ONE city per country, is not mandatory to be the capital or the largest city.
City should have at least 1 million people, never mind of Venice.
Should be taken in consideration as many points is possible, but biggest point is for the living conditions. This ranking is like “Best cities to LIVE” not “Best cities to VISIT (as tourist)”.
The ranking is not related with the photos. I just added one random landmark photo for each city.
Advice: Look down at rankings one city at once, think yourself which could be next ranked city before looking to it.
Please leave comments, praises, insults, etc… about my ranking.
10th place – Paris
For a tourist, France capital may be the #1 city in the world. Most of city proper was built in second half of 19th century, before inventions of automobiles, streets are very narrow, traffic and parking is a major problem. Paris Metro have 300 km, but it have good coverage only in city proper, most of 10-million area have no metro access. At least Paris is better than London (too sparse) or Rome (insufficient metro).
9th place – Madrid
Most of Spain population lives in apartment buildings, there are a lot of pre-war beautiful buildings, Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Madrid Metro (283 km) have better coverage in a city of 4.5 million people, than Paris Metro. However the apartment buildings are really dense, 10-15 meters distance between facades even in the new neighborhoods, causing lack of green space and parking problems.
8th place – Amsterdam
Most population lives in low-rise apartment buildings and terraced houses, there is a lot of diversity in architectural styles, this attracts a lot of tourists. Amsterdam is one of the few places in the world where are more bicycles than cars, water is also a common form of transport in city center.
7th place – Brasilia
Brasilia is the biggest masterplanned city of the world. Construction started in 1956, the city was inaugurated in 1960 and is still growing. It is the single city in Brazil where a large proportion of population lives in non-crowded apartment buildings, so it is one of the greenest cities in Latin America.
Was planned with sectors for each type of institutions, and as a “city of cars”, streets being planned in such a way that even traffic lights would not be necessary. Residents need to travel long distance to reach their needs, is not pedestrian-friendly, lack of crosswalks, people risk their lives crossing the north-south highway, so I give it just 7th place.
6th place – Moscow
Entire Moskow city is dominated by massive neighborhoods with huge communist apartment buildings (usually 8-16 storeys and 100-200 meters long, and wide avenues). Minimal distance between buildings is 30 meters, but in most cases is 50-100 meters. Russia capital is one of the greenest cities of the world and parking is not a problem. Moscow Metro is the biggest piece of art of the world, it have 300 km of lines and connects all apartment complexes. But the apartments themselves are small and crap quality, for most people the living conditions are quite bad, so I cannot give it rank higher than 6th place.
5th place – Shanghai
China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Shanghai is an ever-changing city and many communist apartment buildings are being demolished and replaced with modern apartment towers. Shanghai Metro is the fastest-growing metro in the world, it opened in 1995 and in 2010 it reached over 400 km of lines, overtaking London and became longest metro in the world. Traffic jams and pollution became a big issue so it occupies only 5th place.
4th place – Stockholm
North Europe is as whole a good place to live, but Sweden have lowest income inequality in the world and Stockholm may have the longest metro (108 km) compared with deserved population. A mix of high-rise and low-rise apartments, landed houses neighborhoods, and (probably) the best public housing programme in Europe, makes the city not too sparse for public transport and not too crowded, also is one of the greenest cities in the world, but for some reasons there are 3 other cities with higher rank…
3rd place – Hong Kong
Hong Kong have the best skyline in the world, impressive aerial views, most vertical city in the world, huge residential skyscrapers but with smallest apartments in the world (average 40-50 sqm). Extensive public housing programme since 1954 helped the city to develop and now is home for half of population. Everything are so close and public transport is good so the cars are useless in central area. Hong Kong is one of the 10 most touristic cities in the world and also one of the safest cities. Due to big income inequality and many poor people, and the crowded situation may be not a good place to live (unless you are a billionaire to buy a decent size apartment), I give it 3rd place.
2nd place – Seoul
Most people would be surprised that I have included Seoul in this TOP 10, as the city is not very beautiful and the lack of touristic attractions make it unknown for the rest of world… but it is one of the best place to live. South Korea developed quickly into a high-tech country, income inequality is one of the lowest in the world, crimes are also lowest, their population is one of the most civilized and Seoul is also one of the cleanest cities in the world. Centralized economy and mass housing programme appeared in 1960s. Rows of identical buildings are spread all around the city, giving an unpleasant look, but they offer the best apartments in the world (and probably the biggest – existing apartments average 110 sqm, new apartments in 80-200 sqm range), all fitted with high-tech features, and today more than half of population live happy in high-rise apartments. Korea have highest ratio of broadband internet. Seoul Subway have 314 km of lines but is linked with Incheon Subway and Korail sector, totaling 755 km, the longest in the world. Public transport is good, however increased automobile usage since 1990s leaded to pollution and parking is a hell in most residential areas.
There’s some controversy between Hong Kong and Seoul places, they are opposite, each one have what the other one do not have, different people may consider different things to be more important and invert the ranking.
1st place – Singapore
Singapore is the best place to live in the world, it beats Hong Kong and Seoul by combining the advantages of each of them. Singapore have best urban planning, best public housing programme with HDB since 1960 which today is home for 80% of population, best public transport which made cars not necessary, and is one of the safest cities in the world. Despite of being a country with only 700 sq km, it have decent apartment sizes (HDB average 95 sqm, but is falling, new apartments being in 60-120 sqm range) and it is one of the greenest cities in Asia. Singapore MRT opened in 1987 and reached 142 km of lines in 2007, including LRT lines. Many other lines are under construction or planned. It is the only major city in the world where parking lots exceed number of cars, traffic is incredibly smooth and pollution is incredibly low for a city with 5 million people. Singapore is also 3rd most touristic city in the world, after Paris and London, according Wikipedia.
– How about New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Cape Town, Sydney, etc?
All cities from USA, Canada and Australia have large part of population living in landed houses, tall buildings and beautiful skyline are only in downtown, rest of cities are too horizontal, making public transport to be inefficient. Rail infrastructure is insufficient, cars are necessary for daily life, all of these make the life expensive and causes big pollution, which leads to a lot of other problems. Also entire North and South America is not a good place to live due to high income inequality which turns into high crime rate.
Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town are the cities with most beautiful geographic landscape, obviously after Hong Kong.
– How about Dubai?
It is currently a big working site, I want to wait more years before giving it a place in the top, but anyway only a small area of the city have skyscrapers. Having Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world does not mean that is the most beautiful city or best living conditions.
– How about Tokio?
Tell me an advantage of Japan compared with South Korea. Tokyo is uglier than Seoul, it have too many landed houses and many old buildings.
– How about Pyongyang?
The city is really beautiful, well planned, and have one of the lowest pollution in the world, thanks to lack of rights of car ownership in North Korea. If this ranking was not about “Best cities to LIVE” I would include it.
– How about Kabul, Ciudad Juarez, Chernobyl… !?
LOL… The single place where Chernobyl-Pripyat is ranked #1 is the amount of green space per capita!
Greenlivingpedia shows the average sizes of NEW homes as 201.5 sqm in USA (average detached home 217.8 sqm), and 214.6 sqm in Australia (average detached home 245.3 sqm). Australia have the biggest homes in the world.
commsec.com.au an article from Australia showing that USA have the biggest houses in the world, it also mention sizes 68 sqm in Russia and 43 sqm in Hong Kong.
What is unclear is if these numbers include garage area.
Dear Osama bin Laden, please do not hack my website due to header photo!!
United States, despite of being one of the wealthiest countries of the world, have one of the highest costs of living in the world, big income inequality and a lot of people living under poverty line. Canada may be a little better. Same thing in Australia and New Zeeland.
United States was seen as the most developed country in the world in early 20th century, but today Western Europe and some countries of Asia may have better living conditions.
Downtown of most cities have only office buildings, the population is actually living in suburbs, in low-density housing areas averaging 10 houses per hectare, too low for public transport to be efficient so there is none. For the price of a 50 sqm apartment in a major European city, you can buy a 200 sqm house with 1000 sqm land in suburbs of a major city in US. But, unless you are living in a major city from the East Coast, you are dependent by car. Most people need to drive daily to go to work, shopping, etc, wasting a lot of gas and causing traffic jams and pollution. In some US states, the number of cars exceed population, how this can be explained?
Americans live on a stupid philosophy “bigger is better“. Bigger and bigger houses were built over years, average house size is over 200 sqm today, bigger than normal people’s needs, a waste of energy to maintain them. Until the 1970-1980s oil crisis, American cars used engines ranging from 3 to 7 liters, compared with 1 to 3 liters in case of European cars. Fuel crisis caused rising imports of European and Japanese cars more economical and higher quality. American car manufacturers had to launch smaller cars with smaller engines, but they are still bigger than cars sold in Europe. Even if gas price in US is today about 1/3 of gas price in Europe, average Americans spend over every year $2,000 for gas (source: Huffington Post).
USA is also the country with most obese people, this is caused not only by McDonald and BurgerKing, but also by the cars, most people never walk enough, cycle or any other form of exercise.
Evolution of skyscrapers
United States is well-known for skyscrapers, but in reality only a small area in the downtown have skyscrapers, and the era when United States was the country with most skyscrapers has ended. A lot of high-rise buildings were built since late 19th century. Between 1933 and 1953, in entire world were 19 buildings over 600 feet (183 m), all in US, of which 17 were in New York alone (source). As 2015 in entire world are 218 buildings over 300 meters (including under construction) of which only 30 in US, according my Skyscrapers Database.
What is less known, is that early skyscrapers were not so well received by population and most US cities set height limits to counter the “skyscraper race”, but in New York the law failed to be approved, so taller and taller skyscrapers were built. Early skyscrapers had continuous facade at street line, ugly side walls and airwells, making street to look like canyons. 1916 Zoning Resolution prevent buildings to cover entire plot of land.
But I don’t want to write too much about skyscrapers. This website should focus on HOUSING.
Evolution of the housing in United States 1800s-2010s
I done my research by exploring US cities via Google Streetview, selected few neighborhoods and searched street names on Zillow.com to find few houses for sale with year built indicated. Hope is no offence for the people living in these houses!
My favorite houses are the ones built between 1900s and 1930s. They are much denser, townhomes, detached and semi-detached houses 4-6 meters wide. There is a considerable amount of such old beautiful homes in New York, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, and nearby smaller cities. I am surprised how they are still standing even after 100 years!
Public housing are again common only in New York and Chicago and it is the least successful public housing schemes in the world. Some projects had to be demolished in just 20 years.
Shotgun home was common in New Orleans and other south states from 1830s to 1920s, single-story, 3-4 meters wide and 20+ meters long, having all the rooms in row without hallways. Shotgun homes are often seen in semi-detached form (double-barrel shotgun home).
Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia are almost entirely dominated by townhomes built up to early 20th century. New York and Chicago switched to detached homes earlier.
19th century was dominated by townhouses with high-pitched roofs. similar with british ones, very high density, often with no yard at all, homes built behind street homes, facing to 3-meter wide alleys, etc.
Tenements, low-cost apartment blocks with 4-5-6 floors and no lifts, were built in significant numbers in late 19th century in New York and Chicago. I am not sure what is the limit between tenement and other apartment buildings. They can be identified from single-family terraced houses by having metallic fire escape staircases on facade (so ugly!).
1900s was still dominated by townhomes too, but with flat roofs instead of pitched roofs.
Most townhouses had 2-3 floors, 12, 16, 20 feet / 3.66, 4.88, 6.10 meters wide and 30-50 feet / 9-15 meters deep, with flat roofs. Townhomes can be small as 12 feet wide, 2 bedrooms, 800 sq ft, but in New York there are few ultra-luxury townhomes in Manhattan reaching even 6 floors (or even taller but didn’t saw them yet), including private lift.
Detached houses appeared in some medium-sized cities, most being 18 feet wide on 20 feet lots, leaving just 2 feet (60 cm) space between houses.
