Now that I am back home in Hong Kong — and strangely enough, it does feel like home — it’s time to find two very important things: (1) a job, and (2) a new place to live.
Housing is a chronic shortage in Hong Kong, as it is a tiny place with not enough flat land and too many people. To give you a comparison of size and population, Hong Kong is approximately 426 square miles with over 7 million people, while Trinidad is 1,980 square miles with approximately 1.3 million people. Picture it as if the entire population of Trinidad moved into Port of Spain.
We all know that housing is expensive in Trinidad, as our oil, gas and other natural resources, ripe for the pillaging, have attracted all of the international players in the energy industry who provide massive housing allowances to their expat workers. If you read a Trini newspaper, many real estate agents advertise their prices in US dollars, not TT dollars. This makes it incredibly hard for the locals to afford anything nice, and all of my friends in their 30s are scratching their heads trying to figure out whether they can ever own a place of their own.
It is a similar problem here is Hong Kong because it is the top banking center of Asia and expats flock here for fat salaries in the finance industry. I honestly don’t know how the local Chinese can afford to buy anything decent. And many young people are also stuck living at home with their families because they can’t afford to move out. I suppose I could be considered one of those expat workers who make things more difficult for the local Chinese, but the fact is it isn’t really the expats who push up prices. It’s the rich Chinese investors who REALLY have all the money, not the little plebs like me.
The most expensive flat in the world was sold in Hong Kong about three years ago. It was 6,000 square feet (the average 2 bedroom flat here is 600 square feet), right in the heart of Central, on the 68th floor. Price? US $57 million. Paid by a mainland investor. In the richer areas of Hong Kong, apartments regularly rent for over TT $100,000 and can sell for TT $10 million. And keep in mind this is just an apartment — NOT a house, NOT an estate, NOT a home with a garden and a pool and a half naked cabana boy with rippling biceps serving you a cocktail. It’s just an apartment.
In Kowloon, the most dense area of Hong Kong, many people live in tiny flats ranging from 200-400 square feet. And if you think it must be cheap, think again. Even a 400 square foot apartment can sell for TT $4 million. Insane, isn’t it?
Recently a local Hong Kong guy made a parody video about the ridiculous housing market here. You gotta check it out. Pretty funny. Funny, and depressing to think people really can live in such small places. This was filmed in Sham Shui Po, considered one of the poorest areas of Hong Kong with old buildings and tiny rooms. It sucks to be poor anywhere, but it REALLY sucks to be poor in a place like Hong Kong.
Wish me luck as I try to find somewhere affordable too!