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Housing in Philippines

Are you building a house in Philippines? See sample house plans and contact me to design new house for you!

The Philippines is a beautiful country until we talk about living conditions and government. One of the poorest countries in the world, ruled by one of the most corrupted governments in the world. Corruption and geography isolation keep foreign investment away, good paying jobs are hard to be found, so about 10% of country population is working overseas, and build beautiful houses when they return home.

Chapters: statisticshousing reviewhousing typeshousing regulationsmore stufftransportation

Skyline of Makati City

Philippines have one of the highest income inequality of the world. They built an impressive business district in Makati City (above photo) and Fort Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, while half of population lives in poverty (less than $1.25 per day).

Population and housing statistics

Philippines population has grown from 27 million people at 1960 census to 60 million people at 1990 census.

2000: household population 76,332,470, number of households 15,275,046, average household size 5.0
2010: household population 92,097,715, number of households 20,171,899, average household size 4.6
2015: household population 100,573,715, number of households 22,975,630, average household size 4.4
Source: psa.gov.ph

Additionally, at least 12 millions filipinos are working overseas, according Wikipedia.

If in the past USA was preferred work destination, since 2000s most overseas workers went to Middle East, but you can find filipinos on every continent. I can tell this from my personal experience of architectural designer. I have been contacted by people from all over the world telling me that build houses in Philippines, and this even before writing this article. Actually half of my customers in Philippines contacted me from an IP located in another country.

I believe that the booming economy, lack of public housing programmes and too few large-scale private housing developments, made people to build houses themselves, browsing the internet for floor plans, find my international website and contact me for custom house design.

While many people from Philippines choose to emigrate or work overseas, Philippines is also a destination for foreign expats looking for a cheaper place to live. Many Americans are living in Philippines, I personally don’t understand (maybe someone can explain me?) why people from such developed country would move to a third world country where living conditions, education and health system are much worse and crime ratio is high. YouTube is full of videos about moving or against moving to Philippines. If you want to have same living conditions you had in United States, a big house, a car, have kids in private school, etc, the cost of living is not much cheaper than in United States.

(personally I considered Philippines a better country than it actually is, until local people who contacted me for house projects, also informed me about bad living conditions)

Manila skyline Manila aerial view

General review of housing

Philippines have beautiful architecture, there are a lot of beautiful, over-decorated houses, but this architecture style mask the fact that the they have one of the smallest houses in the world.

Filipinos are also one of the shortest people in the world, but I still see their homes ridiculously small. Bedroom around 6-7 sqm, making 3 bedroom houses to be about 50 sqm, size comparable with Hong Kong apartments despite of much larger country. Worse than this, most apartments are studios or 1 bedroom, compared with Hong Kong which is dominated by 2-3 bedrooms. In subdivisions built by major real estate developers, houses are usually 2-3 bedrooms.

If this was not worse enough, there are many people living in informal settlers (aka slums, squatters), of the rest who have legal land titles, many built houses that still looks like slums. In downtown Manila every unused piece of land gets built up occupied by informal settlers, river beds are also heavily built, people living above highly polluted water and in danger of flooding. Even the 8-meter wide land between railways and nearby streets is the home for numerous poor families (cannot imagine how you can sleep as the trains horn continuously).

There are too many informal settlers for the government to take care about them. Government is trying to clear the slums from Philippines National Railway land and from danger areas such as river beds, and move them into socialized housing built at city outskirts, but people do not want to live there and move back to slums, which are conveniently located near workplace and amenities.

This is Forbes Park subdivision in Makati (average home price 5 million USD)…
Salcedo Village Forbes Park Forbes Park and Makati skyline

…and the typical Philippines houses from Metro Manila near Makati!
Pasay City slums Manila slums on river Village houses on water
Slums on Philippines National Railway Slums on Philippines National Railway

Happyland“, weird name for the biggest slum in Manila
Happyland, Manila Happyland, Manila

New housing estates (called subdivisions) are being built by private developers at city outskirts, less-dense developments, large open spaces, gated communities with guards, clubhouse and swimming pool.

The fastest developing cities are Dasmariñas, Bacoor and Inus (30 km south from downtown Manila, within Cavite province), here are the most subdivisions and most beautiful architecture, less slums and more wealthy people.

Modern housing developments in Cavite, Angeles and Mactan
St. Dominic Subdivision in Basak Mactan Timog Park Homes, Angeles City La Aldea Buena Homes, Mactan Cavite

Beautiful houses from Eastwood Greenview subdivision – Slums of the poor built on Philippines National Railway

I estimate average house size in legally-built developments at 30-50 sqm, but a significant amount of population lives in slums which their house size cannot be defined, some slums having just a small enclosed area for sleeping, and people spend whole day outdoor. Is common to see families of 10 people sleeping in a 5 sqm space.

While population was rising, cities did not expanded much horizontally but rather became denser and denser, in Metro Manila lots are over-subdivided by successive family generations and nowadays there are entire families squishing on lots small as 20 sqm.

What I do not understand yet, is why in smaller cities and countryside, where the land is cheap, people own large plots but still build extremely small houses. Living in tight spaces is part of Philippines culture?

Housing types

Subdivisions (aka Housing Complexes in other countries) became more common after year 2000. Rowhouses on plots small as 3.5 meters wide and 10 meters deep, with 24 meters between street axes, reaching densities of about 200 housing units per hectare, probably the densest housing development in the world (example: Ximena Mabalacatfloor plan).

Single detached = house surrounded by courtyard on all 4 sides, houses built at minimum 3 meters apart (1.5m setback for both houses).

Single attached = a definition that do not exists in any other country, with 1 or 2 firewalls (walls built at 0-lot boundary), built with same orientation so everyone is having windows facing to neighbor’s blank wall at 1.5m apart, giving the advantage of detached houses without shared walls. Sometimes the carport roof is attaching houses. They are VERY UGLY because on one side the roof is overhanging 700mm and on other side there is a blank wall that extend above roof.

Duplex = semi-detached, 2 houses symmetrical.

Rowhouse = synonym with british Terraced house or american Townhouse.

Bungalow = single-storey house, similar with American meaning. Unlike the rest of Asia where bungalow means a detached house regardless of number of floors.

Nipa hut = Philippines traditional houses found in rural areas, made by bamboo and other wood, they are so light that if you want to move somewhere else you can ask few villagers to carry your house on their shoulders, as seen in the below video, a practice called bayanihan. I do not understand the reason of moving since this type of move is limited by people’s walking distance.

Most common housing typologies in these subdivisions:

40 sqm 3-bedroom back-to-back terraces on 5×8 m land (example: Cedar Residencesfloor plan – I wonder how you can reach house door after parking, carport is 2.5 m wide and an average car 1.8 m wide will block the door).

50 sqm 2-bedroom terraces on 4×10 m land, (example Portville Mactan).

The subdivisions offer also bigger houses with 3 and 4 bedrooms but very few of them are over 100 sqm.

As 2014, prices of the 2-bedroom 40-50 sqm terraced bare houses vary from about 1 million PHP (22,000 USD) in Cavite to 3 million PHP in Metro Manila. 3-4 bedroom 100 sqm detached finished houses are 3 million to 10 million PHP.

Housing design regulations

In urban areas (non-subdivisions), according my study from satellite photos, most lots are within 4-10m wide and 10-16m long. Most plots vary from 40 sqm (minimum by law) to 120 sqm, very few lots are more than 120 sqm of land in urban areas. 80-120 sqm looks being average lot size. However, some people asked my help to design house plans for lots small as 20 sqm.

Philippines building code regulate habitable rooms at minimum 6 sqm and 2 meters wide, most houses are built at these minimum values, but corruption in real estate allow developers to build even smaller rooms, examples: Pioneer Woodlands bedrooms are less than 2m wide, Angeles, floorplan 25.5 sqm 2-bedroom home, bedrooms should be 1.9 x 2.4m internally.

For comparison, a nearby country Malaysia building code says 6.5 sqm bedroom and 9.3 sqm master bedroom, but these minimal sizes are rarely seen and only in public housing. I never seen any developer in Malaysia building anywhere closer to minimum requirements, they build usually 10-15 sqm common bedrooms and 15-25 sqm master bedroom.

House setback are 1.5m in front and sides, and 2m at rear. I never found a clear regulation about carport roofs and balconies within setbacks.

Ceiling height should be minimum 2.4 m, and 2.7 m for first floor, but in most houses, all floors are 2.4 m.

Bad house design: as seen in floor plans provided by developers, living room is so small that you cannot place a sofa, TV and dining table in same time, or dining chairs once pushed out, block the way between kitchen and bedrooms.

Kitchen stuff (sink, stove, fridge, cabinets) are together only 2 meters long. Some low-cost houses do not even have kitchen inside, sink being placed outdoor (so you are bitten by mosquito while washing dishes?).

Carports are often designed 2.5 meter wide, minimum by law, the floor plans illustrate cars but insufficient space to open car door (so how you can get out of car?), or the car is blocking the way to house main door. No wonder why we see many people parking on roadside. The idiot architects don’t know that 2.5 meter wide is OK only for open carparks, garages or any parking space between walls should be 3 meters minimum width, today cars average 1.8 m width and you need 90 cm space on driver side and 30 cm on other side.

I need feedback from local people. I understand that a large part of population is poor so low-cost housing is needed, but are these houses big enough for people needs? Or people will extend it over courtyard and destroy the urban landscape, like in Mexico?

Good website: www.pinoyrealty.com, few dozens house models, all with floor plans shown on site.

More stuff

Anyone who know or find resources about building code regulations across history please contact me!

According http://hlurb.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/services/developer/rule1.pdf, the minimum lot areas and is rowhose 50 / 4m, duplex 80/attached sqm / 8 m, detached 100 sqm / 10/12 m (medium housing).
According http://hlurb.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/services/developer/rule1n2.pdf, the minimum lot areas and frontages are: rowhouse 32 sqm / 4 m, duplex/attached 48 sqm / 6 m, detached 64 sqm / 8 m (economic / socialized housing).
According http://hlurb.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/laws-issuances/board-resolutions/BR_824.pdf, the minimum lot areas and frontages are: rowhouse 36/28 sqm / 4/3.5m, duplex/attached 54/48 sqm / 6 m, detached 72/64 sqm / 8 m (economic / socialized housing).
Which is the truth??

http://grem.ph/realty-resources05.php specify different laws, setbacks 3 m at front, 2 m at back, 1 m at sides.

https://www.sheltercluster.org/Asia/Philippines/TropicalStormSendong2011/Documents/Revised%20implementing%20rules%20and%20regulations%20for%20BP%20220.pdf.
different laws again

More strange examples found during my study

Wallnut Grove, 22 sqm 1-bedroom house, 4m wide and 5.5m deep (smallest house ever?)
Gran Seville, 36 sqm single-floor 2-bedroom house.
Greeensbolough Dasmarinas, 40 sqm 3-bedroom house

M Place, block with apartments from 16 sqm studio to 40 sqm 2-bedroom
Cambridge Village, Condo with 2-bedroom apartments small as 30 sqm.
The Stratford Residences, 68-storey condo dominated by studio and 1-bedroom apartments. 3-bedroom apartments are only few on top 8 floors.

