Young people take to 'co-living' amid Hong Kong housing crunch

Synergy Biz Group co-founder Keith Wong inside a room at the company's Bibliotheque co-living development in Yau Ma Tei. A single room of about 400 sq ft in the development may sleep as many as 10 people.
Synergy Biz Group co-founder Keith Wong inside a room at the company's Bibliotheque co-living development in Yau Ma Tei. A single room of about 400 sq ft in the development may sleep as many as 10 people.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG • Young finance industry workers are bunking down in dormitory-style accommodation in Hong Kong as "co-living" developments take off in the world's priciest city for property.

An investment banker and a bank intern are among those renting rooms in an upmarket development called Mini Ocean Park Station on the south side of Hong Kong island, said marketing manager Cynthia Cheung.

Elsewhere in the city, marketing manager Nicole Ho, 33, will have up to nine roommates in her new home when another project opens, in a converted tenement block.

Stratospheric housing costs in Hong Kong are giving a push in the city to a trend taking off around the world as young people from New York to London to Shanghai struggle with elevated home prices.

The city has at least six current and pending co-living developments started after 2015.

"There are limited affordable housing options for the younger generation," said Mr Keith Wong, the co-founder of Synergy Biz Group, a company developing co- working and co-living projects. The lifestyle can suit students after graduation and people hungry for a sense of community, he said.

As the trend takes off, Hong Kong still lags behind places such as London and Amsterdam, where co-living developments cater to all ages or sometimes specifically target professionals only, rather than merely the young, he added.

Mini Ocean Park Station is a conversion of 18 former luxury apartments in a complex... into 270 units... A private room of 80 to 100 sq ft - smaller than a regular carpark space - can cost HK$8,500 (S$1,470) a month.

Mini Ocean Park Station is a conversion of 18 former luxury apartments in a complex in Shouson Hill into 270 units by Filipino tycoon Lucio Tan's Eton Properties. A private room of 80 to 100 sq ft - smaller than a regular carpark space - can cost HK$8,500 (S$1,470) a month.

The ground floor features a common area with vending machines for snacks, washing machines and couches.

Most of the initial sign-ups are university students, according to Ms Cheung.

Ms Ho will live in a building around 50 years old in Yau Ma Tei, in Kowloon, converted by Synergy Biz. A single room of about 400 sq ft in the in the development, called Bibliotheque, may sleep as many as 10 people.

There are common areas for cooking and socialising, and bathrooms are also shared. Prices range from HK$3,500 to HK$5,500 a month.

About 400 people applied for 120 beds in the development, which will open in the fourth quarter, according to Mr Wong.

Ms Ho wants to meet new people and is not daunted about sharing a room, saying that she did that while studying in Japan and is currently doing the same with her sister in their family home. "As long as I have a small private space to myself, it is good enough."

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2017, with the headline 'Young people take to 'co-living' amid HK housing crunch'. Print Edition | Subscribe