No haven for home-seekers

The vermin-ridden, fire-trap subdivided apartment is contemporary Hong Kong’s stereotype media-cliché not-so-hidden dirty secret. Poor families, typically Mainland immigrants, live crammed into 100-square-foot cubicles with poor air, lighting and sanitation – paying rents that total over half their incomes.

Now, Asia’s World City may soon be offering a new dystopian residential hell: the subdivided houseboat, in which middle-class Western expat families are forced to share floating homes surrounded by piles of dogs, baby strollers, 60-inch TVs, tennis rackets and Le Creuset casseroles.

That is the nightmare scenario suggested by the latest news from Discovery Bay, where landlord HKRI is evicting yacht-owners from the marina. All other leisure berths in town are full. Angry boat-dwellers believe the company is renovating the facility in order to rent it out to billionaires with mega-luxury ocean-going vessels.

It is an interesting story because, unlike penniless Mainland single-mothers, the people concerned are articulate (or assertive/entitled according to taste), possibly have at least some connections, and they symbolize the cosmopolitan image that talent-seeking Hong Kong officials are struggling to maintain.

The eviction sounds like the sort of gentrification any Hong Kong developer would instinctively do. Indeed, HKRI is turning other parts of DB into a Mainland tourism/shopping/property hub-zone. With Mainland money pouring into other districts, the company probably sees the whole area as an under-yielding patch of real estate, clogged up by middle-income foreign managerial types who want an affordable suburb to live in.

Foreigners who live in boats are a fringe subset of Hong Kong’s expat population. (Coincidently, someone recently proposed putting container homes on ships as a way to tackle Hong Kong’s housing crisis, prompting memories of a time when much of the city’s population lived on fishing vessels.) Like DB residents in general, cryptocurrency investors, golfers, the remarried and others with questionable life-skills and judgement, they insist they have made a superior choice, while sounding rather defensive about it. They are now finding out how clever it was.

The deal (looking at the SCMP story) is that for (say) a HK$5-10 million boat-purchase and marina membership, plus monthly fees, you can get a 2,000-sq-ft home. This is a tiny fraction (20% max?) of what such an apartment on land would cost.

The gods of Hong Kong property cannot abide such willful defiance or such an extreme aberration of nature, and will take their revenge.


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9 Responses to No haven for home-seekers

  1. Brownshirtin' Docta G says:

    Our own, very own, wise, very wise Criswell predicted some time ago that by 2030, half of the people in Hong kong would be living in serviced apartments, the other half in tents.

    Clearly Criswell left houseboats out of the equation, but not when you think about it.

    People who live on boats are really tent dodgers, street sleepers, Lamma junkies who would be much better off slinging their hook and heading back to Britain, Ireland, Redneck Gravysweatin’ Cousinfuckin’ USA or Methswallowing Barfing Abobeatin’ Australia.

    Wasseruntermenschen ‘raus!

    I feel better now…

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    The “A” is actually a pretty amazing vessel up close.

    It is, however, even more amazing to see the cornucopia of insane hyper yachts just by googling “Russian owned yacht”.

  3. old git says:

    Hong Kong is reverting to the housing situation 40 years ago, when childrens’ births were registered on a buff foolscap form, which allowed the parents to state where their child was born, exactly. The form was imaginative and included options such as dormitories, squatter villages, fishing vessels and open spaces.

  4. Henry says:

    George A
    Why do you feel the need to keep squatting over here and posting inane and offensive rubbish? Is it because no-one visits your sad and sorry site? Why don’t you do one so we don’t have to suffer your pollution here.

  5. Isaac Asimov says:

    I’ve tried, believe me, but I just can’t grasp what “Brownshirtin’ Docta G”, is trying to say..

  6. Ironic that the DB eviction story should appear in the same week as the HKFP headline: “Hello sailor! In Hong Kong’s housing shortage, floating homes are worth considering.”

  7. @Isaac Asimov – usually he’s trying to say “look at me” like an attention-seeking two-year-old or Donald Trump. Sometimes he’s advising people to leave Hong Kong – advice he seems curiously reluctant to take himself.

  8. Din Gao says:

    I her Dr G has given up his blog in favour of a print edition.
    It will be available soon on absorbent rolls and sold cheaply in shops Curry Lam has never heard of.

  9. Revolution says:

    The Government’s response to this problem is to point out that it is illegal to live on a boat without a licence.

    The SCMP claims that there are currently 4 boats in HK licensed for residential use, all in Causeway Bay typhoon shelter.

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