Note that all these horrible tiny houses are examples of LEGAL buildings, designed by architects and build with permit from government. Imagine that the slums are even worse!

Can’t find an empty plot of land? No problem, build OVER ROAD!
Bambang Barangay Hall build over road

Transportation

Manila Light Rail / Metro Rail was the first metro system in South Asia, opened 1984 but development was slow and presently it have only 3 lines totaling 51 km.

There are also modern buses, but most common means of transportation is the Jeepney, originally US Military vehicles which (few hundreds vehicles) were sold to locals when troops retired at end of World War II, locals converted them in buses by extending their wheelbases and installing roofs, and over-decorated, calling them Jeepney. Nowadays most Jeepneys are made 100% locally, resembling the shape of American Jeep but made 6-7 meters long, others are based on second-hand Japanese SUV, vans and trucks, still called Jeepneys despite being unrelated with American Jeep). About 50.000 Jeepneys are driving around Manila (according BBC).

These vehicles are over-decorated with various texts, religious messages and other bullshit, but not with their route (so how people know to pick the right one!?). They follow chaotic routes and stop anywhere even in middle of road, putting passengers in danger. In rural areas is common to see Jeepneys overcrowded with people sitting on their roofs, despite that it is an illegal practice (example video).

Old jeepney from 1950s Jeepney vs bus Jeepney overcrowded and overly-decorated

Another form of transportation unique in Philippines are Owner Type Jeep, hand-made vehicles resembling the US Jeep but in miniature, less than 3 meters long, most lacking seatbelts, windshield wipers, or other features standard for western cars since 1960s. Does anyone know what engine they have?

Philippines also have tricycles, common also in other South Asian countries, made from bicycles and motorcycles with a bench attached supported by a 3rd wheel, and roof. Some are even used as taxis. When you see a car, it looks giant compared to traditional vehicles!

Owner Type Jeep Trycicle waiting area

Philippines House Price Index vs Inflation
More charts with price index in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines on systemisbroken.blogspot.com

Page published for first time in 2012 and updated over next years with more information found by me or provided by visitors. Text written by me (Teoalida) and images taken from Wikipedia, Panoramio and other websites. Do you have useful information that worth adding? Did you found an error or have a contradictory opinion? Leave a comment!

Housing in Africa

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 cover 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). Read more on africaurban.org See floor plans. For years it was a ghost city with slow selling apartments due to high prices and difficult mortgages.

Kilamba, Angola
Aerial view of Kilamba, Angola Kilamba aerial view
Aerial view of Kilamba, Angola Aerial view of Kilamba, Angola
Aerial view of Kilamba, Angola Kilamba, Angola

Nova Vida, Angola
Nova Vida, Luanda, Angola Nova Vida, Luanda, 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 in Africa, 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.

Egypt started construction of a new capital in 2015, yet to be named, located 40 km east to Cairo. It is planned as a modern city with skyscrapers, high-end housing and parks, for 5 million people.

Cairo central vs Cairo suburbs. Ugly gray buildings everywhere!
Cairo Cairo suburbs

While Cairo is ugly, you can see on the International Coastal Road, on the 280 km stretch between Alexandria and Marsa Matruh, numerous luxury residential complexes averaging 0.5 – 1 square km each, featuring pools and golf courses, some complexes built in middle of desert, as seen in below map.

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.

Gaborone, Botswana
Gaborone, Botswana

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.

Makoko slum in Nigeria

Rondavel, traditional round hut built with local materials, common in South Africa, Lesotho (where the hut is also known as a mokhoro), Swaziland, Botswana, and others.

Rondavel in Lesotho

Study to be continued…

General info

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.

Cars

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).

Madagascar cars

Page published for first time in 2015 and updated over next years with more information found by me or provided by visitors. Text written by me (Teoalida) and images taken from Wikipedia, Panoramio and other websites. Do you have useful information that worth adding? Did you found an error or have a contradictory opinion? Leave a comment!

Housing in India

India is in attention for whole world, because it will be the most populous country in the world, surpassing China somewhere in 2022-2024, and an important hub for IT industry… but is this country a good place to live or to do business with?

Chapters: Indian architecturemy study of Indian housingoutsourcing to India

The Two India reality… obscene wealth & grinding poverty
Point mouse cursor on photos to see place name
South Mumbai rich vs poor South Mumbai rich vs poor

Like many third-world countries, India economy experience massive growth since 2000s thanks to the age of internet, but while China underwent massive development in housing, road and rail infrastructure, India did very little. In China 50% of population live in cities (2010 census) in modern apartments, in India 31% of population live in cities (2011 census) with lots of slums.

Income inequality doubled last 20 years, but surprisingly it is still more equality than in United States. Only few areas undergo rapid development and many luxury real estate developments been launched. There is major deficit of good housing affordable for working class. If you leave Delhi metropolitan area, you will see the real India… non-paved roads, decayed railways, slums everywhere, widespread poverty, people begging and thieves, stray dogs, cows and pigs wandering around streets, etc. Population with access to electricity rose from 43% in 2000 to 86% in 2016 (source: bloomberg.com), running water and sewage is almost non-existent in rural areas.

This is comparable with Philippines and other south-east Asian countries, but poorer in terms of GDP per capita, corrupt government (especially in Pakistan), high crime rate and even more poverty (especially in India). Tourists are advised to be cautious where they go in India.

Indian middle class feel offended if I am saying that India is a poor country, they ignore and discriminate those living in poverty even if this is the truth. If you are born in a poor community, you have little chances to get good jobs and risk remaining poor for whole life.

Indian people love to bargain, negotiating prices to pay as little they can for any service, even free if possible. Indian businesses battle to offer lowest prices possible, making India one of the cheapest places to live and world leading in IT outsourcing. However this battle come with a downside: unskilled workforce and low quality services.

Most people who contacted me for architecture services say “We are poor… can’t afford your prices“, but occasionally I get also messages “hey, don’t call India poor, we are fast developing country“, especially from people in IT industry.

What really makes India bad to live in, is the lack of human rights, crime against women (violence, rape, forced marriages, etc), outdated infrastructure, chaotic traffic due to easy driving tests, overcrowded trains, etc.

Surprisingly, the Indians which I met during running this website, told me that are proud to live in India, or that they have a great culture (unlike people from Philippines who most hate their country). Maybe the crimes are part of their great culture so this is why Indians are proud of their country? Maybe they do not travel out of country to see how a proper world looks like (as comparison, 10% of Philippines population is working overseas).

Indian architecture

Mumbai is the biggest city in India, home for 12 million people (administrative area), a city of contrasts featuring a very rich area in the south but also Dharavi, largest slum in the world. Construction of high-rise condominiums boomed in 2008. 61-floor The Imperial is the tallest building in India since 2010, 117-floor World One was scheduled to be completed in 2016, but as 2019 is still under construction. According Skyscrapers Database, out of 342 buildings over 100 meters in India, 260 are located in Mumbai (as January 2016, including under construction and planned buildings).

Antilia, the tallest private house in the world, was 4th tallest building in India at the time of completion in 2010. 27-storey, 173 meters tall skyscraper owned by a single family, probably most expensive residence in the world, valued at over $1 billion, is located in South Mumbai… in the same neighborhood with the slums shown the photo at top of this article. Antilia is also a subject to mockery, called the ugliest skyscraper in the world.

Rich and poor meets in Mumbai
Mumbai rich and poor Mumbai rich and poor

Mumbai contrasts: Dharavi slum vs Antilla single-family skyscraper
Dharavi slums Antilla

New Delhi, the capital of India, feature most beautiful architecture and highest standards of living, having many bungalows and no slums, but this paradise is just for 250.000 people. It is next to Delhi, a crowded city with 11 million people. Among Delhi suburbs there is, Noida, one of the best cities to live in India, thanks to numerous IT companies who made headquarters there, making this city some kind of Silicon Valley of India.

Chandigarh, a medium city with 1 million people, is one of best cities to live and most beautiful city in India when viewed from satellite photos, a master planned city since 1960s with wide avenues in a grid layout, it feature large housing plots that attract affluent people. Other planned cities include Durgarpur, Gurgaon, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi, Noida.

Other cities where significant part of population enjoy high standards of living, and good jobs can be easily found, are Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune. The list can continue, but the living conditions deteriorates once you look to smaller cities.

Despite of continuous migration to urban areas, 69% of India population of 1.2 billion people still live in rural areas (2011 census), where standards of living are much lower than in cities, running water and electricity scarce, and formal employment is almost non-existent.

According Times of India, average house size in India is 494 sq ft / 103 sq ft per person in rural areas and 504 sq ft / 117 sq ft per person in urban areas. “In fact, a majority of Indians have per capita space equivalent to or less than a 10 feet x 10 feet room for their living, sleeping, cooking, washing and toilet needs“. The space per person dropped over last decades due to rising population and low construction ratio.

New Delhi architecture, the BEST of India… but still too much concrete and gray. Plus an interesting-shaped block
Delhi block Delhi block

Delhi crowded landscape vs Noida modern apartment complexes

India also experience a booming automotive industry, production increased from 800.000 in year 2000 to over 4 million in year 2012 (see automobile production – source: OICA). India currently produce some of the cheapest cars of the world. India is also known for having the easiest driving school test in the world, one of worst drivers, because any idiot can go on roads, but the roads… where they are? From satellite photos you can see that the few paved roads existing are already jammed even with the current low number of cars (41 cars per 1000 people as 2011, according Wikipedia), many intersections are uncontrolled and traffic accidents happen daily.

Train in Bangladesh during Eid festival, same happen in India during Hindu festival, in normal days trains are not so crowded but you may still see people surfing on rooftop.

My study of Indian housing

Housing in India is dominated by low-rise apartment buildings, houses with high land coverage (back-to-back terraced-like houses) and slums. Some houses are inner lots, access being via 1.5-meter wide passages under other houses, and ventilated only by small airwells). All them being mostly gray and ugly… Indian cities are ugly compared with cities of Malaysia, Thailand, Latin America, etc, even uglier than the cities of Philippines, a country with similar poverty level.

Most houses are being built over many years by multiple family generations, adding extra floors over time, with no architect and engineers. Multi-generation families, 10+ people sharing same house is common, each floor belonging to another branch of family, or even worse, each family branch having just one room.

