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Dream of owning a home is over for most young Hong Kong people

People look at floor plans inside a sales gallery for at a real estate showroom in Hong Kong.
Brent Lewin | Bloomberg | Getty Images
People look at floor plans inside a sales gallery for at a real estate showroom in Hong Kong.

Soaring property prices have broken home ownership dreams among Hong Kong's youth, with the number of those intending to buy a flat having halved over the past decade, according to a survey.

Those who are still interested expect to work for up to 25 years before they can buy their first home, the study by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups found.

Of the 800 survey respondents, aged 18 to 34, only 213 intended to get on the property ladder – a drop to below 27 per cent from 55 per cent in 2006. Around 10 per cent said they currently owned property, while more than 54 per cent had no purchase plans and 9 per cent were undecided.

Residential units are seen clustered tightly together in an apartment complex in the Quarry Bay area of Hong Kong.
Alex Ogle | AFP | Getty Images
Residential units are seen clustered tightly together in an apartment complex in the Quarry Bay area of Hong Kong.

Although the exact reasons behind the trend were not studied, respondents said prices and the size of down payments needed were the two top factors they considered.

The study also found that while young people occupied about 126 sq ft of living space on average currently, they hoped to double that to 270 sq ft.

Vincent Ng, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, which commissioned the survey, said that to address space problems, some architects were proposing to elevate ceiling heights from 3.5 to 3.7 meters in small flats.

"Architects are looking for solutions to think in terms of space – that is changing the concept from area to volume," he said.

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Although there is no cap for the height of ceilings in the city, most developers keep them under 3.5 meters. According to the federation, flats with 3.7 meter ceilings can technically include a small attic.

"In essence, we are capitalizing on the height and the young architects look into the possibility of ... putting the bed on the upper level and using the wardrobe as the staircase," Ng said.

Among respondents intending to buy homes, more than 50 per cent expected to work for up to 10 years before they could afford a flat, while 20 per cent expected to work for up to 25 years. And even after that, they were not expecting to afford anything above HK$4 million.

Ng said there was "quite a gap between dream and reality" in the ability of the city's youth to buy property in today's market.

According to Midland Realty, a 268 sq ft flat in Wan Chai would currently be priced at HK$5.5 million, although the 15 per cent stamp duty imposed earlier this month by the government on non-first-time buyers may bring down prices.

Survey organizers noted a trend among developers to build increasingly smaller flats because "they only look at demand and affordability" instead of living conditions.

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