of sharing an apartment with roommates, but for immigrant families this would not be an ideal solution, as they prefer to live as a single family unit and not with strangers.