India and surrounding countries are known for poor construction standards. YouTube show numerous buildings collapsing… even without any earthquake. Park View Horizon, one of the few high-rise and luxurious buildings in Nepal, was advertised as “earthquake resistant towers” but suffered severe damage at the May 2015 earthquake (video), although it resisted from collapse to save the life of residents. I am confused: was it completed and occupied at the time of earthquake?

During my studies for architecture, I search apartment floor plans on Google Images, I frequently see results from India, and I am sick of them… India have the worst apartment floor plans in the world. Most common apartment type is 3 bedrooms plus separate living and dining, but the floor plan layout lacks any logic, bedrooms are spread over corners of apartment, some rooms have view to outside, other rooms have view to a courtyard sized like 2×3 meters. If this was not bad enough, identical apartment layouts are repeated in same direction instead of mirroring as would be normal. This make some rooms to have view into neighbor rooms, to blank walls, etc. There are apartments with NO view at all, all rooms facing to courtyards (I have showed few Indian floorplans to several friends, architects and students from around the world, and most of them commented “what kind of idiot architect have designed this!!??”)

In 2014 (after 2 years since originally writing this page) I found the explanation for Indian apartment layout stupidity. There is a superstition called Vastu shastra that suggest position of each room by geographical orientation. If in the rest of world we prefer having living room at front (facing street) and kitchen at rear, in India people prefer to have kitchen in the south-east corner of home, living room in the north side, even if it will have view to a blank wall, etc, regardless of surroundings.

There are dozens of Vastu rules, sometimes various websites providing contradictory rules, that suggest everything starting from room layout to position of furniture inside each room, to garden around house. Probably no house can follow every rule, but following as many Vastu rules is possible give a premium valuation.

Even if not all indians are superstitious, real estate developers follow Vaastu rules to maximize apartment sales. To keep kitchen orientation to south-east, you can see in same block apartments with kitchen near entrance and other apartments with kitchen diagonally opposite from entrance.

6 billion people outside India never heard of Vaastu and are happy, half of India population of 1 billion people is superstitious and would not buy a house that do not follow Vaastu rules. Pretty stupid, isn’t?

The only GOOD thing about Indian apartments is their generous sizes for a third-world country with such high population density, being twice as big compared with apartments in Philippines, Brazil, and similar with European standards. But do note that these apartments are affordable for middle and upper class only. When the modern housing developments will reach the working class, the apartments are likely to be downsized.

Typical apartment size are 900-1100 sq ft for 2BHK and 1200-1600 sq ft for 3BHK (2-3 Bedrooms + Hall + Kitchen). 2-bedroom always have 2 toilets while 3-bedroom usually have 3 toilets (2 being attached to bedrooms), which is impressive considering that in other more developed countries such as Hong Kong and South Korea you can see some 3-bedroom with a single bathroom. 4-bedroom apartments are very rare and offered only in high-end condominiums, having 3000+ square feet. Minimum ceiling height in India is 9 feet / 2.70 meters according building code (in most countries ceiling is 2.40 – 2.60 meters).

Typical room size: living room 10×12 ft to 16×20 ft, dining room 10×12 to 12×14 ft, kitchen 7×10 to 10×12 ft, bedrooms 10×10 ft to 12×16 ft, bathrooms from 5×7 ft to 6×8 ft.

Most Indians live in landed houses, dense houses that cover whole plot, adjacent to neighbor houses on all 3 sides or even 4 sides, having no view to street, rooms being ventilated through small courtyards and access to house is made via a narrow alley, sometimes alley is covered by other houses. Except the few rich neighborhoods in major cities, most Indian cities looks like huge slums, very few roads visible from satellite photos.

Bungalow in India is synonym with detached house in America and Europe, same meaning like in Singapore and Malaysia, and owning a bungalow is seen like a status symbol.

Horrible examples found so far:
example 1, worse example: Lush country having balconies facing to wall at 1 meter apart.
Sriven Splendour, 12 apartments per floor of which one is in the middle with view to internal courtyard.
Classic-Archana, 15 apartments per floor of which 2 in the middle with view to internal courtyard.
LVS Elite, WORST apartment layout I ever saw! 2 apartments in the middle, with NO view at all??!!
GR Signature, again apartments in the middle. Notice how every apartment have kitchen is in south-east corner and every living room in north side, regardless of view.

For the rich indians: Parsvnath Exotica offers 400-800 sqm apartments. This is NOT the biggest apartment in India, it is just one found accidentally.

Outsourcing to India? BEWARE!

There is a trend for various American and European companies to outsource to India their work, especially in IT, due to cheaper workforce. Many Indians are trying to join the outsourcing business without having skills and ethics, they charge low prices but offer very low quality works. My friends warned me to NOT hire Indian freelancers, I advised them to not stereotype, not all Indians offer bad services, but majority, and finding a good one is quite tricky. Do yourself a Google search “India outsourcing FAIL” and see why they are BAD!

Another problem is the SPAM from India. As website owner, even without being in webdesign field, I receive daily emails promoting Web Development & SEO services, 90% of them are originating from India, from those indians without skills. Webdesign companies from America and Europe are even more spammed with emails and phone calls from India. Moreover their so-called SEO services involve spamming other websites with backlinks in attempt to uprank your website in Google search results, which is against Google guidelines and sooner or later you will get caught and downranked or even banned from appearing in search results. Read more: SEO SPAM from India.

These Indians without skills spamming emails further damage reputation of India, legit and skilled Indian IT companies lose customers as well.

Indian customers waste our time without paying our services

Architecture is a difficult job to be done online, with many customers coming for free consultation and not interested in paying complete service, but Indian people are by far, the WORST customers, having NO RESPECT for architects and aggressively requesting custom house plans that they are not willing to pay for. This makes almost impossible to get a paying customer in India (also nearby countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc).

Read more: BAD indian customers and GOOD indian customers

Top bad customers:

  • 2014-04-02 – wasted me 1 hour then said “there is no condition for paying”.
  • 2015-08-31 – I refused to do his project for 6 USD and he wanted to destroy my website.
  • 2016-07-28 – wasted me 1 hour because could not explain project requirements clearly, then said that $200 is too high.
  • 2017-12-16 – wasted my time and insulted me because I charge money for service.
  • 2018-06-03 – contacting me for 3 days requesting aggressively to do his project for 14 USD even if I told him to go to someone else and not disturb me unless he can pay my standard fee of 100 USD.

And these are just selected examples, out of total few hundreds people who wasted time chatting requesting a service but never paid.

Page published for first time in 2012 and updated over next years with more information found by me or provided by visitors. Text written by me (Teoalida) and images taken from Wikipedia, Panoramio and other websites. Do you have useful information that worth adding? Did you found an error or have a contradictory opinion? Leave a comment!

Housing in China

China is a communist country, and the only communist country where living conditions are actually good.

China was the most populous country for last 2000 years, but in 2022-2024 is going to be overtaken by India. According 2010 census China population is 1,339,724,852 people, of which 49.68% living in urban areas. There are 401,517,330 households, giving an average household size of 3.10 people.

What other type of info would you like to see in this page? Leave comments!

After 1990, when the communist governments in Europe felt down and the countries entered in economic decline, China entered in an economic boom, becoming one of the fastest growing economies, overtaking Japan in 2011 as GDP and is likely to overtake USA too during 2020s. Shanghai Metro was opened just in 1995 and after only 15 years, it reached over 400 km of lines in 2011 and overtook the 137-years old London Underground. Is planned to have over 800 km of lines by 2020. Will be the longest in the world, depending how much Beijing Metro will grow too.

Beware that internet censorship in China is high, although not like North Korea where internet connection is available only for government officials. Numerous popular websites such as Youtube and Blogger are considered to have offensive content so are blocked by government. On my Blogspot websites I never had a single visitor from China, but I had from all surrounding countries, but at least… Webs.com is not blocked so I get chinese visitors on my website (this website was running on free hosting Webs.com until 2012).

Housing analysis

I gained just little knowledge about China housing, although I spent much time studying China in Google Earth, without english websites I cannot do proper research, also I see China a bit uninteresting compared with other countries I studied. I do not know when public housing began, but satellite photos shows that early public housing is already being demolished during 2000s.

Nowadays most of housing in China is privately built. Chinese cities are monotonous (like South Korea cities), having rows of linear buildings with identical apartments all over the city. From satellite photos I can see that most common block type is segmented block with 2 apartments per floor, with main rooms facing south, typical size 16 m long and 12 m wide, no significant increase over last 10-20 years. Most blocks are 6 floors, probably maximum height allowed without lifts. Most blocks are placed at 15 meters apart, probably minimum by law (quite dense compared with other countries).

After 2000 many modern housing complexes appeared, comprising high-rise blocks with more complex shapes, but the construction of traditional low-rise linear blocks continue. Most apartments have 2-3 bedrooms, some 4 bedrooms, and include a balcony for living room, after 2000s bay windows became common, there are 60-cm wide opening panels on each side and a fixed panel in the middle, exactly like in Hong Kong (I know that in Hong Kong a law from 1980s introduced plot ratios and exempted bay windows from gross floor area, but in China does anyone know what happened?).

According some sources, including statista.com, the housing reached a ratio 35 sqm per person in 2012, but this looks like a propaganda lie, this high ratio of sqm per capita is impossible since average apartment size is somewhere in 60-80 sqm, bedrooms small as 3×3 / 3×4 meters and multi-generation families are quite common in China, or maybe the statistics are made to include wall thickness, a sharepart of staircase and common areas, etc.

According shrinkthatfootprint.com average apartment size in China is 60 sqm but is not clear if is newly-built apartments or all apartments, probably all, because new apartments are bigger. It also shows 76 sqm in United Kingdom which accounts new houses only. According scmp.com is 646 sq ft.

There are plenty of floor plans, but websites are not in english, you should search in chinese 户型 or 公寓平面图 (Gōngyù píngmiàntú). Best if you can understand chinese (unlike me!)

Nice find: Housing in China case study: http://www.mcgill.ca/mchg/student/neighborhood/chapter2

Old blocks under demolition (unknown built year)
Old apartment blocks Old apartment blocks

Modern blocks (built 1990s-2000s)
Modern chinese apartments Dongguan apartments Jade Green Island, Dongguan

China feature also modern landed houses developments (villas)
Golden Apple villas, Shanghai

Craziness! A highway runs just 2 meters over apartment buildings, causing noise and dust to residents (Shuikousi bridge, Guiyang, bridge was built first in 1997, then about 10 apartment buildings were built under bridge in 1999)
Road above apartment buildings, Guiyang

Transportation

Like other communist countries (or even worse than others), private car ownership in China was limited until 1980s and for most families bicycles were the only vehicle owned. Mass car production stated in 1990s, exports started in 2000s with little success, due to the “brilliant” quality of chinese products!

