In places like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago where space is limited and real estate is always on the rise in value, tiny apartments have begun to become the norm in new housing development. Many developers in New York and San Francisco have brought up the idea of building “micro apartments” that are less than 400 square feet in size to squeeze more people into a single highrise building and increase density. Across the Pacific Ocean, Hong Kong has introduced something even smaller: apartments that are only 180 square feet and aptly nicknamed “mosquito units.”
The Wall Street Journal points out that these new housing units unique to the Chinese city are barely bigger than a standard parking space in the United States; if you have a hard time imagining the size of these apartments, just look at where you park next time you run to the grocery store. Many of these mosquito units are considered luxury units, which is not surprising since they reside in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Check out this infographic from the Wall Street Journal to get a better perspective of the size of a mosquito unit:
Source: Wall Street Journal
So just how much do these super tiny units go for? The luxurious ones have been listed between HK$2 million-HK$4 million, or roughly $500,000 in US currency. For the same price, Americans can buy a decent sized-house in relatively expensive area. However, being that Hong Kong has the least affordable real estate in the world, with property values outpacing the city’s average income by 17 times, it’s easy to see why a mosquito unit would have a snowball’s chance at commanding such a price point.
This kind of pricing leaves out most of the younger Hong Kong urbanites looking to have a place of their own. Most cannot save enough in their lifetimes to be able to afford a HK$4 million mosquito unit, so they must look to subsidized housing lotteries in the hopes of winning a place to live supported by the government. Like New York, Hong Kong is fast becoming a playground for only the very wealthy, leaving regular citizens to break the bank or look elsewhere for housing.
Additionally, some experts have questioned the health risks associated with people living in such cramped spaces. Some have claimed that living in such a small space can evoke a sense of claustrophobia and increase levels of stress, anger, and domestic violence. These same experts agree that micro apartments can work for young single professionals in their 20’s, but become problematic for tenants in their 30’s and 40’s because of different stress patterns and life experiences. Additionally, other advocates for small apartments argue that the health risks are being blown out of proportion; people in their 30’s and 40’s are more likely to be married and/or have a family, so living in such a space will typically not be a viable option for them. It has been suggested though that any tiny apartment must be very well designed to make the most of the space given to lower any stress levels of occupants.
Will these ultra-tiny apartments find their way to the United States? For now, America’s own “micro apartments” that are no bigger than 400 square feet are filling the need for more available housing in large urban city centers such as New York and San Francisco.