Architect suggests micro-housing as solution to shortage

A low-cost and micro-living housing unit is coming to Hong Kong as early as next year, with the goal of easing the neighboring region’s housing problems.

Named the OPod Tube House, project mastermind and CEO of James Law Cybertecture James Law told the Times that after the possible rollout in 2020, it would invite residents to live in it on one or two-year contracts.

“It’s past the experimental stage. We are now in the process of building the first housing using this design,” said Law on the sidelines of the British Business Association of Macau talk yesterday.

The OPod Tube House is a 100-square-foot space made from two repurposed concrete water pipes, and is equipped with a small bathroom, compact kitchen, shelving and a couch that converts into a bed. Each house is equipped with smartphone locks for online access.

They can also be stacked to become a low-rise building and a modular community within a short time, and may also be located in different sites within the city. 

During the talk, Law, who is also the director of the Hong Kong Design Center, explained that such housing could tackle the lack of affordable housing in the neighboring city.

As the Macau SAR is also experiencing a similar housing issue, Law recommended that the city should have a policy to disrupt the problem that residents are facing.

“A policy in place from the government to make available the unused or disused government land housing is the first thing Macau needs,” said the architect.

“Secondly, you have to have an ecosystem of NGOs who are willing to do these projects at no profit in order to keep costs low and make it available to people. There is no point building these houses if it turns out to be about the same price of private housing; you need to have it disproportionately cheap,” he said.

Rent of the OPod would be set at about HKD2,500 per month, only about 20% of Hong Kong’s average one-bedroom apartment rental rate.

“The project is not typical real estate, but a social housing project made possible because the land was given for free,” Law explained, adding that constructing each unit would cost HKD150,000.

“You cannot get away with not building long-term public housing, but if there is already a problem in place which is quite serious, the fastest way to give some relief to the problem is to build transient housing,” the architect said.

“It’s a two-pronged attack. You need to have fast housing, but then you also need to have [these types of units] because people can’t live forever in transit housing,” he added.

According to Law, the project was made possible as it partnered with a charity to manage the units. The charity was willing to subsidize them, which has made the rent much cheaper.

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