Despite of low sales in foreign markets, the increasing local demand for cars China to be the new world leader in automobile production in 2009, overtaking Japan and United States (source: Wikipedia), producing 13 million cars (compared with 2 million cars in 2000), then 18 million in 2010 and 2011. See more in Automobile Production .XLS.

A lot of impressive highway interchanges were built in recent years, but… do they have enough parking spaces in apartment complexes?

Six-level stack interchange, Puxi, Shanghai

China is also the world leader in high speed railways.

Guangzhou-Shenzhen Railway became in December 1994 the first line in China to offer sub-high-speed service of 160 km/h. The line was electrified in 1998 and increased service speed to 200 km/h.

In 2004, the Shanghai Maglev Train, linking Shanghai Pudong International Airport with the city, became the world’s first commercially operated high-speed maglev train. It remains the fastest commercial train in the world with peak speeds of 431 km/h and makes the 30.5 km trip in less than 7.5 minutes.

The completion of the sixth round of the “Speed-Up” Campaign in April 2007 brought HSR service to more existing lines: 423 km capable of 250 km/h train service and 3,002 km capable of 200 km/h.

By the end of 2018, high-speed rail extended to 30 of the country’s 33 provincial-level administrative divisions, the exceptions being Macau, Ningxia, and Tibet, and reached 29,000 km in total length, accounting for about two-thirds of the world’s high-speed rail tracks in commercial service. The HSR building boom continues with the HSR network set to reach 38,000 km in 2025.

Page published for first time in 2011 and updated over next years with more information found by me or provided by visitors. Text written by me (Teoalida) and images taken from Wikipedia, Panoramio and other websites. Do you have useful information that worth adding? Did you found an error or have a contradictory opinion? Leave a comment!

Housing in Vietnam

Vietnam is known for their extremely narrow and tall houses, this happened due to a former property tax based on house frontage (similar law did existed in Netherlands in 16th-18th centuries). People build houses as narrow they could, deep and tall. Originally intended for one family, many houses have been rebuild taller and owners are renting part of their houses to additional families due to rapid urbanization and housing shortage. Today in city center the houses average 3 meters wide, 10 to 30 meters depth, and 3 to 7 floors, they are known as “tube houses” or “rocket houses”.


Another article on this field: https://xotours.vn/blog/vintage-skyscrapers-the-evolution-of-the-tube-house-in-vietnam/

Going towards city outskirts you will see single-storey houses slums such as those build on river bed:

From above, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (known as Saigon until 1976) looks like this:

Ho Chi Minh aerial view Hanoi aerial view

Even if the stupid property tax law was abolished (does any one know exact year?), new property developers continue to build narrow and tall houses but not so extreme like above photos. New houses are mostly 5-6 meters wide and 3-4 floors.

Houses are built closely to railway, residents using railway as the path to get into their houses. Reminds me of a market in Bangkok that settled on train tracks.

Governent and economy

First Indochina War lasted from 1946 to 1954, partitioning the region into 4 countries: North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Vietnam War between North Vietnam supported by Soviet Union and China, and South Vietnam supported by United States and other anti-communist states, lasted from 1955 to 1975, is estimated that 966,000 to 3.8 million Vietnamese people were killed, with additional causalities of Cambodians, Laotians and US soldiers. Vietnam reunification came in 1976 making Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Being a communist country, saying bad things against government can put you in jail. The government have power to take out your property and give little compensation. The press is controlled by government and there is a propaganda of fake news to hide poverty and other bad stuff, and give impression that everyone is doing well.

Thanks to the economic reforms from 1986, Vietnam economy started developing rapidly. From one of the poorest countries in the World with per capita income below US$100 per year, Vietnam is now a lower-middle income country with per capita income of US$1,910 by the end of 2013. Population living under poverty line decreased from 58% in 1993 to 12% in 2011 according Wikipedia.

Vietnam population was 85,846,997 people at 2009 census, of which only 29.6% are living in urban areas. There is still a long way until Vietnam will become a developed country like China, Malaysia, etc.

https://vietnamnews.vn/society/427220/hn-orders-skinny-houses-destroyed.html#MMBpxsXkiBfFEDtZ.97

Skyscrapers

Before 1995, tallest building was just 60 meters tall. Saigon Trade Center, 150 meters tall was the tallest building in Vietnam from 1997 to 2010. Since 2000s numerous skyscrapers were built, tallest being Landmark 81 completed in 2018, 461 meters tall, being 14th tallest building in the world. Read more: List of tallest buildings in Vietnam.

Vinhomes Central Park Vinhomes Central Park

Transportation

With 8 million people in Ho Chi Minh City and 7 million people in Hanoi, and no rapid transit systems, traffic is a hell. Vietnam is one of the few countries in the world where number of bikes is far higher than number of cars, consequently many streets are just 2-3 meters wide. Only wealthy people own cars, and government put a tax of 200% on cars to keep their number low (source: hoianfoodtour.com. Government proposed a metro system only in 2001 for Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City Metro was planned to start in 2008, but due to funding issues, construction started in 2012 and first line is expected to open in 2020. 6 lines are in project.

Hanoi Metro started construction in 2010 and first line is expected to be operational in 2019. 8 lines are in project.

Page published for first time in 2019 and updated with more information over next years. Text written by me (Teoalida) and images taken from Wikipedia, Panoramio and other websites. Do you have useful information that worth adding? Did you found an error or have a contradictory opinion? Leave a comment!

Housing in Europe

Housing in Europe is pretty similar all over the continent. If you though that ugly panel block public housing exists only in former communist eastern block, you are WRONG. Western Europe have ugly public housing too, but it is hidden at city outskirts and built to improve standard of living of the poor, usually inhabited by immigrants, it became criminal enclaves. In Eastern Europe you see ugly public housing everywhere in the city. Socialists governments demolished most landed houses inside cities including historical monuments and forced everyone, even the rich class, to move in low quality apartments.

Chapters: Western EuropeEastern EuropeRussiaRomaniaNicolae Ceauşescu

Uppsala, Sweden, one of my favorite cities because is dominated by apartment buildings
Uppsala, aerial view

Western Europe

Denmark have the biggest new homes in Europe, 137 sqm, thanks to strict laws about minimum room and apartment sizes (109 sqm existing stock). United Kingdom have the smallest new homes in Europe, 76 sqm, I do not know why they build such small homes when their existing stock is 85 sqm. Source: demographia.com.

One my favorite places to live are in the Northern Europe: Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland… all are equilibrated countries, wealthy population and low income inequality. All cities have a mix of high-rise and low-rise apartment blocks and landed houses neighborhoods, good infrastructure, good public transport and plenty of green space. Sweden have probably the best public housing of Europe, the Miljonprogrammet, supposedly building 1 million apartments in 1965-1974, but actually I see many more recent-built public housing, also is not normal for a public housing programme to end, so what is the truth?

Also, does anyone know about similar programmes of Norway and Finland? They have similar public housing too.

Almost same opinion about Germany, Denmark, and Netherlands, but just fewer apartment buildings and more landed houses. Definitely a BETTER place to live than in America.

See also Housing in Europe on Wikipedia, showing breakdown of housing types each European country.

Viikki, aerial view Reykjavík, view from a tower bock
Olso, aerial view Rinkeby, aerial view

Hundreds of aerial photos of Oslo and surroundings HERE

My attention was attracted by Berlin city because is the single city in the world which was governed by both communists and capitalists, so developed differently. West Berlin tourists visiting East Berlin were complaining about the grayness of city caused by communist public housing. WRONG! Both parts of Berlin have ugly and gray public housing, the difference is that in East Berlin many old buildings were demolished and you will see public housing everywhere, while in West Berlin you will find many beautiful pre-war buildings in central area, which hides the public housing at city outskirts. In the 2000s all public housing from both parts of city was renovated and painted in nice colors.

Apartment sizes are similar in both parts, about 50 sqm 2-room, 70 sqm 3-room, 85 sqm 4-room, but West Berlin is dominated by 3 to 5-storey blocks with 3- and 4-room while East Berlin by 8+ storey blocks with 2- and 3-room.

Muemmelmannsberg, capitalist-style public housing from Hamburg
Muemmelmannsberg

United Kingdom have the most uninteresting architecture of Europe, and too conservative people in my opinion. Newbies can easily confuse the houses built today with the ones built 100 years ago. Very few apartment buildings and landed houses everywhere, no distinctive features. Most common type is the 3-bedroom semi-detached and terraced houses, which are only around 70 sqm. Historical area of London is again less interesting compared with other European cities. Sorry, I do not like the UK architectural style. Almost same opinion about Ireland too.

DailyMail claims new house sizes 925 sq ft while 1920s houses were 1647 sq ft.

You MUST SEE THIS research showing average size, household size, number of bedrooms, etc, over last 1 CENTURY. Terraced houses were common before war, after war semi-detached houses were common, today detached became dominant in newly-built areas.

France have a lot of history and heritage buildings, Paris being the most visited city in the world by tourists, but I do not think that living conditions are so good like in Northern Europe, Germany or Italy. Paris Metro have 214 km of lines and do not cover whole 10-million metropolis. Extensive public housing programme in France, Habitation à Loyer Modéré, houses about 22% of country population. 3 and 4-room apartments are dominant, I am not sure about average apartment size but looks small. The blocks have many distinctive designs but most are simple, white and ugly.

Spain cities have extensive metro systems (Madrid 293 km of lines), dense cities with a lot of apartment buildings very close each other, with continuous facades, some apartments have view only to a 5-meter wide internal courtyard, parking is a major problem. Valencia old town have the most beautiful collection of buildings I ever seen, a lot of Art Deco buildings, following a height regime of Ground + 8 floors + 9th recessed floor. Possible law.

Italy have best preserved antique and medieval buildings. Most population lives in apartments, detached blocks with no continuous facades, but most are old and too dense. At certain distance from city centers, the classic buildings ends and, before the city outskirts with modern buildings, there is a big number of Art Deco buildings which I love. Italy did not developed extensive metro systems (Rome metro only 60 km of lines) so traffic jams are common.

Venice is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world, but also one of the WORST places to live in the world. The city of Venice have 270,000 people but include more areas than the well-known water city, of which population dropped from 120,000 in 1980 to 60,000 in 2010, of which one-third is aged above 65, according Wikipedia, mainly due to lack of jobs and emigration for a modern life, but paradoxically property prices are rising crazy, due to foreign investors buying buildings and renting to tourists.