Most 1910s houses do not have garage, residents park their cars on roadside. Some do have garages, built later at back side of house, accessible through back lane (if there was enough space in backyard). Some have carpark in front of house.
Some townhomes and semi-detached homes have built-in garages in basement at back side, accessible via a submerged back lane, while the front garden is raised about 1 meter.
Density: 40-50 townhomes per hectare.
Detached and semi-detached homes became common in New York, Chicago and Detroit as well as in medium-sized cities, while in Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia townhouses remained dominant until late 1920s. These houses are usually 2 floors but sometimes 3 floors, usually 16-24 feet / 4.8 – 7.3 m wide, 40-50 feet / 12-15 meters depth, on 100 feet / 30.48 meters deep lots, flat or pitched roof. I consider them most beautiful housing style in America, especially because there is no garage on facade.
Density: 20-25 detached homes per hectare.
The detached and semi-detached homes without back lane have a driveway 8 feet / 2.4 m wide between houses, driveway being shared by two houses, if there is no driveway the houses can be just 1 meter apart. 1920s driveways are too narrow for modern cars (since 1950s full-size cars were up to 80 in / 2.03 m wide. Consequently, people prefer to park on roadside (see photos)
Some of detached and semi-detached homes are inhabited by two families, one on each floor, having 4 entrance doors on facade (unlike apartments having a common staircase to upper floor units). I don’t know how these are called in America (do you?) but in Malaysia are called townhouses (as opposite of terraced house).
1930s were dominated by 2-story detached houses in lower density, but single-story houses also appeared. In San Francisco townhomes continued to be built at large scale, with basement garage. Typical houses were 6-9 meters wide and 9-15 meters deep, 9-12 meters setback, houses well spaced apart, driveway leading to rear garages is wide enough to be used by modern cars. Streets are no longer cluttered with parked cars.
1950s to 1990s
Most big cities suffered fall in population, due to increasing automobile production, more and more people choose to live in suburbs. Since 1960s to 1990s, most homes were single-story detached, more wider than deep, sitting on large plots of land even 30×100 meters (I am still talking about working-class housing), setback from road 15-20m in average but sometimes over 50 m.
Most homes are ugly, styleless and utilitarian. Housing density was max 5 houses per hectare. Sidewalks no longer exists. Garages started to be attached to houses since 1960s, as the cars became less noisy.
Since 1990s (or earlier?) grid urban planning has been abandoned in favor of cul-de-sac, to increase residents comfort as cars cannot pass with high speed in front of their homes.
Since 2000s the New Urbanism trend appeared, optimizing land usage by building narrow homes again, with small, 8-12 meters frontage and close as 2.5 meters apart (see photo). Almost all new homes have garage for 2-3 cars which make the facade ugly. Sidewalks were reintroduced and cycling is encouraged. Best example is Enterprise, Nevada, a planned community that had 14,676 people in 2000 and reached 108,481 people in 2010 census, density 10-15 homes per hectare, max 22 in the low-cost areas. Destiny, Florida will be a planned city for 200.000 – 250.000 people, Douglas Ranch, Buckeye, Arizona could be a planned city for 300.000 people.
For rich guys:The Mansions At Acqualina, 450 to 1800 sqm apartments. Not the biggest, I just found it accidentally. Tell me if you know bigger apartments!
United States housing statistics
Some statistics (like Nations Encyclopedia) shows that USA have average home size of 180 sqm and city population divided by number of households results 2.7-3.0 people per home.
According Inman, average size of homes offered for sale is 1761 sq ft, varying from 1000 sq ft in Washington D.C. to 2305 sq ft in Utah. According Propertyshark, average size in Washington D.C. is 2237 sqft and in New York is 1124 sqft, Manhattan having 1226 sqft, slightly more than city average. So big contradiction… Which is the truth!?
Detailed statistics can be found on factfinder.census.gov, such as 3-bedroom houses are dominant with 39.7% of total houses. But no info about distribution of house size in square feet.
Warning: this page gets heavy traffic of school-age children and adults with low IQ. Please contact me ONLY if you have been in North Korea and have information to share. DO NOT disturb me to ask stupid questions, North Korea is the country with LEAST information available, many questions cannot be answered, do not get angry, using vulgar language may lead to IP ban.
North Korea is the most isolated country in the world, widely considered as the worst place to live. In reality, it is not that worse, living there is just… different than the rest of world, population is brainswashed and lied that North Korea is the best country on earth and people unaware of living conditions overseas live happily as long they do what the government wants and obey stupid laws. While the industry is lagging several decades behind rest of world, the population is one of the most educated in the world, reaching a level of order and discipline that should be example for any citizen in the outer world.
Pyongyang is one of the cleanest, least polluted and least traffic-jammed cities in the world!
Economy and lifestyle
North Korea is the most isolated country in the world, running on an unique economy model that is not based on money.
You cannot choose a job, government does this for you based on your skills. Also you cannot set up a private business.
You cannot purchase apartments or houses. The government own all real estate, and give everyone rights to occupy a home, free of cost. There are no homeless people or beggary. Good work performance also give you a better home and many free gifts, and the monetary salary (if it does really exist) is not so important. Cost of living is almost ZERO.
You cannot travel freely across North Korea and cannot travel overseas, unless your job require to do so (for example sport teams or Kim’s staff when he visit another country).
Foreigners cannot enter and travel freely in North Korea, other than guided tours through designated places. The only foreigners living in North Korea are embassy workers and those invited by government for a joint-venture business.
North Korea does not have poor and rich class, but rather privileged people living in Pyongyang and ordinary people living elsewhere. Pyongyang is the home for 2.5 or 3.2 million people, out of 24 million population of North Korea. Pyongyang residents are the privileged people, healthiest citizens who perform well at work, to give a good image to foreign visitors, they enjoy a modern life, having cars, computers and mobile phones, good education, health services, plenty of food, leisure activities, etc.
Handicapped, disabled, poorly-working people and retired people are housed in countryside, where living conditions have not changed for decades, cars are a rare sight, refueling stations are non-existent, mobile phone coverage does not exists, land phones are rare, power blackouts are frequent, food is insufficient and every year many people die by hunger.
How much North Koreans earn is unknown, we assume less than 100 USD per month, we also do not know where they can spend the money, since the government give you lots of free stuff, including housing, intranet connection to Kwangmyong, public transport, healthcare, etc, all these are free. I also believe that cars, TV sets and computers cannot be bought with money and are given for free to privileged people only. Thus, good-working people can enjoy higher standard of living compared with people from other countries with similar salary.
At first impression, North Korea looks a developed country, with high literacy rate, beautiful architecture and well-planned cities, but in 1990s after collapse of Soviet Union, the economy felt down making North Korea one of the poorest countries in the world, and the single well educated country suffering by famine. They currently survive only because of foreign food aid. The economy started rising again in 2000s, but unequally between Pyongyang and the rest of country.
The life of ordinary citizens remains a mystery for outer world: where they live, what they eat, education and medical system, what forms of income they have and where they can spend the money?
Architecture and housing
Pyongyang is well planned city with wide boulevards, some leading to nowhere (example: Tongil Street, shown in above photo), massive apartment buildings with large open spaces and even more massive monuments, good public transport and low pollution. Built to show to the world that they are not a poor nation, but in my opinion are money-wasting unnecessary projects which caused population to be poor.
There is no street lighting, except for major boulevards and monuments. See how black is North Korea viewed from satellite at night!
North Korean apartments blocks are massive like the South Korean ones, 40-storey skyscrapers already existed in oldest Google Earth satellite photo from 2000, they are likely to be built during the 1980s golden era, they may have been the tallest public housing in the world until completion of 50 floors Pinnacle @ Duxton in Singapore in 2009 (further research required).
Unlike South Korea and Russia cities dominated by rows of identical buildings, Pyongyang feature vibrant skyline, old 4-5 storey walk-up and 8-10-storey blocks with lifts are mixed up with newer, 20-40 storey high-rise apartment buildings. High-rise living is not so desirable, due to electricity shortages you may not be able to use lifts when you need to go somewhere. Tower blocks are also mixed up with traditional houses, for example in Pipa-dong.
This forum post says that average apartment size in North Korea is 150 square meters, but is unsourced and I do not believe. Measuring the blocks using Google Earth I can say that apartments are oversized but not as big, maybe around 100 sqm. Probably the 150 sqm figure refers to high-end apartment complex built for political elite. The apartments are quite spartan inside, compared with South Korean ones full of electronics. I would like to know what heating system they have!
Ryugyong Hotel was planned to be tallest hotel in the world, having 330 meters and 105 floors, construction began in 1987 and was scheduled to be opened for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students in June 1989, but it failed to meet schedule and abandoned in 1992. Construction resumed in 2008 and was scheduled to be opened in 2013, but as 2017 it is still unfinished.
Mansudae Apartment built at Changjon Street is the most famous residential development. Several old buildings were demolished in 2011 and 15 glass-facade buildings in various heights up to 44 floors were built in just 9 months, according successive Google Earth historical satellite imagery. Opened in April 2012 at celebration 100 years from birth of Kim Il Sung. Every night buildings are lit up by blinking lights making me questioning if people are actually living there. Video of proposed development.
Kim Cheak Apartment, even taller, 46 floors, was built in 2014. Source: Emporis, no photos available yet.
A 23-storey block collapsed in May 2014. (map location). Source: dailymail.co.uk and nknews.org and many others. A bit unusual for North Korea to report such accidents, but this was too big to be hidden. Supposedly it was still under construction but already housed 92 families, but number of victims was not disclosed, but the photos show that windows were not moved for years, and the debris was cleared in just 4 days, suggesting that the block was not inhabited, and the demolition was controlled. Quite confusing?
If you are looking for North Korean apartment floor plans, you can check the Google Maps and try to discover under construction blocks (example location 38.96550 125.73750). No other forms of floorplans are available on internet… sadly.
Traditional Korean houses vs Mansudae Apartment, built 2012
Kwangbok Street, gateway to Nampo city, with apartments up to 40 floors
Tongil Street, famous 10-lane, 4-km long boulevard heading to nothing, plus 40-storey apartments.
More random photos, notice in first photo few old ugly houses between apartment towers!
Above photos were found on Panoramio using Google Earth and selected the best of them. Credits to their authors.
For more photos download Google Earth and browse yourself. See also beautiful buildings on Skyscrapercity.
Inside a North Korean home, renovated in lavish style to show to tourists. Normal homes are spartan.
Transportation in North Korea
North Korea self praise for having over 6000 km of railways, 80% of it being electrified, compared with only 3250 km in South Korea (according Wikipedia), but the north infrastructure is in danger state that slow down the trains while southern trains are running at 350 kmph in full safety.
Roads in North Korea are estimated to be about 30000 km of which only 5% paved.
The BIG highway to Nampo city
Kaesong city, notice the lack of street lighting, hundreds of bicycles, and only 1 car on entire street!
It is unknown if the cars are sold for money or given for free to privileged citizens. Some sources say that any citizen is allowed to own cars (but why the roads are almost empty?), other sources say that all cars are owned by political elite and state-run businesses.
According Wikipedia, North Koreans have one car per 100 people, while the South Koreans have one car per 2.3 people. Pollution is low and people healthy as they walk and cycle. However, if you use Google Earth to look through historical satellite imagery, you will see that number of cars increased significantly in recent years. Videos filmed by tourists shows a lot of cars in Pyongyang, but outside city, cars are still a rare sight.
In the past, roads were dominated by trucks (goods vehicles), Romanian Dacia (most common taxicab), Soviet Lada, some unknown Chinese cars, but in the recent years many luxury European cars appeared on roads, as seen in the following video (why they import cars instead of raising local production?).
Media in North Korea
Only government is allowed to operate radio and television. To prevent people access to information about outside world, all radio and television sets should be registered at state department, where are sealed to receive only government stations, any manipulation to receive foreign broadcast leads to jail.
