March 12, 2019
Though it recently entered correction territory following the longest streak of falling prices since 2016, Hong Kong’s housing market remains one of – if not the most – unaffordable in the world.
And as struggling locals look for somewhere – anywhere – to live for a relatively modest price, more are turning to an innovative, if illegal, solution. According to Bloomberg, the latest housing trend in the New Territories, a region of Hong Kong that is mostly wetlands, parks and mountains, is building illegal houses out of prefabricated steel boxes.
Locals call them container homes. And while they’re growing in popularity, almost all of them are illegal, having been built on land not zoned for housing, and/or without the government approval necessary to ensure it meets standards for ventilation and fire-safety.
After walking through a deserted plot of rural land on an unevenly paved road, Gilbert Wong arrives at a metal-fenced gate that looks like the entrance to a warehouse, or maybe a car park – ubiquitous in Hong Kong’s New Territories.
But behind this seemingly hostile facade is Wong’s humble home: a prefabricated steel box that looks a lot like a basic shipping container. Such dwellings, dubbed container homes, have become an increasingly popular option for residents squeezed out of the world’s least affordable property market.
The vast majority are also illegal.
“Of all the prefabricated homes in the style of a container that I have seen in ads or online, I can tell you 99.9 percent aren’t in compliance with the law,” said Vincent Ho, a managing director at surveying and property consultancy firm Freevision Ltd.
Estimating the number of container homes is difficult because they’re usually tucked away in far-flung areas across the territory, but orders for containers have doubled since 2016, with 40% built specifically for dwelling…