Imagine living in Venice, what if you need to a car to drive through Italy? Newest areas of the city are old from 19th century so cannot offer a modern standard of living. Canals are several meters wide but distance between house facades across walkways be small as 1 meter. In some periods of year you need to walk through water to leave building. In most buildings the ground floor is uninhabitable. If you leave major canals you will see a lot of abandoned buildings in danger of collapse.

Video showing how Venice was built and how buildings are maintained to cope with the dangers of water.

Turkey, with a growing population and developing economy, it have a booming real estate industry since 1990s. Despite that it was never under communism, majority of population live in apartment buildings, lots of small detached buildings with 4-5 floors and 2 apartments per floor, and since 2000s high-rise towers with larger open spaces became common.

The competition of real estate developers created a lot of distinctive designs and colorful cities. Apartments follow the European layouts rather than Middle East lifestyle, with a hallway leading to living room and bedrooms, instead of entry directly in living room, 3-bedroom apartments are dominant and rooms are bigger compared with rest of Europe. Who loves studying modern residential buildings of Europe should keep an eye on Turkey!

Apartment sizes varies much: usually 1+1 rooms 40-70 sqm, 2+1 rooms 60-90 sqm, 3+1 rooms 90-130 sqm, 4+1 rooms 120-160 sqm, net areas. Most apartments with >2(bedrooms)+1(living) have 2 bathrooms but not always en-suite. Plenty of floor plans can be found by searching kat planari on Google.

Point mouse on photos to see place name!
Ankara, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Modern condominium in TurkeyAnkara, Turkey Ankara, Turkey

Eastern Europe

Eastern Bloc housing and living conditions are similar across all countries, just very small differences: countries closer to Central Europe have bigger proportions of 3-room and 4-room. Czechoslovakia have biggest apartments (average 75 sqm), followed by Hungary (average 70 sqm).

Hungary is the only country where I found statistics, according Wikipedia, at 2011 census were 829,177 apartments, housing 17.5% of country population, 7.1% one-bedroom, 50.8% two-bedroom, 33.4% three-bedroom, 9.4% four bedroom. There’s possible to be wrong translation and they meant ROOM and not BEDROOM. I don’t think that there are 33.4% three-bedroom when in Romania are less than 10%.

Tallest communist panel block is Magasház, Pécs, 25 floors (20 residential floors), it is also tallest unused building in Europe, it has been evacuated in 1989 due to structural problems. Followed by Block 1V – Mladost, Sofia, 24 floors. Tallest in Romania are 18 floors.

Palace of the Parliament of Romania

Hard to believe for typical visitors of my website, I am romanian!!
I studied many Romanian cities, before studying Singapore, and I found numerous similarities:

– Massive five-year housing programme started in Romania in 1960, Housing and Development Board in Singapore founded in 1960 too.
– State-built housing in Bucharest house 80-85% of population, same like HDB in Singapore.
– Density in Bucharest apartment complexes reach 250 units per hectare in 1970s neighborhoods built entirely/mostly with 10-storey blocks (even HIGHER than Singapore’s standard of 200 units per hectare used until 1990s, 12-storey blocks in average), 70000 people per sq km (what helped reaching this density is the apartment average size 55 sqm in Romania compared with 95 sqm in Singapore).
– Nationwide car ratio is 1 car per 6 people, same like Singapore, but Bucharest car ratio is about 1 car per 2.5 people, exceeding number of designated parking lots about 10 times, many Romanians use their car everyday so traffic is a hell, while Singapore have best public transport in the world and low car traffic for a city with over 5 million people.

Risk of buildings collapsing

Most communist apartment blocks in Eastern Block were designed to withstand 50 years. Mass housing construction lasted from 1960 to 1990 so more and more blocks will reach their end of life in the next decade and need to be replaced, but current economy allow a yearly housing production less than 10% compared with communism times.

This could lead to a big disaster, especially in Romania which experience major earthquakes of 7 – 7.7 grades Richter every 30-40 years. Last earthquakes were in 1908, 1940 (300 deaths), 1977 (1600 deaths). Over 40 years passed since last earthquake so we should prepare for the next earthquake. First earthquake laws appeared in 1963, enforcing all buildings to be designed to withstand 8 grade earthquakes, but nobody knows how many are still able to withstand today, due to bad maintenance and numerous illegal modifications made after fall of communism, especially in buildings with shops at ground floor. In Bucuresti alone, over 300 buildings (mostly pre-war) that suffered damages at 1977 earthquake have been inspected and labelled with 3 classes of seismic risk, nobody knows how many other buildings risk to collapse but never been inspected. Since 2004 to 2012, only 12 received seismic retrofit.

Dilapidated 1950s brick building in Uricani, Romania.
In 2000 an identical block collapsed in same town (source: informatiavj.ro)

More worse, the laws are no longer enforced after communism fall, authorities do not inspect buildings to make sure they are built according project, so the new buildings may pose danger.

Prefab blocks proved their robustness at Romania earthquakes, but they are vulnerable in case of gas explosions which leads to chain collapse. The Ronan Point collapse in 1968 put an end of high-rise public housing in United Kingdom, but in Eastern Bloc panel blocks were introduced during 1960s and built until fall of communism. A block collapsed in Astrakhan, Russia in 2012: video 1 (after explosion) and video 2 (total collapse few minutes later), SHOCKING!

Video of a building collapsing on 19 June 2019 in Otaci, Moldova.
Cracks appeared 3-4 days before, and the block was evacuated before collapse, so nobody died. Video shows that it was made of autoclaved aerated concrete without concrete posts (similar with pre-1963 buildings from Romania), but news reporters said that it was only 26 years old.

Communist car industry

Eastern Europe developed own car industry, due to focusing to exports, waiting list to buy a car was up to 10 years. While Western Europe manufacturers were replacing car models every 8-10 years in average, Eastern Europe cars were produced for many decades without any major changes, and continued to be produced after fall of communism due to economic decline, they were the only cars that population could afford.

Notable examples: Dacia 1300-1410 = Renault 12 clone (1969-2004), Polski Fiat 125p (1967-1991), FSO Polonez (1978-2002), GAZ M24 Volga (1970-2010), Lada Zhiguli / Nova (1970-2012), Lada Samara (1984-2013), Trabant 601 (1964-1991), Wartburg 353 (1965-1991), Zastava Skala 1971-2008), Zastava Koral (1978-2008).

Interestingly, Turkey despite that was all time a capitalist country, had some long-production models too: Renault 12 (1971-2000) and Fiat 131 (1977-2002).

After fall of communism, some of the Eastern Europe car factories were purchased by western automakers and launched new models: Skoda Felicia in 1994 and Dacia Logan in 2004, some car factories abandoned their marque, example: Zastava now produce Fiat models, ZAZ now produce Daewoo models, while other car factories were simply closed: ARO, GAZ, Izh, Moskwitch.

Cars like Dacia Logan cost about 6000-8000 euro, but are still too expensive for most of Romanians, who buy used cars averaging 10 years old at 2000-3000 euro. Used cars imports from Western Europe exceed sales of new cars. 5.99 million cars are registered in Romania, of which 20% older than 20 years (source: DRPCIV via romania-insider.com).

Housing in Russia

Private home ownership was abolished in Soviet Union in 1918 and all owners became tenants. People who owned too large houses or apartments received new tenants sharing space and facilities.

Very interesting are the Soviet pre-war public housing, massive buildings full of ornaments, offering “luxury” communal apartments with up to 10 rooms, each room having 15-25 square meters and 3-3.5 meter ceiling height. Original idea was to give 1 or 2 rooms for each family, the minimum area was 5 sqm per person or if this rule was exceeded they could apply for a new home, but due to high rate of migration towards cities and low construction ratio, the waiting list became long as 10 years, 2 families had to share each room, dividing it with wood walls and building lofts in the high ceiling. In some cases a 150-200 sqm apartment housed 50 people sharing a single kitchen and one or two bathrooms.

A good educational website, with video tours, about communal living in Russia: http://kommunalka.colgate.edu.

Living conditions are probably unimaginable for today people, but residents having running water and electricity, uncommon in 1920s Russia, were happy, and the communal living gave a sense of security.

After Stalin death in 1953, Khrushchev regime switched on low-cost blocks with single-family apartments usually 2-3 room each and 2.5 meters ceiling, to reduce housing shortage and to improve privacy, from 1960s the blocks used prefabricated panels. Some residents were again happy to have own kitchen and bathroom, but some see the new blocks ugly and claustrophobic and even today they enjoy living in these pre-war communal apartments.

Pre-war public housing

Soviet Union feature the most massive apartment buildings in the world, most blocks being 100-200 meters long, but some over 500 meters long, most with 8 or 16 stories and very big spaces between them… but, the paradox: despite of being the biggest country in the world, Soviet Union did not enlarged apartments over years and the average remained around 50 sqm even in 1980s (source), smallest apartments in communist world.

Sankt Petersburg Moskow apartment blocks

Seems that post-communist Russia keep demolishing houses to built apartment towns, example Chelyabinsk 55.19030N 61.27660E, photo below. Proof: open it in Google Earth (not Google Maps) and go to View > Historical Imagery, it is build between 2007 and 2010 images, it looks like communist panel blocks, just that is better coloured. Does anyone know if these are public housing or privately built?

Chelyabinsk Beautiful apartment in Kiew
Point mouse cursor on photos to see place name!

A city interesting to study is Prypiat, the main city feeding workers to Chernobyl Power Plant. A city that had around 50,000 people in 1986 and now have 0. It is one of the greenest cities in the world.

Pripyat, Chernobyl abandoned town

Moscow announced in 2017 a programme to demolish 10% of city housing units, the Khrushchevka flats built in 1950s and 1960s, 1.6 million residents will need to be relocated. How does programme work, who does built replacement flats and if residents will get a replacement flat from government or a compensation and let them to buy another home anywhere they like (as happens with Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme in Singapore), remains a mystery. In smaller and poorer cities the Khrushchevka flats are likely to survive many decades until they collapse themselves.!

Housing in Romania

Between World War I and II, Romania was largely a rural country, but Bucharest enjoyed real estate boom, several hundred luxury apartment blocks with Art-Deco theme were built, reaching heights of Ground+12f, making streets to look like canyons, making Bucharest to look like New York, especially on Victoriei and Magheru streets. The apartment sizes reach 150 sqm and top floors are recessed, offering penthouse units with roof terraces. Unfortunately, the real estate boom combined with lack of earthquake engineering caused collapse of 30 of them at 1977 earthquake, many of remaining pre-war buildings risk to collapse at the next earthquake.

More photos with Art Deco buildings on rezistenta.net, also with damaged buildings on 1977 earthquake.

Bucharest was also nicknamed “Little Paris” in inter-war period, but personally I don’t see significant similarity with Paris. Also, majority of cars seen on Romanian roads were American-produced.