Connection to the Internet is available only for high ranked officials, foreigners working in embassy, and some hotels. Ordinary citizens use Kwangmyong instead, North Korea’s national network similar with Internet (abbreviation from International Network), accessible for free via dial-up, usually in schools and factories and rarely in private homes. Filtered content from the Internet is placed on Kwangmyong, primarily from science fields. However, some people smuggled satellite internet terminals, which are confiscated and often resold to population by corrupt officers. According StatCounter, the world’s websites are getting significant internet traffic from North Korea starting from 2010. Probably they just granted internet access privilege to more people.
IT industry is developing and make North Korea an IT outsourcing destination, thanks to skilled and cheap workforce. Probably they saw how successful is IT outsourcing to India so decided to join. How outsourcing does work without allowing people to access the internet remains a mystery.
Mobile phones were introduced in 2002, banned in 2004, reintroduced in 2008, and cannot dial out of country (read more on Wikipedia). Foreigners are not allowed to use mobile phones in North Korea, so they need to leave them at airports.
Moranbong Band is the first music band from North Korea reaching international popularity. Is rumored that the girls forming the band are selected by, and the lyrics of their songs are written by Kim Jong-un.
Korean Central News Agency does have a website kcna.kp and provide to World positive news from North Korea including fake praises to the leader by foreign people. Tourists are the only other source of info of about what happens in North Korea.
Tourism in North Korea
Any person is allowed to visit North Korea as tourist, but few people are willing to do, however most of them returned with great memories. Probably I will visit myself to visit when I will be richer. Most tourists are housed in Yanggakdo Hotel located on an island in middle of Taedong River, or Koryo Hotel located in city centre near railway station, far away from poor areas.
During night you are locked in hotel, during day you are permanently attended by Korean guiders watching where you go and what photos do you take. You are not allowed to roam freely through city, or interact with local people (but these guiders aren’t locals? Yes they are but are not allowed to tell you about their personal life).
Photography is theoretically allowed only in designated places, but to go in these places you may travel through not-so-good areas of city, you are advised to not take photo of anything that depicts poverty or bad acting people, even if poverty exists all over the world, at end of day guiders check your cameras and delete offensive pictures, however they are slightly corrupt and many photos and videos showing the unwanted side of North Korea popped the internet. Example: Eric Lafforgue photos on dailymail.co.uk.
A lot of acts, normal by western standards, are severe crimes in North Korea, sending you to prison, where you will be a slave forced to work and eventually die by starvation, hard work or torture. North Korea have the biggest ratio of imprisoned citizens in the world, by the far more than United States which is officially the country with most prisoners, because the government deny the existence of prisons so nobody knows exactly how many were imprisoned and how many died in prisons. Read more on Wikipedia: Prisons in North Korea.
Is rumored that government recruited 2000 girls for sexual pleasure of high-ranked officials, called Kippumjo, some young as 13, usually ending their service at age 22-25 and are receiving gifts in exchange of keeping secrecy of their membership in Kippumjo.
Propaganda lies & war against United States
For those who do not know: Korean peninsula was divided in 1945 between communist and capitalists governments, American troops withdrew from south in 1949, none of countries liked the division and both dream a reunification of Korea but under their own regime. In 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea, starting the Korean war. The Korean Armistice Agreement was signed three years later, creating a four-kilometer wide buffer zone where nobody would enter, known as the Demilitarized Zone. No peace treaty was signed so the countries are technically still on war (until 2018 when Kim Jong-un met Moon Jae-in.
But… North Koreans call their country Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK, the only Korea, while the south is not a country but a land devastated by United States, and they can conquer the south lands by destroying United States.
DPRK is in a state of war, citizens talk about war all time, schools teach children to be “hostile with the fucking United States”, in libraries you can find books titled “Americans of the South that started Korean war”. In Pyongyang, most billboards do not advertise products but anti-US propaganda, paintings with Koreans beating US soldiers, ripping American flag, etc.
Government spend a lot of money on military programmes to prepare against an imminent attack from United States, developing nuclear bombs and testing rockets, which other countries see as a threat. In my opinion they just want to scary other countries from invading North Korea.
United States together with United Nations impose economic sanctions on North Korea hoping that they will end their nuclear program, but this makes it to threat even more. United States do not want to bomb North Korea, because China will join North Korea if United States strike first, but will remain neutral if North Korea strike first.
What is possible, will be an anti-government uprising like in Romania 1989 revolution, but unlikely to happen, because North Korean government is improving living conditions since 2000s and people are brainwashed that North Korea is the paradise and do not know that other countries offer better living conditions so they love their leader, compared with Romanian living conditions that were worsened by Nicolae Ceausescu in 1980s compared with previous decade, and people were hating the leader but not showing this until enough number of people joined against the leader.
Even if Kim regime fall, Korea reunification is not possible without a big plunge of economy of the south, which South Koreans will not accept. The economy difference is much bigger than in case of East and West Germany reunification. North Korea will need a period of transition and massive investment, to be ready for reunification.
At Singapore summit on 12 June 2018 Kim Jong-un promised closing nuclear program and Donald Trump promised major investments. The next step is North Korean government to do major reforms and open the country for private-run businesses and foreign investment, as happened with Eastern Europe countries during 1990s. But this is unlikely to happen, because allowing foreign investors to come in will make people to realize that were lied last few decades that North Korea is the most advanced country on earth.
Mysteries that need to be clarified
The population is brainwashed by government propaganda saying that North Korea is the heaven on earth, that Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un are the best leaders, and all countries are jealous due to level of development of North Korea, etc. Most people do not know that there is a better life outside their country, that on the earth exist more advanced countries, that humans reached the moon, etc. People thinks that their Kwangmyong is the only (or at least the first) computer network in the world, or that their Kwangmyŏngsŏng program makes Korea the only (or the first) country in the world that reached the space.
KCNA TV occasionally broadcast news from other countries, selected for propaganda to give impression that capitalist system turned the world into poverty and violence while the DPRK, the only remaining socialist state, is the “people paradise on the earth”. Example: this video saying that ordinary americans live in tents, eat birds and snow, and they (North Koreans) are helping them with good food. But homes shown in first part of video do not have the sash windows common in United States, second half of video is filmed in Romania main train station (Gara de Nord) known for homeless people begging (who believe in this shit “there are no birds because all were eaten yesterday” but what they eat tomorrow? also what they drink during summer when there is no snow?).
According Wikipedia, 100,000 to 300,000 North Koreans have defected, escaped from North Korea usually on foot via mountainous terrain at border with China, then further to Mongolia or to South Asia, because if caught by Chinese police, they would have been sent back to North Korea and ending in jail or killed. Some defectors reaching South Korea, but they hardly adapt to the modern world where everything cost money, some of them willing to return to the “better life” in North Korea (example video), but if they would to so, they would be sentenced to death, so many choose to suicide.
However, too much info came from south, so during 1990s the government had to admit that South Korea enjoy higher standards of living. For example South Koreans launching video cassettes via hot air balloons over the DMZ, containing foreign news about 2011-2012 Arab world uprising or anti-regime news. Most North Koreans do not know the truth about outer world, they do not realize how bad is their government, to start a uprising.
Kim Jong-il hate America but his funeral used an American-made Lincoln Continental limousine! They also use PCs with Microsoft Windows and Mac computers made in USA.
Look carefully at Kim Jong-il funeral, there are rumors that people who do not cry enough were jailed, but you can see that while the camera is aimed to people who mourn, in background just few are mourning. Apparently this has been directed for purpose of showing to local and foreign media that people loved their leader. And yes, many people do really LOVE their government, see video diary made by a north korean girl, criticizing capitalist system where the money rule everything.
I am curious how does look a DPRK geographic atlas. What they know about our world? I guess that they know that humans live all around the earth, and natural features, as these info exists before communism installment, but they may be lied about technology level of rest of world. Do they know how many countries are in the world, or what is the world population, or which are largest cities? Probably they know about USSR as they was main economic partner, but how the Korean government explained to their citizens the break-up of USSR and the fall of communism?
The claim that North Korea is totally isolated country is FALSE. The government do everything to prevent people to access foreign info, but in the same time they allow everyone to enter, tourists are main source of foreign info. Any foreign publication regarding North Korea as well as any religion item is confiscated at customs, tourists are strictly guided and not allowed to talk with locals, but the guiders themselves are locals, tourists can tell them foreign news and they can spread the news?
In Kaesong Industrial Region, South Korean companies employ North Korean workers. The south staff can talk with north workers, giving info about life in South Korea, especially as the language is not a barrier.
North Korea participated in Olympics, probably the sport teams are one of the few people allowed by government to leave country, and are not allowed to tell to their families what they see overseas.
The government, when speaking to foreign media, deny the existence of prison camps, but the citizens do know their existence? These camps employ a lot of people to take care of inmates, their family relatives do know where they are working?
I am confused how does the (lack of) freedom of speak is working there. Probably they are taught from young to not talk each other about problems and not even tell about job to their relatives, and always listen to government media?
I am from Romania, and interested in North Korea due to similarities with the former communist government of my country. I wrote this page from my personal research in 2012, as an article of 500 words, expanded over time with additional rows, photos and links, as soon I found new interesting things, reaching 3000+ words in 2015.
Since 2015 this North Korea page became most visited page among all pages about Housing around the World, getting traffic especially from American school-age kids, a bunch of idiots, who do not read my website carefully and thinks that I am North Korean. North Koreans do not have internet access. ALL articles about North Korea available on internet are written by foreigners. Some of these kids send me messages asking stupid questions that cannot be answered (example), sometimes inviting friends to message me in same time, disturbing me from doing my daily work.
I started writing this article in 2009 at same time with other countries articles, but most research I have done in 2012-2013 when Google Street View has been launched in Seoul and Busan. I will update this page constantly if I discover new stuff.
What else would you like to see in this page? Leave comments!
Foreigners who have questions about Korea that are not listed on this page, are invited to contact me. I learned more things than what I wrote in this page.
South Korea may be one of the best places to live, being one of the most developed countries in the world, one of the world’s fastest growing economies from 1970s to 1990s, one of the most equilibrated income of the world. South Korea overtook Japan in some ways. I love South Korea more than Japan mostly because of architecture and apartment complexes, the Japanese cities having too many landed houses.
Despite of capitalist government, South Korea share many similarities with the communist North Korea, for example economic isolation and little free trade with rest of world. They use mostly locally-made products and foreign companies hardly get market share there. You rarely see foreign cars driving around. Less than 2% use Google, they use Daum.net and Naver.com instead. Another similarity with communism is the massiveness of apartment blocks, private developers built distinct complexes but with identical buildings arranged in grid all around the city.
South Korean society emphasizes the family, not the community, and the apartment design reflect that. Korean developers pay attention to offering best living conditions instead of maximizing their own profits. Apartment blocks are usually 15 to 30 floors and large open spaces between them, not crowded by developers hungry for profit like in other countries. All units come with floor heating and high-tech fittings (details below). People hate the appearance of the apartment complex, but love to live in an apartment unit in that complex.
I also love extensive Seoul Metro system which extends to outside of Seoul city limits (10 million people) or metropolitan area (24 million people), 331.5 km of lines built for metro, plus the Korail lines used by metro trains, totalize 1108 km of metro network, longest in the world. Then high-speed KTX trains opened in 2004 that runs at speed up to 300 km/h, going from Seoul to Busan in 2 hours. Incheon International Airport won the best airport award in 2012.
Plenty of information about South Korea housing is available on internet, but in Korean language.
map.naver.com is the first map service in the world that include not just apartment block numbers but also number of floors and apartment size in square meters. You can click on estate name to see number of apartments, year built, transactions with price, and floor plans. Note: floor areas shown on map are in 95% cases gross floor area and in 5% cases net floor area, check estate pages to make sure what it i. Naver also have own streetview with better coverage than Google Street View. Does anyone know when it was launched? I found it in 2018, last time I checked Naver was in 2013 and it wasn’t available.
