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Can industrial buildings solve Hong Kong’s housing shortage?

Hong Kong isn’t getting any bigger, but since the population is constantly growing, this leads to a housing shortage in Hong Kong. Property developers may be building new developments, but due to the sky high prices, this doesn’t serve as a viable solution for the average joe. With mile long queues for public housing and potential fire hazards for subdivided flats, it seems like industrial housing may become the new housing solution. Before you jump on the bandwagon, here are a few factors to consider regarding industrial buildings converted into residential homes:

Benefits

According to the deputy chairman of commercial realtor Midland IC &I Pierre Wong Tsz-wa, prospective tenants of these residential units are unlikely willing to pay more than 4,000 to 5,000 HKD per month for a 200 to 300 sq ft apartment. Therefore, these units will probably remain at this price range. Since the average rent of subdivided flats is around the same price, tenants would get a better deal paying the same amount of rent for a newly renovated industrial residential unit.

While industrial buildings may not be everyone’s version of a dream home, they can provide an ideal form of temporary housing. Other than living in the standard residential units, Affect-T founder Dylan Baker-Rice proposes building bamboo micro-homes in the industrial buildings, which are eco-friendly and can help to reduce costs in electricity and water.



Problems

Although industrial living may sound ideal, in reality it also has a few problems. Despite the government’s new policy to allow old private industrial buildings to be converted into residential units, this is only feasible if the industrial building belongs to one owner. Therefore, the lack of supply may not significantly improve Hong Kong’s housing shortage problem if only a small number of buildings could be converted into residential homes.

Moreover, these types of units are unlikely to become a long term housing solution, as the industrial buildings are typically located in highly polluted areas that are far away from urban amenities. If these residential units are to be considered as a long term housing option, urban planners would have to redevelop the entire neighborhood to cater to these industrial residential homes.