Photos from Magheru street: present vs 1930s.
Creditul Minier, Bucuresti 1930s Magheru, Bucharest
Unnamed Building on Magheru Hotel Ambasador, Bucharest

1930s video… can you believe that this is Bucharest and not New York?

Romanian real estate during communism

Monarch was abolished in 1947 and communists took control. In the first decade of communist regime, lead by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej numerous factories were built and economy was growing fast. Public housing development was limited to redevelopment of the areas destroyed by World War II and in-fill developments to street facades, and small-scale neighborhoods in industrial centers, composed by G+2, G+3 blocks, G+7f high-rise blocks, as well as terraced and semi-detached houses.

Mass housing programme began in 1960, large-scale apartment complexes being built at outskirts of every major city, composed by walk-up blocks G+4f and tower blocks G+9f, at minimum 30 meters apart. Following same pattern like other communist countries, towers in a park, large green spaces, low number of streets and cul de sac for parking, number of apartments facing main roads kept at minimum. Watch a video recorded by me:

Nicolae Ceaușescu, known as one of the most brutal leaders in the world, became head of state in 1967. Economy growth slowed down. Instead of brick buildings, they used prefabricated panels to reduce building costs per dwelling unit, allowed building a block in less than 1 year, construction ratio was increased but quality of apartments was reduced, stripping wood floors and wall tiles. Blocks were G+4f and G+10f, at minimum 20 meters apart.

Most blocks ave 4 units per floor, some 2 or 3 units per floor to provide more 3/4-room apartments. There are also all-1-room blocks with 12 or more units per floor. Despite that communist promote equality, most Romanian blocks mix 2 apartment types, some even 3 (2/3/4-room). Such mix is less common in other communist countries.

But, after 1975 apartment design changed radically: complexes were build with a grid network of roads, blocks were build facing streets, surrounding a semi-enclosed courtyard used for parking, G+8f at major streets and G+4f at minor streets, front-facing apartments get pollution and back-facing apartments get blocked views, minimal distance between blocks was reduced to 12m, green space became minimal, but because of the space occupied by roads, the density (units per hectare) is lower compared with pre-1975 complexes. Example: Berceni neighborhood, the area eastern than Soseaua Berceni is built after 1975, see difference compared with western area built before 1975?

Typical apartment sizes: 1-room (25-35 sqm), 2-room (35-50 sqm), 3-room (45-65 sqm), 4-room (55-75 sqm), while the block models introduced in 1985 have apartments 20% bigger: 1-Room (40 sqm), 2-room (60 sqm), 3-room (80 sqm), 4-room (100 sqm), in same period were still under construction blocks from 1975 and 1980 generations, but in the complexes planned after 1985 the average apartment size goes to 70 sqm. The numbers do not include walls or balconies… this is the Romanian law.

Bucharest statistics: population 2,067,545 (1992), 1,926,334 (2002), 1,883,425 (2011). According my own statistics, there are 635,000 +/- 1% apartments in the city, that houses 80-85% of the population. I estimate average apartment size at 55 sqm and the distribution is 15% 1-Room, 35% 2-Room, 40% 3-Room, 10% 4-Room, <0.5% 5-Room, this means 2.8 people per family and 20 sqm per capita. Smaller cities have the distribution 10% 1-Room, 45% 2-Room, 40% 3-Room, 5% 4-Room, bigger family size, and the ratio can go down to 10 sqm per capita. Estimation may have an error margin due to many people residing in small cities and villages but actually living in big cities. Countrywide average apartment size is around 50 sqm.

Almost every town with more than 20.000 people have few tower blocks. Some cites over 200.000 people also have one, two or three Ground+12-14f block near train station. Bucharest have 10 blocks Ground+15-17f too.

The apartment floor plans have entrance door leading to a hallway, the living room, kitchen and bedrooms are accessible from hallway, so the low number of bedrooms is compensated by using living room for sleeping purposes. About half of apartments, mostly pre-1975 ones have passing-thought living room, a style common and appreciated in America and Asia, but in Romania, due tolow number of bedrooms, apartments built with such floor plan are underpriced.

Some apartments have full-length balconies (12 m long balcony for 3-room), other apartments have no balconies at all. Some 1980s blocks have balconies varying in shape from floor to floor, possible to break the monotony, but in my opinion is an aesthetic disaster. Closure of balconies after fall of communism made everything uglier.

Public housing in Romania: The BEST (Unirii Bulevard) vs The WORST (Ferentari District)
Bulevardul Unirii, high-end public housing Ferentari, low-end public housing

Two typical cities (Botosani and Vulcan), aerial view… see the amount of colorless
Botosani, aerial view Vulcan, aerial view

Caged balconies that remind me of Hong Kong… but this is Romania (Ferentari neighborhood)!
Caged balconies in Romania, reminds me of Hong Kong Caged balconies in Romania, reminds me of Hong Kong

Communist public housing is known as low-quality housing, however if in Singapore all blocks built up to 1990 had lifts stopping every 4-5 floors (same for social housing built in UK and USA), in Romania the lifts stopped on every floor since earliest 1950s housing. Please note that majority of blocks are 5-storey and do not have lifts at all (walk-up blocks do not have refuse chute either, people who are lazy to go downstairs throw the trash out of window).

The communist government built about 3 million apartments nationwide (source: Ziarul Financiar – PS: do not trust the apartment sizes specified in that article, they are inflated, probably exclude studio apartments, include balconies, etc).

My personal estimation is that they housed 40% of the country population of 23 million people in 1990 (today population dropped to 20 million people), note that 45-50% of country population still live in villages, then several more percents live in so-called cities but in same countryside conditions.

Since 1982 Ceaușescu became obsessed to pay the country foreign dept, thus increased workdays from 5 to 6, rationalized food and gas, limited television to 1 channel broadcasting only 2 hours per day, mostly propaganda, turned off district heating at random times and created daily power blackouts to “save energy” for heavy industry, increased production by quantity instead of quality, and tried to export as much is possible by creating shortages of food and other goods in his own country, but the products were noncompetitive on export markets and the profits were small. People had to wait few years to buy a car, a TV set, etc. This dramatically lowered the living standards of Romanians. The foreign debt was fully paid in mid-1989 but the heavy exports continued, population tired of austerity started to 1989 Romanian Revolution , when about 100 people where shot by army at others of the president before the army joined with population and shot the president, and another 1000 people were killed over next days for no reason.

What intrigues is what were the living conditions in other communist countries and how they overthrown the communist governments non-violently and without killing their leaders.

Romanian real estate after fall of communism

After fall of communism, economy worsened even more, unemployment, inflation, rising criminality, etc. Prices were rising more than salaries, as many local factories of cheap products were closed, many goods started being imported and this increased cost of living. This is valid for most former eastern block countries. During 1990s only East Germany and Czech Republic managed to recover and reach gross domestic product peak from communism, while Romania reached during 2000s. Lots of violent anti-government protests still happen across Eastern Europe, including 1990, 1991 and 1999 Romanian Mineriads, 2011-2012 Russian protests, 2012 Romanian anti-Basescu protests, and 2013-2014 Euromaidan (Ukraine). Romanians demand higher salaries, but the country economy is not powerful enough to pay them.

Very little improvements in infrastructure were done by capitalist governments. Massive emigration made Romania to suffer from lack of skilled workforce, especially in health and education system. All these problems keep foreign investors away and raise concerns about the future of this country.

No new apartment buildings were built in Romania between 1990 and 2002. During 2000s Romania experienced the biggest property bubble in the world, apartment prices rising 10 times in 5 years, reaching prices comparable with Western Europe despite that salaries were still low although they also rose. Private apartment construction started.

Romania and Bulgaria joined European Union as 1 January 2007, making easier for foreign real estate investors to come there. Numerous new apartment projects were launched, many luxury apartments aimed to new affluent class of Romanians.

After 20 years of capitalism, Romania was hit hard by 2008 recession. Gross domestic product felt down for 5 consecutive years, and real estate prices in Bucharest felt from 2300 euro / sqm in 2008 to 1300 euro / sqm in 2009, continued to fall to 1000 euro / sqm in 2014 then stagnated (source: imobiliare.ro), people no longer able to pay mortgage, banks put their homes at auction, and, as I have seen in the news, there were cases in which house value was not enough to pay the debt so they had to sell at auction houses of family relatives too. Number of apartments built in 25 years of capitalism (1990-2015) is lower than what was built in 1 year of communism. Half of apartments started in 1990-2010 are abandoned as 2015, due to recession.

Chaotic developments and real estate corruption

Under capitalist government, the cities had a chaotic development. Bucharest Old Town, instead of being pittoresque like in other European capitals, is dominated by abandoned buildings inhabited by homeless people robbing tourists, historical monuments won in the court by former owners and left for self-destruction to sell the land to developers who build steel and glass buildings which damage image of the old town.

If the apartment neighborhoods build by communist regime were not already too dense, authorities returned the public green space between buildings to former land owners before communism, which sold to developers who build new apartment buildings, such as below example from Floreasca (in Singapore condos, the open land between buildings belong to residents too, not just the land of building footprint).

Floreasca site plan Floreasca chaotic buildings

Closed factories are also redeveloped into residential and commercial developments, while the infrastructure was not designed to handle additional traffic. But since land availability inside cities is limited, most new developments take place at city outskirts, on former arable land, where utilities are non-existent, as well as public transport and education facilities. At least in my city Ploiesti, NO school was built after 1990 (as 2018).

Corruption in real estate is very high, despite of existence of strict laws about minimum room and apartment size, as well as minimum 1 parking lot per apartment, many architects violate them and still get building permit from corrupt authorities, and once building permit is given, they modify the project adding more floors at top of building and also convert the basement parking into additional dwelling units, and once all units are sold the workers often leave without paving the parking, build a children playground, connect each apartment to utilities, etc.

During 2000s, new apartments had larger rooms compared with communist apartments, big as 40 sqm 1-room, 70 sqm 2-room and 100 sqm 3-room, but majority are 1- and 2-room, and are still too expensive for typical romanian worker. During 2010s there is a trend of building smaller apartments.

Landed housing

Landed housing in Romania (and rest of Eastern Europe) is very spread, in rural areas and small cities, houses have yards over 1000 sqm, there are many villages with population small as 1000 people, but over 5 km long, sometimes a single-road villages.

In cities, lot frontages are narrow and many houses are attached to North border of lot (or North-East, North-West). Courtyard surround the house on 3 sides. in Transylvania many houses are L-shaped by having additional wing parallel to street, forming a continuous street facade.

There are very few terraced or semi-detached houses in Romania.