I can theoretically make a detailed research-database that calculate number of blocks, units, average unit size, etc, for each apartment complex, similar with HDB database that I made for Singapore, but I will not do this unless there is potential of making money.
namu.moe is a Korean site similar with Wikipedia having a directory of apartment complexes, including their history, facts and figures such as apartment size.
Older method to find floor plans: use wikimapia.org, get apartment complex name in Korean and put it in Google Image Search, for example Apgujeong Hyundai Apartment = 압구정동 현대 아파트. blog.naver.com contains numerous articles with floor plans, searchable by complex name. If Wikimapia shows name in English, use Google Translate. Do not make searches in English because you will not find much info.
As 2010, 25,008,212 people live in high-rise apartments; 15,941,063 in houses; and 4,974,719 in villas, or smaller apartment buildings (source).
South Korean high-rise apartments are one of the biggest in the world, their size vary from 40 sqm with 1 bedroom to over 300 sqm with 6 bedrooms, majority being in 80-200 sqm range (gross floor area) of which 20-30% are balconies. Seoul have more apartments of larger types than national average. I noticed a trend of downsizing along recent developments (2010s) compared with those built in 1990s and 2000s.
According forums.eslcafe.com (post from 2003): The average size of an apartment unit in Korea was measured at 31.8 pyeong (104.9 sqm), nearly 6 pyeong larger than the 25.9 pyeong average from 13 years ago, a survey showed yesterday. The average size of apartment units in Seoul came to 34.5 pyeong, larger than the nation’s average by 2.7 pyeong. 11.6 percent of the surveyed apartment units measured less than 20-pyeong, while 37.1 percent were between 20 pyeong and 29 pyeong. Another 30.6 percent were between 30 pyeong and 39 pyeong, while 11.8 percent were between 40 pyeong and 49 pyeong. Finally, 8.8 percent were larger than 50 pyeong.
According www.earoph.info, in 2005 average apartment size was 106.43 sqm and average household size 3.37 persons. However same source says that in 2005 were 12,494,827 dwelling units, South Korea population being 47,278,951 according Wikipedia, resulting 3.78 persons.
Stated floor areas does include wall thickness and balconies, also common balcony at rear of unit in case of corridor-style apartments, but exclude staircase and lift lobby.
I never found statistics about average home size of non-apartment housing.
Many english websites state that Korean apartments are around 30 and 50 sqm, but they are referring at the officetel given for free for english teachers in Korea, NOT to real apartments for Korean families.
Korean families are strong and children do not move out until marriage, thus small apartments are not needed. But my question is about what are doing the parents after children moved out, do they really need 100 sqm and 3 bedrooms? Many apartment complexes do not offer units less than 100 sqm.
South Korea is one of the few countries in the world which had a residential building as tallest building: Mok-dong Hyperion (2003, 69 floors) and Samsung Tower Palace G (2004, 73 floors). Many skyscrapers were built in recent years, Lotte World Tower (554 meters, 123 floors) was completed in 2017.
Apartment complexes that changed the country
Traditional Korean houses are single-storey and have floor heating. 1945 multi-storey buildings were still a rare sight in Seoul. The Korean war (1950-1953) destroyed 20% of housing stock. Most people were living in crowded conditions without sewage and running water.
The first apartment complex was built in 1958 but did not attracted much attention. Mapo apartment complex built from 1961 to 1964 began the revolution. Consisted of 10 six-story buildings and housed 642 families. The flats were 9-15 pyeong (30 to 50 square meters). Very few Koreans were ready to live at height of the 5th and 6th floor. Apart from height, people did not like other features. The early apartment complexes lacked the traditional floor heating and were warmed by radiators. Mapo apartment was demolished in 1991.
The real boom of apartment complex began in the early 1970s. In 1971 the Banpo apartments became the first complex with traditional heated floors rather than Western-style radiators, in the first complexes the the heated floors were only in bedrooms but later the entire living space became heated in this traditional way. This made apartments even more appealing to Koreans.
Jamsil apartments built in 1970s was the first large-scale complex that included schools, parks and commercial centers, 19180 apartments spread on 1.5 sq km. Phases 1-4 composed by walk-up blocks being demolished in 2005 and redeveloped, Phase 5 with 15-storey blocks still standing.
The 1980s and 1990s had a construction boom of unprecedented proportions. 80% of the housing stock of Korea was built since 1980.
In 1990, only 22.9 percent of Korean families lived in apartments. By 2005 this share more than doubled, 52.5 percent of families were apartment dwellers. Preference for apartments is growing. In a 1992 poll, 41 percent of respondents said they would choose to live in apartments, in 2000, 77 percent gave the same answer.
In 2005, the average Korean apartment was 32 pyeong, more than double the size of the largest flat in the Mapo complex. Korea have one of the biggest, if not the biggest apartments in the world!
Jamsil Jugong apartment, photos from 1970s and 1990s
Jamsil close-up of phase 1-4 (left) and phase 5 (right), notice open balconies
Jamsil photo from 2003-2004 when Phase 3 and 4 were demolished.
My study about Korean housing
Korean public housing history began in 1962. At this moment I do not have experience to distinguish public housing from private housing, all looks similar. Private developers are copy their designs each other, there are several types of “perfect” apartments, copy-pasted from one neighborhood to another. They pays attention to apartment efficiency rather to land usage efficiency or layout diversity or distinctive designs.
Construction ratio was slower than urbanization ratio, making Korea to have one of the most expensive real estate prices in 1980s. In 1991 the government realized that cannot resolve the housing shortage without adequate supply of land, started the Two Million Houses Construction Project, built ratio overtook demand and this kept prices steadily until today. Aimed to 2012 to reach 320 housing units per 1000 people. Source: http://www.housingfinance.org/uploads/Publicationsmanager/8611010705.pdf, nice research about housing construction.
As having a high-tech industry, the country is dominated by high-tech architecture with steel and glass buildings. Korean cities, together with Chinese cities, are the most monotonous cities in the world, every city have big apartment complexes with rows of identical buildings without any distinctive features. But this contribute to national equilibrium… and I still love it!
All blocks are narrow and have long apartments, with many rooms as possible on frontal facade. All blocks have the frontal facade oriented to south (or southwest or southeast), with other words, are not arranged with facades front-to-front and back-to-back, but front-to-back. Unlike the western world apartments, Korean apartments have no distinction between day and night areas, the living room and kitchen-dining room are nearly always placed in the center of apartment, while the bedrooms (4 bedrooms in average) are placed in each corner to enhance privacy. Some 4-room segmented blocks have 30 by 10 meters, all four rooms (living room and three bedrooms) are oriented to south facade, on the north facade are located only kitchen, bathrooms, staircase, and lift lobby.
Walls are probably load-bearing, I can guess this by lack of hacked walls in renovating apartments. Rooms are perfectly rectangular with no columns or beams protruding in rooms. Nice!
Apartment sizes were traditionally quoted in pyeong (1 pyong = 3.3 square meters), including walls and balconies, and surprising, for corridor-style blocks it include the common corridor area. Sometimes both floor areas with and without balconies are displayed. Except some recent private developers, all apartment dimensions are divisible by 30 cm, most by 90 cm too, for example 2.7×3.6 m and 3.6×4.5 m bedrooms. This is weird… and is not imperial system, because 1 feet would be 30.48 cm.
Standard floor to floor height is 2.70 meters, of which floor slab is 20 cm and many apartments come with false ceiling, thus the ceiling height is around 2.4 meters. Doors are tall almost reaching the ceiling, not like 2 meters doors in western countries.
Government regulate private developers thus they build apartments in some standard sizes: 18 py / 59 sqm, 25 py / 84 sqm, 33 py / 109 sqm, 40 py / 133 sqm, 50 py / 165 sqm. Until 1998 were some rules for developers to provide 70% of apartments to be under 85 sqm and 30% under 60 sqm. This caused an oversupply of tiny 84 sqm 4-room apartments, so the rule was removed (source: http://www.prres.net/proceedings/proceedings1998/Papers/kyung.pdf but this rule is dubious, I see many small complexes built in 1990s having all units over 100 sqm). These compact apartments have 4 rooms (3 bedrooms, small as 6-7 sqm) and a single bathroom, all in 84 sqm of which balconies are about 20 sqm. In case of the the 3-room (and smaller) apartments, the living room have sliding doors to be converted in a 3rd bedroom.
By studying block sizes in satellite photos and Google street view, a very vague estimation about apartment size distribution: 50% 3-bedroom, 30% 4-bedroom, 10% 5-bedroom, less than 10% 2-bedroom.
All apartments have balconies, originally only for living room, but since 1980s or 1990s balconies are added at every bedroom, living room and kitchen, so about 20% of total apartment area is in balconies. They are minimum 1.5 m wide for living room and 1.2 m wide for bedroom so in case of small apartments, they add 33% to bedroom size.
Early balconies had concrete parapet at bedrooms and with metal railing at living room, sometimes curved, thus enclosing balconies was difficult, balconies were continuous without supporting columns except at end. After 1990s or 2000s balconies have straight metal rail and supporting columns aligned with internal walls to facilitate closure of balconies and extension of rooms. Balconies are provided open, but in max 1 year over 99% get closed with sliding windows, in most cases the rooms are extended to balconies. Few open balconies can be still seen in the old blocks.
A visitor of my website told me that the city authorities control the developments by gross floor area ratio, and the balconies are not counted as gross floor area, so nowadays the developers are building small rooms to fit in gross floor area limit, apartment floor area is indicated without balconies, while the balconies are provided as bonus space, developers offer to residents to extend rooms into balconies for an extra fee. However in 1990s and maybe in 2000s too apartment floor area was indicated with balconies included, thus I do not fully understand how this legal loophole started.
1970s apartments are composed only by 5-storey walk-up blocks, with distances between facades of 15-20 meters.
1980s apartments are composted mostly by 15-storey blocks, parallel blocks with minimal distance between facades of 40 meters (biggest in the world), but most blocks are placed further away to provide more space for ground parking, which became not enough during 2000s due to rising number of cars. Some staircase-style blocks are L-shaped with 3 or Y-shaped with 4 apartments per floor.
1990s apartments introduced blocks aligned in two directions, creating squarish courtyards. Corridor-style blocks are no longer common.
2000s apartments introduced underground and multi storey parking, this allowed greater heights like 20- and 30-storey blocks. Walk-up blocks still built in low numbers, now 3-storey only.
Since 1990s every room in Korean apartments have a balcony like this. Pretty stupid, isn’t? especially when the sliding door to balcony leads to a very small balcony window. The reason for which the door is still here is that the floor heating was not installed in balcony.
South Korea government choose to redevelop various areas of landed houses as well as old apartment complexes, into new apartments. Compared with Singapore where many people are looking to buy old flats purposely to be redeveloped via SERS programme, in South Korea many people protest against redevelopment (as told by a visitor of this page).
Residents receive a compensation based on market prices and they need to buy themselves a new apartment, which is often unaffordable, new apartments being bigger and more luxurious cost a lot more than the value of old properties.
Old houses awaiting demolition
Old apartment towns (1970s?)
Newer apartment towns (1990s-2000s)
Brand new apartments, before having all balconies closed
Korean housing is composed by public housing, simple-looking blocks with ground parking (above photos); then some complexes similar with public housing in block shape but featuring underground car parks and wall motifs (did not know if they are semi-public or full private housing); then the luxury apartment complexes (below photos), easy to distinguish due to non-standard block shapes and, in most cases, helipad on the roof.
The rest of city is composed by private low-rise individual apartment buildings mixed with single family homes, I do not know the sizes of these, but according numerous Youtube videos made by english teachers in Korea, there are numerous 1-room apartments.
Korean automotive industry had the most spectacular growth of the world. The first Korean-built automobile was Hyundai Pony, launched in 1975, and in 2009 South Korea became the 5th automotive manufacturer in the world, and the first country in terms of automotive production compared with its population, overtaking Japan, thanks to increased demand in China (source: Wikipedia’s List of countries by automobile production).
The explosion of cars causes a lot of parking problems, visible in this funny photo (the snow proof that even the driveway was filled with parked cars). We need multi storey car parks to be added in old apartment complexes, like in Singapore.
