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June 24, 2017

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High-end 'micro-flats' latest trend for home buyers in Hong Kong

HONG KONG--At a glitzy show stall for a new residential development in Hong Kong, property agents with loudspeakers are promoting the latest trend in the overcrowded city — high-end "micro-flats" which still come with an eye-watering price tag.

Hong Kong's poorest residents are used to making their homes in cramped accommodation, but now developers are touting minuscule upmarket apartments to reel in young middle-class buyers.

Although they are part of swish modern complexes, some of the newly built studio flats measure as little as 16 square meters (177 square feet) and are on sale for HK$1.5 million — almost US$200,000.

Single entrepreneur Mike Ko is typical of the buyers that developers are targeting: aspiring home owners who are priced out of the overheated Hong Kong housing market.

"I'm 33 years old and I really need my own place," says Ko. "Studios are good enough. They're quite hip and cool as well."

Ko currently lives with his parents in public housing and has been saving to buy, but says that current price tags mean he can only afford tiny properties.

"The market is too expensive, so buying a studio flat is a good first step to home ownership," he said.

Agents are selling the pint-sized flats on the basis that the market boom will only continue.

"You want to buy now because prices will just go up," said one agent at the new Mont Vert development in the suburban neighborhood of Tai Po.

"You are saving, in a sense."

Mont Vert boasts a clubhouse, sea views and surrounding greenery — but at 16 square meters, its smallest units are only three times larger than cells in Hong Kong's most populous prison.

The main space doubles as both bedroom and living room, with a kitchen and bathroom tucked away in the corners.

Developer Cheung Kong says that 10 percent of the 1,000 apartments on offer are studios, but could not confirm how many of those had been sold.

The development is not yet completed, and — despite being a massive investment for potential buyers — there were no show flats, models, or pictures of the interiors of the studio units immediately available.

'Inhumane' Conditions

While some prospective buyers are desperate enough to snap up the tiny flats, there are those who are outraged by the conditions Hong Kong residents are having to bear.

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