The good parts of Romania

– The beautiful villages in Transylvania, where the traditions are preserved for centuries.
– Well developed mountain tourism, ski resorts, thanks to communist regime.
– The wealth distribution is pretty good, thanks to communist regime who eliminated rich people. Recently there are few homeless people and few too rich people, but not as worse like in Latin America countries which have similar GDP per capita but significant population is under poverty line. Note that many countries outside Europe are fast-developing so may exceed Romania soon.
– I have NOTHING to praise about post-1989 capitalist regime.

More details about living conditions, see Life in my country page.

The megalithic projects of Nicolae Ceauşescu

Many foreigners associate Ceausescu with the oversized Palace of the Parliament, but in reality it is just one of the 7 megalithic buildings. 7 square kilometers were razed since 1983, 40.000 people were evicted by a single day’s notice, a lot of historical monuments were destroyed. This represents the largest peacetime destruction in the world history. Most of these projects were hit by 1989 revolution and are still unfinished today. They show the inabilities of capitalist idiots compared with communist regime. Supposedly, Ceausescu was inspired by 1971 visit in North Korea. However I studied North Korea too and I do not see much similarity in architecture of Romania.

Casa Poporului (People’s House, now Palace of the Parliament), it is also the largest government building in the world and largest building named “palace”, 270 by 240 meters, 86 meters tall, 12 floors plus 8 basement floors including nuclear bunker, it sits on a 1.8 sq km site. Construction started 1984, scheduled to be completed in 1990, but due to fall of communism, construction slowed down and was not used until 1997 when the parliament moved in it, today the basement floors are still unfinished.

Palatul Parlamentului Casa Poporului Detail of Palace of the Parliament Inside of Palace of the Parliament

Casa Radio (Radio House), 200 x 145 meters, started in 1986 to become National Museum of Communist Romania. Although not completed, Nicolae Ceauşescu used this building to watch the last National Day parade on 23 August 1989. In 1992 it was transferred in administration of Romanian Radiotelevision and named Casa Radio. In 2006 it was sold to an Israel investor who planned to demolish 70% of building and convert it in mall, offices and apartments, but the project named Dâmboviţa Center has been abandoned due to 2008 recession.

Casa Radio

Academy House, 220 x 80 meters, located in the left side of Parliament. Opening date unknown, back side of building still not finished.

Academia Romana Academia Romana

Ministry of Defense House, 195 x 80 meters, located behind Parliament. Construction and opening date unknown.

Ministerul Apararii Nationale

Unknown-name building, left side of Defense House, 140 x 80 meters, opened in 1999 as JF Marriott Hotel.

JF Marriott Hotel

Biblioteca Naţională (National Library), 120 x 150 meters, construction started in 1986, abandoned after 1989, resumed in 2009, facades partially demolished and rebuilt with glass, making it very ugly in my opinion, and opened in 2012.

Abandoned National Library Abandoned National Library Biblioteca Nationala

Magazin Junior (a mall), opposite Library, 120 x 50 meters, opened in 1987 but ground floor only, closed in 1992. Rebuilt during 2000s, since 2006 it houses the Bucharest Court.

Tribunalul Bucuresti

Unirii Boulevard & Civic Centre, public housing complex with luxurious and lavish decorations, build around the 7 megalithic buildings and a monumental boulevard measuring 3 km long and 90 meter wide.

Bulevardul Unirii Bulevardul Unirii Bucharest aerial view

Centrul Cultural, a project with no info available, except what is seen from air in the center of above aerial photo: a massive foundation in the size of 230 x 150 meters. We don’t know if there was planned to be a building or an open-air plaza.

Centrul cultural

Circul Foamei, a series of identical buildings, 100 x 60 meters. Started in late 1980s and intended for food distribution, 2 of them were finished in 1989 while the others remained abandoned until 2000s when were converted in malls or demolished.

Circul Foamei din Rahova

Văcărești Park, a massive 2 sq km amusement park with a massive lake in middle of Bucharest, started in 1988, today it looks like a jungle.

Unfinished apartment buildings, construction of each block in communist times took about 1 year, so hundred of apartments blocks were caught by 1989 revolution. Some of them were turned into offices during 1990s, others were completed as residential during 2000s, but few of them remained abandoned even in 2014.

4 apartment blocks in Nerva Traian street, abandoned in 1989 and converted in office buildings
Nerva Traian blocks Nerva Traian blocks

Unfinished block in Aviatiei district
Unfinished block in Aviatiei neigborhood Unfinished block in Aviatiei neigborhood

Bucharest Metro, one of few communist projects that actually improved the standards of living. It was first planned in 1938 during King’s regime, scrapped due to WW2, started in 1975 by Ceausescu’s regime, scheduled to be completed in 2000, with 8 lines totaling ~100 km. First line opened in 1979 and reached 55 km on 3 lines at the time of revolution. From 1990 to 2010 the capitalist regime managed to finish and open additional 8 km of the lines started by communism regime, so never mind about starting new lines.

Cernavoda nuclear power plant, started in early 1980s and planned with 5 reactors, to date only 2 reactors have been completed (first in 1996 and second in 2007), producing 18% of national energy consumption.

Danube – Black Sea Canal, 95 km long, 90 m wide, 7 m deep, started in 1949 with political prisoners who opposed communist regime, dubbed as “graveyard of the Romanian bourgeoisie”, construction halted in 1953 because surpassed the resources available to the Romanian economy in the 1950s, re-started in 1973 by Nicolae Ceaușescu and opened in May 1984, plus northern arm in October 1987, today it is viewed as unnecessary projects because based on its current revenues, several hundred years are necessary to recover the cost of construction, estimated at 2 billion dollars.

Danube – Bucharest Canal, 73 km long, designed to make the capital city also a river port, it was started in 1986 and was 60% completed in 1990 when it was abandoned.

Page published for first time in 2010 and updated over next years with more information found by me or provided by visitors. Text written by me (Teoalida) and images taken from Wikipedia, Panoramio and other websites. Do you have useful information that worth adding? Did you found an error or have a contradictory opinion? Leave a comment!

Public housing in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Housing Authority was formed in 1954, soon after a major file in Shek Kip Mei left 53000 people homeless on christmas day of 1953.

Shek Kip Mei Estate, the first public housing estate, was ready in 1954. The “flats” were just one room of 120 square feet, kitchen and bathrooms were communal, shared by all floor residents. Original plan was to allocate 24 square feet (2.2 square meters) per adult and half that for each child under 12. But due to the extreme shortage in available housing, a flat was shared by more than one family, 10-15 people per room were common in its first years, and during summer months, people were sleeping also on corridors.

Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate, built in early 1960s, was in the first group of estates built with lifts. All blocks were 16-floor high, elevators were stopping at ground, 8th and 13th floors.

All were resettlement estates (temporary housing).

In 1961 the “low-cost housing” scheme was introduced through the construction of 62,380 flats in 18 public housing estates.

In 1963 the minimum area per person was increased to 35 sq ft (3.3 sq m).

In 1973 the government announced a ten-year plan for the public provision of housing, to provide everyone in Hong Kong with permanent, self-contained housing with a target of housing for 1.8 million people. Developing started for New Towns, away from urban area. The program was later extended to 15 years.

In 1978 the government launched Home Ownership Scheme, one year later introducing also Private Sector Participation Scheme, designed with private architects, which offers a bigger diversity in designs.

In 1998 the government launched Tenants Purchase Scheme, it was targeted to help increase ownership ratio to 70% by 2006 by selling rental flats to tenants.

Due to worsening economic situation, and complaints from private developers about bad effects of sales of public housing to their projects, construction of new HOS flats ended in 2003, also new launches of TPS were suspended.

Today the minimum area per person is 5.5 sq m (does anyone know since when?), aka all rental units which do not meet this minimum are subject to relocation elsewhere as soon as new rental flats are available.

Looking for complete list of public housing estates in Excel format? See https://www.teoalida.com/hongkong/housingdatabase/

Housing Authority – floor plans of main block types

Floor plans are in PDF format so you need to have Adobe Reader installed.
Point mouse on photos to see estate name!

Since late 2010, the Hong Kong Housing Authority website provides floor plans for most HOS and TPS estates, but requires a lot of searching through estates list to find floor plan of certain block type. So I decided to make here links to floor plans of most common block types. There is no way to find floor plans of PRH estates. In August 2012 a visitor told me that Housing Authority added floor plans for PRH standard blocks too here, no idea when they were added. The page of my website risk to become useless…

The block types refers more about apartments layout rather than block shape. For example, Concord blocks contains 47 sqm 3-room and 60 sqm 4-room, usually 8 apartments per floor in a + layout, but some blocks are shaped like Y and Z with 6 apartments per floor of same type, still being named Concord. Flat size specified is the Saleable area.

Old Slab block aka Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, Mark IV, etc, all PRH and TPS (1954-1984)
Floor plan Old Slab, variable units per floor, this one 25 sqm, 16 meters width (some blocks have bigger units).
This blogger chan88.blogspot.com have floor plans and photos of Mark blocks. I prefer to link his website than copying his images on my website.

Shek Kip Mei Shek Kip Mei Shek Kip Mei
So Uk Estate Tsz Wan Shan
More photos with old estates on
Flickr.

Single / Twin Tower block, all PRH (1970-1983)
No floorplan (because all are rental and no TPS), flat area 33-40 sqm (internal floor area)

New Slab block, all PRH and TPS (1977-1991)
Floor plan New Slab, variable units per floor, all 32 sqm, 17 meters width.
Floor plan New Slab, another version which have some units small as 12 sqm.
Some Slab blocks are 12 meters width and some 19 meters width. What type are these!?

Twin Tower New Slab Twin Tower

Single / Double H block, all PRH and TPS (1977-1986)
Floor plan Double H, flat area 29-65 sqm.

Single / Double / Triple I block, all PRH (1980-1983)
A kind of zig-zag shape. No floor plan available (because all are rental and no TPS), flat area 33-40 sqm (internal floor area)

Trident block, PRH, TPS and HOS (1979-1992)
Floor plan Trident 1, 36 units per floor, flat area 27 sqm.
Floor plan Trident 2, 24 units per floor, flat area 35-45 sqm.
Floor plan Trident 3, 24 units per floor, flat area 35-49 sqm.
Floor plan Trident 3 variation, 32 units per floor, some small as 14 sqm.
Floor plan Trident 4, 18 units per floor, flat area 34-55 sqm.

Trident 4 Trident 4 Windmill

Linear block, all PRH and TPS (1979-1991)
Floor plan Linear 1, flat area 13.5-53 sqm.

Old Cruciform block, PRH and HOS (1978-1983)
Floor plan Old Cruciform, 8 units per floor, size 32×32 m, flat area 50 sqm.
Floor plan Old Cruciform, 8 units per floor, size ? m, flat area 43-52 sqm.