Selection of floor plans and other stuff found during my study
Gaepo Cha Jigu Apartment, built 1982 (according its page, probably a mistake, it looks like 1970s) is one of the complexes with smallest apartments, ranging 35 – 71 sqm, floor plan.
Banpo Apartment built early 1970s, contains a rare 2-storey units, also know as maisonette or duplex in british english (blocks 94 and 95), see floor plan.
Apgujeong Hyundai Apartment, one of the most luxurious apartment complexes built in 1976-1979, with apartments ranging from 108.9 to 213.5 sqm, plus one block with 56 units of 264.9 sqm 7-bedroom, see floor plan.
Unknown-named estate next to Jamsil, built 1979 with units ranging 92 – 212 sqm, including a rare corridor-style apartments with 5 bedrooms 150 sqm, floor plans.
Jamsil Ricenz, built 2008, having one of the smallest apartments: 42 sqm 2-room, largest being 158 sqm, floor plans.
Some apartment on Busan waterfront, units up to 292 sqm with a weird floor plan having a bedroom much bigger than master bedroom, floor plan.
Who is from Korea or have some knowledge, please help me for the following 4 mysteries:
What’s up with so many rooms? Korean apartments have 3-4-5 bedrooms unlike other countries where 3-bedroom is dominant.
What’s up with the HUGE balconies? New apartment blocks have balconies big as 20% of total apartment area. Some bedrooms have two balconies, in both sides. Some bedrooms are 2.7 x 3.6 m with additional 2.7 x 1.8 m balcony (50% more!). Apartment owners quickly enclose balconies and join with the room… so why the blocks aren’t provided from start with less balconies and bigger rooms?
What does support these blocks? I see both in photos and floor plans perfect rectangular rooms with NO protruding pillars and NO beams at the ceiling. This is similar with communist blocks with load-bearing walls but Korean block walls are too thin and I do not think that the weight 30-storey blocks can be supported by load-bearing walls. Oh wait… no earthquakes over 4-5 Richter in Korea.
What is the ceiling height? I read on a website 2.7m, but doors are tall to ceiling and photos with people inside shows a lower ceiling. Either that people are tall, either there is false ceiling, or hmm…
A lot of people consider Hong Kong to be the greatest cities of the world, but most are looking only as tourist point of view and they do not know the living conditions. Even some singaporeans think that living in Hong Kong is better, while some (more) hongkongers think that living in Singapore is better. Is Hong Kong richer than Singapore? See HERE!
Personally I appreciate Hong Kong for their efforts to build a city on improper, non-flat terrain, and also for several of the biggest engineering projects in the world history, but… I do not want to live in Hong Kong! Singapore is overall better at living conditions.
Hong Kong is the city of contrasts and gigantic proportions, it also holds numerous world records. Examples: Hong Kong International Airport built on a 12 sq km artificial island, 4 enormous suspension and cable-stayed bridges, 5 underwater tunnels, biggest apartment buildings with smallest apartments, most expensive real estate, etc. The tunnel of Lei Yue Mun road under Sceneway Garden may be the largest tunnel of the world (~35 meters wide, no pillars). Hong Kong hold multiple times the record of most expensive apartment in the world, example from June 2008 and from October 2009.
Hong Kong population dropped from an estimated 1,600,000 to an estimated 500,000-750,000 during Japanese occupation during World War II, according Wikipedia. Apartment sizes were much bigger than today. After war, population rose quickly to 4,000,000 in 1970, mostly due to immigration from China. Hong Kong land measure 1,104 sq km and its population is 7,071,576 people at 2011 census, density about 6,400 people per sq km (similar with Singapore), but because of mountains, only 1/5 of land is developed, so the city itself is much more dense.
Macau land measure 30 sq km (half of it reclaimed from sea) and its population is 552,503 people at 2011 census. Density about 18,000 people per sq km.
Housing: due to rising population in 1950s and 1960s, most of pre-war shophouses were demolished and many high-rise tenements and apartment blocks were built, 10-30 floors in Island, while in Kowloon the height was limited to 12 floors due to nearby Kai Tak Airport. Blocks covering almost whole plot of land, often featuring balconies hanging over street, transforming the streets into urban canyons, sunlight rarely reach the street level, you hardly find a piece of grass between buildings. The deficit of housing was huge, thus smaller and smaller apartments were built. Residents did everything to use every feet of space. Old apartments were subdivided, balconies were enclosed and turned into additional rooms, caged balconies were added on building facades, huts were built on rooftops, etc. In Hong Kong the caged balconies were removed during 1990s due to risk of falling, but in Macau they are still present.
The parts of Hong Kong built up to 1980 looks ugly and dirty, due to lack of management, lack of aesthetic maintenance, balconies walled and enclosed according each owner wish, air conditioners hanging randomly on walls, rooftop additions, plus a lot of pipes, wires, cages, clothing racks, and other ugly objects hanged on external walls.
Urban Renewal Authority takes care of redevelopment of the old buildings, but most 1950s-1970s buildings are kept because they have high plot ratio and cannot be rebuild denser, only buildings in severe decay are demolished (for comparison: in Singapore pre-war shophouses are conserved while most of 1960s-1980s condos been demolished after only 20-30 years to be rebuild denser).
Housing patterns changed after 1980, most likely the government introduced plot ratios, building gross floor area cannot exceed the land area multiplied by a certain number (can someone indicate me exact laws?). Developers started building individual towers with setback from streets. Bay windows are not counted in gross floor area, so they became common, while balconies disappeared, making Hong Kong to be nicknamed “city of bay windows”. Ledges for air conditioners were provided beside bay windows, thus no more ugly objects were hanging from walls.
Accurate statistics about average apartment size are not available, but personally I estimate that apartment sizes dropped to 30-40 sqm in 1980s then rose to 40-50 sqm today. Over 90% of Hong Kong families today live in homes smaller than 700 square feet / 65 sqm (source: Global Post and other newsy websites).
Today, Hong Kong is the most vertical city in the world according Emporis statistics, beating cities like New York, Singapore, or Sao Paulo in the number of high-rises (with over 12 storeys) or skyscrapers (over 100 and 150 meters in height), also beats all records of proportion of population living above any given storey number, but it has been recently defeated by Dubai in terms of buildings over 300 meters. See also Skyscrapers Database.
The massiveness of skyscrapers contrasts with the extremely small apartments, typical size is 35-45 sqm for 3-room and 50-60 sqm for 4-room. 3-room is most common apartment type, but today there are more 4-room under construction. Minimum ceiling height is 2.5 meters.
Housing price: typical, 50 sqm apartments vary from 2 million HKD (250.000 USD) in New Territories to over 6 million HKD in Hong Kong Island, even higher prices in Mid-Levels.
Landscape of Hong Kong is more beautiful than Singapore’s one. Coastal areas are full with skyscrapers with impressive views, mountains are again full with skyscrapers with even more breathtaking views, but all have tiny but expensive apartments. Same for Macau too. Hong Kong may beat San Francisco at the number of very steep streets.
Once you leave Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, you enter in a very different world. New Territories include few “New Towns” less dense, but still with massive apartment towers. Unlike Singapore, HongKong also have rural areas, low-density village houses in New Territories, but they looks like slums. Hong Kong have lots of nature, scenic roads, forest walks, hiking trails, etc.
Urban planning in Hong Kong is worsen than in Singapore in my opinion, too much space is wasted with highways with their complex intersections. Also in New Territories there are too large open spaces, stand-alone or rows of apartment towers, rather than linear buildings like in Singapore.
My suggestions: better planning for roads, develop more flat land of New Territories, also demolish some of the hundreds of ugly villages and build high-rises.
Housing types in Hong Kong
Public housing history began in 1954, temporary and low-cost housing. In 1973 government announced programme to provide permanent housing, since 1990s slightly over half of population lives under Public Rental Housing and Home Ownership Programmer, as 2012 the percentage dropped to 46%.
Private housing estates and single buildings are home for other half of population.
Village houses are outside main city, limited to 3 floors, most of these houses are multi-family (apartments).
Villas means single-family residences, usually luxury, number of them is about 10000.
Rooftop huts are illegal residences commonly found on the roof of old private buildings and village houses.
Boathouses are the residence for few thousand people, dropping in recent years.
Hong Kong floor plans
For public housing of Hong Kong, the Housing Authority website added floorplans in 2010 for the HOS/PSPS/TPS estates. For private housing, you should search on the developer’s website or on GoHome.com.hk and Centadata.com, which contains floor plans of most private developments built after 1980.
Less known, Macau also have public housing: Instituto de Habitacao, but fewer estates (6,300 apartments) compared with Hong Kong (over 1.1 million apartments) and less percentage of residents living in public housing. I did not found much info about Macao public housing, floor plans seems to not be available online, but by measuring blocks in Google Earth, it’s obvious that the flat sizes are larger, probably with 25-50% compared with Hong Kong.
Hong Kong villages exists mostly in New Territories as well in remote parts of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Most of the “village houses” are composed by apartments too, probably 2-4 per floor. The government limit the height of villages to 3 floors, but due to housing deficit, numerous village houses have the roof terrace covered and converted in 4th floor, sometimes 5th floor. The village streets can be narrow as 1.5 meters (5-foot walkway). A common car park does exist in each village.
The single-family homes are called Villas and are not related with these villages.
Living in Hong Kong
Do you though that Hong Kong means luxury and high standards of living?
Hong Kong have biggest income inequality of developed countries: video.
CNN report of cage homes, 90 people living in a 625 sq ft apartment: video. Is this a single case or are more buildings like this?
Families living in 40 square feet: photos.
A family of 4 living in 150 square feet, in a subdivided apartment: video.
Well-known video of Hong Kong architect converting a 30 sqm 3-room apartment into a studio apartment with 24 different room configuration possible.
Example of 16.4 square feet “apartment”: video (thanks EL for giving me the link). I do not understand if it is a promotional video or a news/research report, do you?
Quite obvious that the government PRH production is not enough, the waiting list for public housing is several years.
Amoy Gardens typical 1980s estate, including a video showing a shocking small apartment.
One of the most beautiful things of Hong Kong
Is the symphony of lights! Running every day at 8 PM, it takes 14 minutes. It is completed by fireworks in certain occasions (new year, christmas, etc).
Singapore is one of best places to live, it is known worldwide as the best planned city of the world, with the most successful public housing of the world, one of the highest standards of living, but also most expensive places to live!
Singapore area was 581.5 sq km in 1960, but due to land reclamation it grew to about 710 sq km. The high immigration rate made population to rise from 3 millions in 1990 to 5 millions as 2010 (of which 3.73 millions are Citizens or Permanent Residents). Population density: 7000 people per sq km.
Singapore is one of the wealthiest counties in the world, being ranked #3 to #5 as GDP per capita (according Wikipedia) have the largest share of millionaires in the world (source: Telegraph).
The greatest thing of Singapore is the public housing, built by Housing and Development Board, it is the home for 80% of Singaporeans, from low to middle class (the peak was 87% in 1988-1990). Unlike other countries where public housing is mostly rental, HDB public housing is mostly “sold”, helping Singapore to have the highest home ownership ratio in the world: 91%, but the home ownership is actually a 99 years lease to “owners”.
There are about 10,000 HDB blocks in Singapore, most of them ranging from 10 to 40 storeys, plus a small number of walk-up (2-4-storey) blocks, plus a special project Pinnacle@Duxton built in 2009, having 50 floors it is the tallest public housing in the world and having longest sky gardens in the world.
Typical, 100 sq m HDB apartments, are sold on resale market at prices from 400,000 SGD (320,000 USD) at island outskirts to 700,000 SGD (560,000 USD) in Queenstown, as 2013 bubble peak, doubled since 2007 due to undersupply (source: HDB InfoWEB – Median Resale Prices). New HDB apartments are subsided at 20-30% less than market prices, with additional grants for first timers and low-income people.
