In Shanghai, some distance from the Iconic Bund, is a relatively new tourist district called Xintiandi. Surrounded by skyscrapers, the district is a pedestrian area comprised of upmarket shops, many of which are global brands (e.g., Starbucks, Shanghai Tang, Vidal Sassoon). The site is an example of heritage type preservation whereby buildings are repurposed for commercial use. While building facades remain, the original purpose of the buildings, and often their interiors are stripped away. The Xintiandi area is comprised largely of redeveloped Shikumen houses, which were smaller workers houses. Somewhat ironically, this site of tourism and global commerce was also the site of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist party.
There is a shortage of housing in Hong Kong. Actually, there seems to be building all the time and new flats are being regularly put on the market, but they are expensive. Indeed a trawl through the real estate adverts reveals a less than 500sq foot flat (1 bedroom) that is on sale for just over $10 million (HK), which when you do the conversion is a bit under $1.3 million US. This is not a particularly spectacular flat in a particularly spectacular location. This is about normal. It will rent for about $31,000 per month (about $4,000 US/£2,500), which is also normal. The thing is, according to the last census, nearly 60% of the population earns less than $25,000 (HK) per month. In fact, if you think about it, to get a mortgage for this ONE BEDROOMED flat, you would need to earn in excess of $100,000 (HK) per month, quite a bit in excess. The same census figures reveal that less than 5% of Hong Kong’s population earns more than this. There is a numbers problem here. So what do people do? Continue reading