HDB built about 20 “New Towns” and few dozens “estates”, since Annual Report 1990 being organized under 26 “Towns” which approximately match URA planning areas.
The public housing estates built after 1990 feature vibrant and distinctive designs (unlike Hong Kong or Korea monotony). The residential blocks, multi storey car parks, bus stations, and other facilities are linked by covered walkways, so no problems if the sun is too hot or is raining. Many older estates were improved through various upgrading programmes, to have same facilities like newer ones: multi storey car parks, lifts that stops on every floor, former ground parking spaces between blocks transformed in parks.
Despite high density, is one of the most green cities in Asia, most spaces between blocks being full with grass and trees. But I have a bad feeling when I see deforestation and building low-rise things in forest. The city should develop more vertically, in my opinion many cheap landed housing areas should be demolished and replaced by high-rise things, otherwise all forest will be gone in the next decades.
Singapore do not have supertall skyscrapers due to the height limit of 280 meters imposed by airports. There are 3 buildings at identical height of 280 meters, creating a beautiful uniform skyline.
Public transport is so efficient, that owning a car is a luxury rather than necessity. Mass Rapid Transit opened in 1987. The initial phase of construction 67 km of lines with 42 stations, was completed in 1990. With a third line and several extensions of the existing lines, MRT reached 113 km in 2007 and links all existing HDB towns. The network is completed by 29 km of intra-town Light Rapid Transit lines, having stations at max 400 meters from each HDB block. 3 more lines are under construction or planned for next decade, they will bring the MRT Network to 278 km by 2020. If there is no MRT station near you, at max 400 meters away you can find a bus station.
Cars are very expensive in Singapore, 2x-4x times higher than factory price (read more). For most people, situations in which a car is necessary are rare, so is cheaper to hire taxi rather than owning a car. A lot of measures for reducing vehicle usage were taken along history, the ratio is one car per 8 people (perhaps in slightly decline from 1998? the year in which Electronic Road Pricing was implemented), this reflects in smooth traffic and reduced pollution.
Singapore Changi airport was awarded as best airport in the world in 2010.
Singapore is also one of the most visited cities of the world by international tourists, ranking in 3rd place after Paris and London, according Wikipedia. Conservation programmes protects architectural heritage, unlike Hong Kong where lot of historical buildings were demolished. Singapore is also one of the safest countries of the world, thanks to very (too) strict laws.
The bad side of Singapore may be exactly the government with its harsh laws. People’s Action Party (PAP) rule the country since 1959 and is criticized for limited democracy. The single TV channels are the ones operated by government (reminding me of communist countries). Until 2008, were no casinos. National Service is mandatory for all men, adult magazines and chewing gum are banned.
Another thing that I love at Singapore is that the government websites shows a lot of information about the country and housing. The city-state system, and the big percentage of population living in public housing help me to make great studies and detailed statistics.
Singapore Improvement Trust was formed in 1927 and started building public housing in 1932. The SIT estates were very similar with UK council housing, walk-up apartment blocks and terraced housing, high-rise blocks were introduced in 1952. In the same year SIT started building Queenstown, first satellite town built away from the city.
In 1960 Housing and Development Board took over SIT, and switched to high-rise blocks, most of them being 10-12 storeys. Since 1970s, HDB built a series of New Towns across island, massive blocks with large spaces between them, min 30 meters in 1970s and min 24 meters in 1980s.
In the first decade of HDB, flat types were 1-Room (25-33 sqm), 2-Room (35-45 sqm), 3-Room (50-65 sqm), and 4-Room (70-90 sqm). From 1970s to 1990s common flat types were 3-Room (65-75 sqm), 4-Room (85-105 sqm), 5-Room (120-135 sqm), Executive Apartment / Maisonette (140-155 sqm).
Since 1980s the 4-Room flats became dominant and no more 1- and 2-Room ones were built. From 1989 no more 3-Room were built too. HDB flats reached an average size of 120 sqm for newly-built units in middle 1990s, a world record for public housing.
Point mouse on photos to see place name!
HDB estates built since 1990s offer highest standards of living for public housing. All estates have multi storey car parks, so no more cars are parked on the street. This allowed higher density, taller blocks, and a lot of green space between blocks. Blocks height varies between 9 and 18 storeys, most are with 15 storeys, lifts stops on every floor, minimal distance between blocks was reduced to 18.3 metres (60 feet). All blocks are linked with car parks, bus stations and other facilities, with covered walkways, so no more problems if the sun is too hot or is raining.
Also from 1991, various upgrading programmes were launched for older estates, that are improved with multi storey car parks, lifts that stops on every floor, former ground parking spaces between blocks transformed in parks. Most of 1- and 2-room rental blocks were demolished during 1980s and 1990s, the cleared land was redeveloped with new 5-room and Executive units. SERS programme, which demolish and rebuild owner-occupied blocks, was launched in 1995.
In 1994 the government said that all HDB and private housing should include a household shelter, another thing unique in the world. But useless idea in my opinion, household shelter sometimes placed in middle of flat, reducing the layout versatility. HDB flat size was standardized: 4-Room (100 sqm), 5-Room (120 sqm), Executive (140 sqm).
Taller blocks appeared since late 1990s (where the height restrictions allows). 30-storey blocks appeared since 1990s, first 40-storey HDB were completed in 2004 and first 50-storey HDB, the Pinnacle@Duxton was completed in 2009, being the tallest public housing in the world and having longest sky gardens in the world.
Since 2000 the standard HDB flat sizes were reduced: 4-Room (90 sqm), 5-Room (110 sqm), Executive (130 sqm), Maisonettes being dropped. But because of building more and more 5-Room (which in fact have only 4 rooms), the average flat area remained higher, around 105-110 sqm. Due to rising prices and economy, they reintroduced 3-Room (65 sqm) in 2004 and 2-Room (45 sqm) in 2006. Studio apartments (35-45 sqm) were introduced in 2001 for elderly. No more Executives are built since 2004. The average size of new flats dropped to about 80-90 sqm.
Nowadays, HDB no longer built ahead of demand, instead introduced Build-To-Order in 2001, flats are built only if 70% have been booked. The advantage of BTO is that you can book a flat in desired location, but disadvantage is that some BTO projects are oversubscribed and you need to apply multiple times until you’re lucky to get selected, and the 4-year waiting time for BTO to be built caused a massive lag in housing supply, causing the resale prices doubled since 2007 to 2012.
About twice per year a SOBF is launched, with non-booked flats from past BTOs as well as old flats repurchased by HDB repurchased. SOBF is always oversubscribed about 10 times, if you are lucky enough you can get subsided HDB flats in few months!
HDB concentrates again on building small “affordable” apartments (unaffordable due to the continuously rising prices), leaving private developers to built bigger apartments for medium-income people. The ratio of population living in HDB dropped from 86% in 2000 to 81% in 2010.
Beware of the naming system (4-Room, 5-Room, etc) do not denotes actual number of rooms, but the apartment size.
While total apartment area is regulated, individual room area vary a lot, as well as proportion between livingroom and bedroom sizes. 5-Room and Executive apartments may have 3 bedrooms and a larger livingroom sometimes separate living and dining, 3 bedrooms plus study and living room, or 4 bedrooms and small livingroom.
All HDB apartments are provided with space for drying clothes on bamboo poles at kitchens. This makes Singapore to be unique in the world (although this method is also used in China and Hong Kong, but not so often). Newer blocks built after 1990s have the drying spaces more hidden…
Executive Condos are built by private developers, having facilities comparable with private condos, but they are a form of subsidized housing, with income ceiling $12.000 per month (compared with $10.000 per month for HDB).
EC have same eligibility restrictions like HDB (family nucleus, citizens and permanent residents), you should dispose any other property 30 months before applying, minimum occupation period of 5 years before you can sell to other eligible citizens and PR. After 10 years since TOP date, all restrictions are lifted and even single foreigners can buy EC.
Private properties are leasehold (99 or 999 years) or freehold. First condominium in Singapore (private property with facilities) was built in 1974, few condominiums were built until early 1990 and they were aimed to high income people, the apartment sizes were approximately double than HDB ones. Meantime non-condo private apartments did existed, without poll, guards or other condo facilities, aimed to middle class, priced like top-end HDB flats, there is no much info about their apartment sizes.
Since mid-1990s more and more condominium projects were launched, most of them are aimed to middle class, so the apartment sizes are comparable with HDB ones, while non-condo private developments became rare. Like HDBs, condos were downsized too after 2000, some being even smaller than HDB. The difference is made by facilities: security guards, swimming pools, tennis courts… which leads to a bigger price than public housing.Singapore risk to become a second Hong Kong!
Since 2009 there is a strange trend of “shoebox apartments” denoting the flats under 500 square feet, and developers are desperate to fit as many units possible, sometimes making units with view to small courtyards.
According insing.com the private condos have been shrunk from 121 sqm in Q1 2010 to 93 sqm in Q1 2013, while executive condos have been growth a little.
According ST Property the average size is is 667 sq ft = 62 sqm.
According PropertyGuru average size to estimate number of units in government land sales programme is 85 sqm and for EC is 100 sqm, as 2012. Where is the truth? Did someone included landed houses and other did not?
Point mouse on photos to see place name!
Beware! from gross floor area are exempted uncovered terraces, planters, and until some years ago, bay windows; BUT what is specified in condo brochures is saleable area, which include void space, bay windows, planters, A/C ledges, rooftop terrace, PES (Private Enclosed Space) in case of strada-tiled houses, etc.
Condominium apartments are named by number of bedrooms, but people must be careful, a so-called “110 sqm 2-bedroom” apartment could have living and dining room plus a study room along with bedrooms, plus a massive balcony, while the internal bedroom size may be smaller than 110 sqm “5-Room” HDB apartments.
Due to unknown reasons, HDB flats use square meters while condos apartments use square feet.
First condo: The Beverly Mai, Thomson Road, built 1974
First condo with private lifts: Futura, 14 Leonie Hill Road, built 1976
First condo with parking on each floor, living room parking bay: Hammilton Scotts, 37 Scotts Road, built 2012. See video how the parking works.
Smallest apartment in Singapore is 24 sqm (258 sq ft), 4 units in Suites @ Guillemard. All other studio apartments are 35+ sqm and have separate bed area.
I am personally interested mostly in public housing so I will not post condo floor plans on my website.
Looking for Singapore condo floor plans and sale brochures? Visit sgfloorplans.com
Private landed housing
Singapore landed houses are the most beautiful in the world. Since only few people, the rich class, can afford a landed property, their houses are beautifully built and well maintained. Terraced houses are most common, followed by semi-detached and bungalows. Most terraced and semi-detached houses are 6 meters wide and 14-20 meters depth, 2-3 floors, floor area being in 200-400 sqm range and their prices are about $2-4 million SGD for terraced houses and higher for semi-detached. Old neighborhoods may have smaller houses, with cheaper prices because their 99-year leases are half depleted.
Since 1994, URA regulate the minimal land size to 150 sqm for terrace, 200 sqm for corner terrace and semi-detached, and 400 sqm for bungalow. Due to required setbacks, build-able area for the smaller lots is 6 meters wide and 14.5 meters long, resulting 250 sqm floor area for 3-storey terraced and semi-detached houses. Typical density (houses per hectare) is 30 for semi-detached and 50 for terraced.
Height limit is 2 and 3 floors at facade, depending by neighborhood, extra attic floor is allowed within 45-degree roof line. 3-storey houses appeared probably since late 1980s, 4-storey houses appeared in early 2000s.
The requirements for Good-Class Bungalow is plot size of at least 1400 square meters, max 2 floors and built in one of the 39 designated areas by URA. There are about 1000 Good Class Bungalows in Singapore, their prices range between $10 million to $100 million SGD.
Cluster houses (landed houses with shared facilities like condos) appeared in 1990s, these are cheaper than regular landed houses, but newer ones have underground parking, pools, guards and other condo facilities. Many rules including minimal distance between buildings were relaxed, giving freedom for developers. The single rule is 50 sqm footprint for each unit, this caused very dense developments, up to 100 houses per hectare, facades at 4 meters away and numerous complaints.
Black & White Bungalow is the term for luxury houses build during colonial Singapore, a period when most houses were painted white with black lines. There are also Black & White apartment blocks (Wessex Estate).
Point mouse on photos to see place name!
Kampongs represent the rural side of Singapore. Outside of central “urban” area, numerous kampongs were spread around island, but starting from 1960s they were cleared one by one.
Kampong Buangkok is the last surviving village. However in Master Plan 2008 it was marked as land reserved for future residential development. In February 2015 a BTO was built next to kampong and its plan shows a major road crossing kampong. We expect to have the kampong demolished soon, by this way, Singapore complete its national makeover from kampong to high-rise flats.
Singapore housing stock statistics
HDB, together with SIT, JTC and HUDC, built about 1.1 million apartments (dec 2010 – 1 millionth flat), of which about 968,856 units are in use at 31 March 2015, about 130,000 being demolished, converted, privatized. The average apartment size is 95 sqm.
Official numbers are only about resident population, out of 3.7 millions residents, 3.02 millions lives in HDB apartments (82%). This means an average of 3.46 people per apartment and 27 sqm per person.
I did not found any official statistics about how many non-residents live in HDB apartments. Non-residents are not allowed to buy HDB apartments but they can live in apartments owned by residents.
According Yearbook of Statistics 2010, Singapore population including non-residents is 5076700 living in 1180500 dwelling units (HDBs, condos, private flats, landed houses, others), of which 76.3% are HDBs, this means a nationwide average of 4.30 people per dwelling unit, if the average would be same for HDB, it would mean 22 sqm per person (no newer statistics available for non-residents).
Small figures compared with European countries? Think about country size!
Building a house in Malaysia? See sample house plans or contact me to design a new house for you!
Some westerns view Malaysia as being a third-world country. This is WRONG, Malaysia is a fast-growing economy, like Singapore, population doubled in last 25 years due to immigration. From 1960s kampung, it transformed into a country with modern landed housing and high-rise condominiums. One of most beautiful architecture in the world!
What other type of info would you like to see in this page? Leave comments!
Currently Malaysia is a middle-income country similar with the Eastern Europe, but having much lower cost of living. The government subsidy many things including gas, but what is the point of this? To encourage travel with personal cars rather than public transport, to encourage cities to develop more horizontally, to increase traffic jams and pollution? Update: this lower cost of workforce and may encourage foreign investment.
At this moment I am confused about living conditions, maybe some locals can help me with an “internal opinion”?
Malaysia housing types
Housing in Malaysia is similar in style and types with Singapore housing. Just cheaper and bigger houses and apartments, due to lower land prices and lower salaries.
The equatorial climate (absence of heating systems) and the lifestyle with big families, turned Malaysia into a country with one of the biggest houses in the world. Average household size dropped from 4.62 in 2000 to 4.31 in 2010 (source: census report, page 31 and statistics.gov.my), I am in doubt if this was caused by influx of foreigners with different lifestyle, or due to increased wealth of Malay families and married kids moving away from parent’s house?
Flats (public housing apartments) can be small as 60 sqm and still have 3 bedrooms! 2-bedrooms are rare, as well as studio apartments (Google Images search don’t show many).
Apartments and Condominiums in Malaysia have usually 3 bedrooms, around 100-120 sqm, but there are also examples over 400 sqm and 5 bedrooms.
Terraced House are most common type of home for Malaysians. Most new houses are 2-storey and have 4 bedrooms, usually 6000 mm or 6700 mm wide (they use approximate metric values of 20 and 22 feet), and 12-14 meters depth, and about 150-200 sqm if they are 2-storey, up to 300 sqm in case of 3-storey terraced houses.
I have not seen yet any house with less than 3 bedrooms. Even single-storey terraced houses, most of new ones have 4 bedrooms. I would like to know what is average family size in these oversized houses.
Semi-detached house and bungalow are, of course, even bigger, having 4, 5, or even 6 bedrooms, each with own bathroom, some are 3-storey, reaching over 400 sqm.
Townhouse is shared by 2 families living one above other, both having entrances on ground floor, usually 2-storey and 3 bedrooms, but I remember once time ago a 4-storey townhouse on sloped ground, where one family had entrance at 1st level while second family had entrance at 3rd level from opposite side. Can’t find the URL anymore.
Link house is a term which include terraced houses and townhouses which are build like terraced (townhouses can be semi-detached too).
Superlink house… I am not sure what was the original meaning, today most link houses are called superlink for marketing purposes.
There is also new interesting housing styles, quaduplex, sextuplex, honeycomb (example).
A large part of housing stock remains the old houses built 1960s to 1980s when Malaysia was just a third-world country, these old houses looks quite ugly and not properly maintained, but still better than houses of same age from other Asian countries.
I do not know what is the share of landed houses vs apartments within total housing stock. If anyone can help me with more detailed info about average home size in Malaysia, I will appreciate.
Update: Google Streetview in Malaysia launched on 26 September 2014, allowing me to see that this country is worse than I expected, many houses are single-storey, further study is required when I have free time, for more precise estimation of house sizes!
Luxury apartments from Putrajaya and Mont Kiara
Low-cost apartments (public housing)
Luxury terraced housing, semi-detached and bungalows
Medium and low-cost housing
Another beautiful part of Malaysia is the countryside… the kampongs. Houses with big garden, a lot of greenery and no fence, contrasting the concrete jungle of cities. Traditional Malay houses were made by bamboo or timber, built on stilts to protect from flood and wild animals, and for better ventilation. Windows are louvre type, again for ventilation.
Smaller houses can be found in kampung, but pretty big considering the poverty of people living there.
Small towns, like the following video, have a mix of kampung-styled houses and modern houses.
Malaysia also have slums, houses built over water, probably with little or no running water or proper sanitation, but even they are large, around 50-100 sqm, not like the 5-10 sqm slums of India or Philippines.
Malaysia housing statistics
Malaysia have a total of 7,346,910 housing units, of which Detached 2,416,210, Semi-detached 528,408, Terrace/link 2,570,317, Townhouse 32,682, Cluster 63,345, Flat 744,187, Apartment or condominium 716,729, few more housing types do exist (as 2010). Home ownership ratio 72.5%. Source: krinstitute.org
Malaysia building code specify minimum 10 feet / 3.05 meters setback from side and rear property line, and 20 feet / 6.10 meters from street, also 10 feet / 3.05 meters of carport roof. corner lots usually have large courtyard 6 meters wide in side of house.
However, most houses are built with longer setbacks around 9 meters from street, thus you can park 2 small cars one behind other. Does anyone know when the current building code was issued and what were the earlier laws about setback?
Google satellite imagery and street view shows numerous houses expanded, carport lengthened to the street line, etc. How these building code violations were possible? Corrupt authorities?
Crazy stuff found during my study of housing in Malaysia
Crazy urban planning: if in United States there are 1/2-storey houses mixed with 3-storey apartments, and in Europe there are 2-storey houses mixed with 4-storey apartments, in Malaysia there are 20-storey blocks built in middle of a 2/3-storey landed housing development! How does this explain?
Bad apartment layout: in a country dominated by low-density developments, many condominiums, despite of large open space in their compounds, the apartment towers are massive, with large number of units per floor. Thus the apartment layouts are bad and crammed, some blocks being 30 meters wide with double-loaded corridors, 3 bedroom apartments of which only living room and master bedroom have view to outside, the other 2 bedrooms are facing inside of block towards the corridor, ventilated through a small airwell (example floor plan).
4 bedrooms is a STANDARD in Malaysia even for single-storey terraced houses! Example: Austin Residence, but… 2 bedrooms are windowless! Is this legal in Malaysia!!?? Someone has told me that is legal if they have high-level windows, over the ceiling of nearby room. However the picture does not show this.
3 bedroom can be found nowadays only in townhouses (2 families sharing same house)
A very old back to back terrace house with 2 bedrooms. Fortunately there are not many such shitty houses.
The ONLY house with 2 bedrooms found so far Mutiara Seputeh, a development with 93 houses ranging from 400-870 sqm (floorplans available). Pangsapuri Seri Nilam possible the cheapest and smallest apartment in Malaysia, 650 sq ft and still have 3 bedrooms!
Some luxury apartments reach 400 sqm as well.
Malaysia is located in the most raining region of earth, so… best to avoid buying houses near rivers. Worst affected was Kota Tinggi in 2006-2007.
See 100+ flood photos on yazidtim‘s Panoramio account.
STUDY TO BE CONTINUED… but I don’t know what else to write here.
Oh… don’t forget, somebody should tell to Johor Bahru to expand the city further away from coast and stop deforesting the areas around Singapore. From where Singapore will get fresh air when it will be fully urbanized?
Japan is one of the best places to live, the economy boomed after World War II but since 1990s the rising was very slow, it is still one of the most advanced economies in the world, highest standard of living, where everything run as it should, BUT… Japan is also one of the ugliest of all developed countries. They simply suck at architecture and urban planning. Except the skyscrapers in downtown, Tokyo city landscape is dominated by ugly buildings, lack of colors, and lots of cables in the sky.
Most Japanese live in extremely dense detached landed houses. Residential roads (even 2-lane ones) are 4-meter width, no sidewalks, and are occasionally blocked by poles of power lines. Two cars cannot run in parallel over all length of street, but can pass along each other in most places.
Apparently there is no rule about minimal distance between buildings, I heard of a 50 cm rule, but in most cases houses are 2 meters each other. The housing density reaches 40-50 houses per hectare, a world record for detached houses.
I love Korea much more than Japan, because Korea have over half of population living in large apartment complexes with a lot of green space around. China and Singapore are also dominated by apartments. Can anyone tell me what is better in Japan compared with nearby Asian countries?
Japan housing statistics
Average home size in Japan is 95 square meters, share of detached houses is 56% (44% are apartments and terraced/semi-detached (rare in Japan), average home size varies across the country, depending of share of detached houses, from 65 sqm in Tokio which have plenty of apartment buildings, to 150+ sqm in small cities, according Demographia page (2003 data), average 37 sqm per capita according another Demographia page (1998 data). 60.9% of homes are owned, average owned home is 121.7 sqm according Wikipedia. Can someone clarify me if these numbers include walls and balconies?
Public housing in Japan, danchi apartment buildings, are built by Japan Housing Corporation since 1955 aimed to poor people, corridor-style and staircase-style (2 units per floor), rows of identical buildings, oriented with front facade to south, with 4 or 5 floors, most are already demolished today or will be demolished next decade. New danchis were built, taller and with more modern apartments. All danchi apartments come with balconies, and unlike other countries, no balcony is closed (is this a law?).
By measuring the blocks in Google Earth’s satellite photos, I estimate that the common apartment size is 60 sqm 2-bedroom and 80 sqm 3-bedroom (few), but the internet shows apartments small as 3 sqm, no idea where they are (apartment only contain a folding bed, toilets are shared).
Landed houses are mostly in 100-200 sqm range, 3-4 bedrooms, with few exceptions (sometimes 2 houses crammed on one lot), while the apartments are much smaller. Seems that Japanese people are conservative, making economy and not building bigger things than is necessary, same thing is true for cars too.
Houses are not designed to last, is common when a property is transacted, the buyer to buy just for land, demolish the house and rebuild another. 80% of houses are less than 30 years old. Source: freakonomics.com.
Japan is pioneering in high-speed trains. Shinkansen began service in 1964 from Tokyo to Osaka (515.4 km), today the network have 2,764.6 km of lines with maximum speed of 240-320 km/h. Shinkansen network had the highest annual ridership of any high-speed rail network until 2011 when Chinese high-speed railway took the lead.
Japan is the world leader in car manufacturing, overtaking United States since 1973, if the light trucks are included, United States overtook back Japan for short periods during 2000s. But in 2010 Japan lost the title in favor of by China. Since 1990s, japanese cars are recognized as most reliable in the world.
Japan car market is most regulated in the world, it is the single country where cars are taxed by dimensions (and I appreciate this!). Since 1951 or 1955 (contradictory sources), there are 3 classes for car tax in Japan:
– Kei cars were in 1949 limited to 3 meters length and 1.3 meters wide, the regulations were gradually increased over time, currently (since 1998) the limits are 3.48 meters length, 1.48 meters wide, and 660 cm³.
– Compact cars are limited to 4.7 meters length, 1.7 meters wide, 2 meters tall, 2-liter engine.
– Bigger cars are heavily taxed.
So most car models manufactured in Japan for domestic market stick under these limits, while car models exported are bigger even if they wear same name. These rules allow two cars to pass along each other since the most residential roads are 4 meters wide. However, since 2000s numerous cars were launched that exceed the limit of compact cars especially in width, to compete with boom of imported models which are wider.
Brazil is rich or poor country? YES it is… both!
Point mouse cursor on photos to see city / place name.
Latin american cities are more denser and the life is cheaper compared with North American cities, but due to rapid and unplanned urbanization, infrastructure is worse, parks and green spaces are scarce. Same problems like in US, lack of public transport, pollution, crimes, corruption and gang life (especially in Mexico). GDP per capita comparison.
Although certain countries in Latin America have high human development index, the income inequality is huge, leading to high crime rate. Large part of population is living in slums, however these slums are built with bricks and living conditions better than in other countries where they are mostly made with cardboard and scrap metal.
Brazil is the most studied country by me outside East Asia, having large amount of apartment buildings. Mexico is the richest country in Latin America but proximity to United States made it to have highest cost of living. Argentina and Chile have higher GDP per capita than Brazil, but I do not like their cities, even Buenos Aires and Santiago have too many landed houses and little green spaces. Bogota have many large-scale apartment complexes (If you love studying apartments).
Housing in Brazil
The only city in American continent which I like is… Brasilia, the biggest planned city of the world, by architects Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer. It have a large population living in apartment buildings up to 6 floors and much green space.
Construction started in 1956, and the city was inaugurated on 21 April 1960, after 41 months, some people are saying that was built in 3 years, this is not true, the building process continued after inauguration and continues even today. It became the biggest city of 20th century which do not existed at beginning of century. Originally planned for 400.000 people, today houses about 2 million people, but I am not sure if this is the city itself or includes satellite cities too.
Brasilia is also infamous for the way it was planned, a “city of cars”, with free flow of traffic and traffic lights would not be necessary, which served only for a small part of population who owned cars. There are too few pedestrian areas and crosswalks, people had to risk their lives crossing the north-south highway.
Especially in Brazil, a lot of impressive apartment buildings appeared in recent years in central area of cities on near beaches. I love the buildings individually but I hate the cities as whole. It is an urbanization disaster, apparently there’s no laws to regulate building density, plot ratio and distance between buildings. Apartment towers are mixed with landed houses, new towers were built in front of existing towers, blocking views each other, 20+ storey towers with only 6 meters between main facades, parks are scarce, pollution is common. Rio de Janeiro’s beautiful landscape is destroyed because all hills are covered in Favelas (slums).
Santos city is best example of crowded waterfront. The combination of sandy ground, narrow buildings and digging for foundation of new building, made the city known for leaning towers, seen in this Youtube video. Unbelievable that city authorities allow people to live in dangerous buildings!
You can see many photos with beautiful apartment buildings on Panoramio real estate agent’s pages. Lots of apartments towers are launched every year, “verticalization” is a symbol of progress. Most housing developments are aimed to rich class. Brazil suffer from massive deficit of affordable housing. 30% of its population live in overcrowded slums (Favelas)… and they are building such luxury apartments!?
Sao Paulo launched in 1992 “Projecto Cingapura” inspired from the success of HDB in Singapore, to clean out the slums. Out of 100.000 units planned, 14.000 have bee built between 1995 and 2001 then the project proven to be unsuccessful and has been abandoned, residents did not liked the modern blocks and moved back to slums.
Which is the best city in Brazil?
Very hard decision… the capital Brasilia is the best from most points of view, Sao Paulo have highest GDP per capita but is also one of the most polluted cities in the world, so living in Rio de Janeiro is better (especially in Barra da Tijuca neighborhood which have a HDI 0.970 that is higher than any country of the world), it is also the most visited city in southern hemisphere. Florianópolis is the city with highest HDI 0.905. Curitiba have the best public transport, the Bus Rapid Transit. Various smaller cities got high ranks in terms of quality of life and Human Development Index, because their favelas are outside city limits so do not drag down the ratings.
Brazil has been building skyscrapers since 1930s, Martinelli Building (built 1934, 130 meters), then Altino Arantes Building (built 1947, 161 meters), being also the tallest building outside United States. But the evolution was slow and not much taller buildings were built over next decades.
Presently Brazil does have few hundred buildings over 100 meters, mostly residential, but the tallest, Mirante do Vale (built 1960), is only 170 meters and 51 floors. It was the tallest for 54 years until 2014, when Millennium Palace (177 meters and 46 floors) took the lead. Several taller buildings are under construction as 2018 according Wikipedia.
Sao Paulo is considered one of most vertical cities in the world, having hundreds of residential towers in 20-30 floors range but very few over 30 floors, such 30 floors buildings appeared since 1950s.
Apartment sizes in Brazil increased over the years
Edifício São Vito was built in 1959, 27-storey, 624 units of 28 sqm apartments, floorplan and more info (I do not know if it was an isolated case or apartments of this size were common), evacuated in 2004, demolished in 2011, enough to be vandalized and become the most infamous building in Sao Paulo, but many people still opposed demolition. Bigger apartments were built over years, since 1990s or 2000s more and more developers offer apartments in 200-500 sqm range.
Using real estate websites such as lopes.com, and applying filter by floor area (area util), we can see that most apartments in today Sao Paulo are in 60-70 sqm range, each decile under 60 sqm or above 70 sqm have less and less apartments… about 45% apartments are under 100 sqm, 35% in 100-200 sqm, 13% in 200-300 sqm, 5% in 300-400 sqm, 2% in 400-500 sqm, 1.5% over 500 sqm. This may not accurately reflect real housing stock because the big apartments stay more on websites waiting for buyers. Most apartments have 3-bedroom (60-120 sqm), followed by 2-bedroom (45-65 sqm), then and 4-bedroom (120-200+ sqm), area privativa – including walls and balconies. Some low-cost 3-bedroom have one bathroom while some high-end 2-bedroom have en-suite bathroom for each bedroom.
Most apartments have small rooms inside and big balconies with glass rail, apparently the prestige of building is denoted by length of balcony, a waste of space in my opinion. In some cases, the biggest “room” is the balcony, examples: Verum-Mooca, Stellato Chácara Santo Antônio, Reserva Jardim Sul (I need opinions from local people about this strange phenomenon).
Typical bedroom size is 3.2×2.4 m and bathroom 2.2×1.2 m, the living room can be narrow as a bedroom – 2.4 m (I really hate this). Most apartments above 60 sq m comes with barbecue pit in each balcony.
Another reason for loving Brazil real estate is that most developers publish floorplans (unlike USA), just Google “planta apartamento” and you will see a lot, most floor plans having also dimensions.
Mexico City contains huge neighborhoods with tiny identical houses arranged in grid (in newer neighborhoods the grid streets are broken into cul-de-sac). Some kind of public housing called “casas de interes social” but there are also private developments in same style, rows of identical houses.
Most common housing type is terraced houses 3 meters wide and 10 meters depth, with 2 floors and 2 bedrooms. The second densest housing system in the world after Philippines houses (legally-built – no slums), being up to 150 units/hectare, 44 meters between street axes. Some terraced houses are single floor, these being 12 meters depth and just one bedroom. Some neighborhoods feature semi-detached and quarter-detached houses.
Other neighborhoods are composed by dense apartments, 3 to 5 storey, 4 meters between buildings, these reaching 300 units/hectare.
Most houses and apartments are criticized for being too small for people needs, shared walls, poor quality, lack of utilities or amenities, residents travel 1-2 hours to reach workplace. Many owners expanded their houses in front or upwards, sometimes reaching 4 floors (see below photo), destroying the neighborhood beautifulness.
Personally I do not understand what is so bad to have shared walls, many people in Europe and Malaysia live in terraced houses without problems. You can find some floorplans by searching in spanish “planta casa“.
Africa is the least studied region of world by me. Known for poverty and civil wars, I though that is nothing interesting there, until recently… Africa does have interesting architecture that worth studying!
Most beautiful city in Africa is Luanda. with many modern housing complexes built after 2000. Impressive for such an African country. The biggest housing complex, Kilamba New Town was built in 2007-2012 by chinese developers and covering 8.8 sq km, it comprise about 750 blocks with only 3 apartment types: 3-bedroom (90-100 sqm?), 4-bedroom (120 sqm), 5-bedroom (150 sqm). See floor plans. For years it was a ghost city with slow selling apartments due to high prices and difficult loans.
Nova Vida, Angola
See more photos on Panoramio (user lillinka006)
Ugliest city in Africa is Cairo, being dominated by apartment buildings with high land coverage, adjoining each other, no space between buildings, many rooms ventilated through small airwells, built individually and not by major developers, they vary in heights and are often gray and not painted, damaging city skyline. The suburbs of Cairo feature regulated street network and spaced-apart buildings, but there is just few meters between buildings, which are same gray and colorless. Parks are scarce, together with having one of the worst traffic jams in the world, Cairo is among most polluted cities in the world.
There may be worse cities, especially small cities, with no paved roads at all, but Cairo ugliness is a disgrace for a country that is not really the poorest in the world.
Cairo central vs Cairo suburbs. Ugly gray buildings everywhere!
Botswana is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Gaborone transformed from a poor city into a well-planned city with landed housing complexes.
Zimbabwe and South Africa have also beautiful planned cities but the economies are not doing well.
Tripoli does have a large amount of apartment buildings, 4, 8 and 10 storeys, identical buildings with large spaces between them…. are they public housing?
Nigeria is the biggest country in Africa and one of the fastest-growing population, rising from 38 millions in 1950 to 160 millions in 2010 and may overtake United States to become world third most populous country by 2050.
Google Streetview was launched in Lagos state on 27 June 2017, showing how this country actually looks like. There are some nice houses on Lekki owned by Nigerian millionaires, while the rest of Lagos city is dominated by poverty. Many roads are unpaved and the sewage a channel is on roadside, in front of houses. Trash exist everywhere. I cannot imagine the smell for those living there.
Eko Atlantic, one of biggest developments in the world, is built on 10 km of reclaimed land. A bit unrealistic and too opulent project for such a poor country. Few kilometers away, there is Makoko, a slum built over water. Water is the only way to travel around.
Nigeria moved its capital to Abuja in 1991, a well-planned city built starting from 1980s.
Study to be continued…
The five Nordic countries (Maroc, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt) have large amount of population housed in apartment buildings. Central and southern Africa is dominated by low-density developments landed houses often single storey.
Despite of being low-income countries, the cheap land prices made the recent developments to feature houses and apartments bigger than world average of about 100 sqm. The spacious homes are also driven by large families with 4-8 children.
However these developments are affordable only by upper class. When modern housing developers will become affordable for the lower class currently living in mudbrick huts, apartment sizes are likely to be smaller.
Africa population was constant for centuries, 114 million (19.7% of world population) in year 1600, 133 million (8.1%) in year 1900 according Wikipedia. A rapid evolution occured in second half of 20th century, rising from 221 million (8.8%) in year 1950 to 1 billion (14.8%) in year 2010. Estimated to reach 1.8 billion (20% of world) in 2050.
But the agricultural output will grow enough to feed so many people and avoid a major famine? Personally I am worried.
New car dealerhips appeared only recently for the booming middle class. Most africans buy run-down cars thrown away by other countries. Just look at below photo from Madagascar, majority of cars are French origins, most common is Renault 4 (produced 1961-1987).
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