Flexi block, all HOS (1981-1991)
Floor plan Flexi 1, 8 units per floor, size 30×25 m, flat area 37-52 sqm.
Floor plan Flexi 2, 8 units per floor, size 30×25 m, flat area 40-44 sqm.
Floor plan Flexi 3, 8 units per floor, size 30×25 m, flat area 43-46 sqm.

Flexi 3 Flexi 2

Slab block, one single block, HOS (1984)
Floor plan Slab, different from Old Slab and New Slab. 3-bedroom, flat area probably around 42 sqm.

Windwill block, all HOS (1984-1986)
Floor plan Windwill, 16 units per floor, size 43×40 m, flat area 31-38 sqm.

New Cruciform Block, all HOS except some recent ones (1986-present)
Floor plan New Cruciform, 10 units per floor, size 42×35 m, flat area 3-room 37 sqm, 4-room 51 sqm, 4-room 59 sqm.

New Cruciform New Cruciform New Cruciform New Cruciform

Harmony block, PRH and HOS (1993-present) (rental Harmony block were built since 1970s!)
Floor plan Harmony 1, 4 wings and 16 units per floor, size 53×48 m, flat types: 2-room 40 sqm, 3-room 50 sqm, 4-room 55-60 sqm.
Floor plan Harmony 1 variation, 4 wings and 20 units per floor, size 53×48 m, flat types: studio 19 sqm, 2-room 40 sqm, 3-room 50 sqm, 4-room 55 sqm.
Floor plan Harmony 2, 3 wings and 18 units per floor.
Floor plan Harmony 3, the T-shaped one with 14 units per floor.

Harmony 1 Harmony 1 New Harmony

Concord block, all HOS except some recent ones (2000-present)
Floor plan Concord 1, cross-shaped, 8 units per floor, size: 39×34 m, flat types: 3-room 47 sqm, 4-room 60 sqm.
Floor plan Concord 2, Z-shaped, 6 units per floor, size: 33×22 m. flat types: 3-room 47 sqm.

Concord 1 Concord 2

New Harmony block, all PRH (2003-present)
No floor plan available (because all are rental), 16 units per floor, flat types ?

New Flexi block, all PRH (only 2 blocks built in 2006)
No floor plan available (because all are rental), 12 units per floor, flat types ?

Small Household Blocks, different types, 1975-present)
No floor plan available, these mysterious blocks are found in both PRH and HOS estates and contains small flats probably for elderly, given based by other rules.

Non-standard blocks (any block with no given name)
One example of non-standard block with 12 units per floor, split-level, flat types: 3-4 rooms 38-57 sqm.

Non-standard Non-standard Non-standard

Private Sector Participation Scheme (different types, 1981-2001)
Floor plan of most common type of PSPS blocks (75% of PSPS estates are using this layout with 10 units per floor, just small dimension differences), size 38×29 m, flat types: 3-room 40 sqm, 3-room 45 sqm, 4-room 55 sqm.

Conclusion:
Harmony blocks provides the biggest apartments for their number of rooms. Which is the best apartment in Hong Kong?… hmm, probably the 59 sqm one from New Cruciform and the 60 sqm one from Concord.

Tin Fu Court

Housing Society

Hong Kong Housing Society was formed in 1948. The first rental estate, Sheung Li Uk, was built in 1952. Clague Garden Estate built in 1989 was the first Flat-For-Sale estate. Tivoli Garden built in 1995 was the first Sandwich Class Housing Scheme estate (public housing for middle-class priced like private housing).

No floor plan is published on their official website. Centadata contains floor plans of some of the ownership estates.

Jat Min Chuen Tivoli Garden

Private housing in Hong Kong

Private housing in Hong Kong include tenement buildings, stand-alone buildings, private housing estates, villas and village houses.

Looking for private housing floor plans? Look on centadata.com, it shows floorplans of almost all estates, also gohome.com.hk shows floorplans of most estates as well as villas. Note that in Hong Kong the term “condominium” is never used, do not search “hong kong condo floor plan” because you will find nothing relevant.

Tenements are up to 8 floors + ground (maximum allowed height without lifts), typically 10 to 14 meters wide and with 2 apartments per floor, having view in both sides. Most tenements have large cantilevered balconies that extend 2 meters over sidewalk. Apartments were large and since 1960s many of them were subdivided illegally and rented to poor families, on facade there are a lot of objects added that makes them to look dirty, on rooftops are huts and additional dwelling units. Mong Kok district have lowest household income and highest ratio of elderly people, and yes it is dominated by tenements, being considered one of the ugliest neighborhoods in the world.

Ugly Buildings Ugly Buildings Kowloon Kowloon tenements Kowloon tenements

This user have large collection of photos of tenement buildings.

Private housing built since 1960s have a podium that serve also as commercial space at ground floor, covering entire plot area, and residential towers above it. Low-end blocks had central double-loaded corridor (example: these 8 blocks around Man Cheong Street, Kowloon, but most common is the cruciform typology. Balconies are no longer common in private housing estates as they were in tenements, except to high-end developments, bay windows became common since 1980. Balconies became again common during 2000, but they are usually small as 2 sqm.

My attention was attracted by the area around Yuet Wah Street, there are 33 gated developments, 4407 apartments (counted from Centadata) built in 1962-1970, all them being 12-storey tall plus void deck at ground floor for parking. Looks like that this area was a luxury neighborhood for 1960s standards, well-renovated and still beautiful!

Mei Foo Sun Chuen was the first “Private Housing Estate” and largest private development in the world at its time, currently it is still the largest housing estate in Hong Kong, having 99 blocks with 5 to 8 units per floor (2 blocks are extended to 12 units per floor), total 13149 apartments from 2-bedroom to 4-bedroom, was built in phases from 1969 to 1978.

Tai Koo Shing, 61 blocks, 12693 apartments, built 1978-1987

City One Shatin, 52 blocks, 10642 apartments, built 1981-1988

Whampoa Garden, 88 blocks, 10440 apartments, built 1986-1991, famous for HMS Whampoa ship-shaped shopping center.

South Horizons, 34 blocks, 9812 apartments, built 1991-1995

Kingswood Villas, 58 blocks, 15836 apartments, built 1992-1997, but is usually considered 7 separate estates, as there are roads dividing the development.

LOHAS Park will be the biggest private estate, first phase opened in 2009 and is scheduled to be completed in 2015, having 21500 units.
Built year and number of units sourced from Centadata.

There is some doubt which developments can be called estates, since numerous other developments containing more than one block were built before 1969 and are not considered “estates”.

Typical private flats are slightly smaller than public housing in similar period.

Accurate statistics are impossible to be made, since Hong Kong real estate is very diverse, in the same district same developer built in same decade multiple estates with very different apartment sizes. Transactions listings do not show size of flats built before 1980 (why?), but apparently 1960s flats are larger than 1980s which seems to be the smallest.

1980s typical sizes were 3-room 30-35 sqm (dominant) and 4-room 45-55 sqm.
2000s typical sizes are 3-room 40-45 sqm, 4-room 55-65 sqm (dominant), and some 5-room appeared.
At this moment I cannot estimate the 2000s and 2010s trends, if the flat sizes grow or shrink.

The units facing to sea or other good landscape, are sometimes larger, even if using apparently same apartment layout.

Of course there are numerous luxury apartments, much larger than typical flats, commonly in blocks with 2 to 4 units per floor. These nearly always are 4-room and 5-room, not matters if are 100 sqm or 500 sqm penthouses, the room sizes vary very much.

1960s-1970s private housing estates

Point mouse on photos to see building name and year!
Tak Po House Ngai Hing Mansion
Yuet Wan Street Chung Wui Mansion 8 old blocks

1980s private housing estates

Wonderland Villas
City One Hong Kong Parkview Beverly Villas Whampoa Garden

2000s private housing estates

Sorrento Bel-Air No 8 Banyan Garden Ocean View
Fairmount Terrace & L'Hotel The Masterpiece Grand Waterfront Palazzo Celestial Heights

Cruciform blocks – smallest & largest

One of most common private block types is the cruciform with 8 units per floor, it have the biggest efficiency, the block size vary, most blocks ranging from 20×20 meters to 32×28 meters. Some may have 6, 10 or 12 apartments per floor.

Garden Rivera vs Woodlands Crest
Garden Rivera Woodland Crest

Garden Rivera (1984) is my favorite example of the thinnest cruciform blocks. Block size 20 by 19 meters, 3012 sq ft in total / 280 sqm. 8 flats per floor, all 3-room, 368-385 sq ft gross area / probably around 242-269 sq ft saleable area (23-25 sqm). It contains some of the SMALLEST 3-room apartments in the world! See Garden Rivera floorplan and interior photos. Interior video.

Later I found numerous other blocks having similar or even smaller size, but some may not contains only 3-room apartments. Examples:

Hang Shun Building (unknown year), block size 20 by 17 meters, flat size 313-323 sq ft gross, all 3-room, see Hang Shun floorplan.

Smithfield Terrace (1986), block size 19 by 18 meters, flat size 252-377 sq ft gross, 2-room and 3-room, see Smithfield Terrace floorplan.

Fortune Court (1985), block size 18 by 17 meters, flat size 282-325 sq ft gross, see Fortune Court floorplan.

Full Wing Building (1984) beat all others, block size only 18 by 16 meters, flat size 263-329 sq ft gross area. No floorplan exists, just interior photos.

Green Leaves Garden (1987), another remarkable thin cruciform blocks with 8 units per floor, 24 by 20 meters, contains the SMALLEST 4-room apartments found so far, 510 sq ft gross area / 435 sq ft saleable area (40.5 sqm). Floorplan and photos.

Largest examples of cruciform blocks:

Parkside Villa (1997), 38 by 36 meters. See Parkside Villa floorplan and photos.

Woodland Crest (1996), 40 by 40 meters. See Woodland Crest floorplan and photos.

Royal Ascot (1995), some blocks are 42 by 42 meters. See Royal Ascot floorplan and photos.

The Belcher’s (2000), largest cruciform block with 8 units per floor, up to 46 by 46 meters. See Floorplans and photos.

Uncommon blocks, crazy buildings and curiosities

The Merton website (now dead) showed a floorplan with all internal dimensions, SEE YOURSELF how small apartments are in Hong Kong, calculate yourself the net floor area (if you are lazy, it is 33 sqm for 3-room). Floor plan for entire block: Tower 1 and Tower 2.

The Harbourside, contains one of the smallest NEW apartments in Hong Kong. 241 sq ft gross area. What is the net floor area? What you can fit in it? Guess yourself… floorplan.

Yuppie Tel (1991), huge stairwell and 2 tiny apartments per floor (145 sq ft saleable), floorplan.

Pik Wah Building (1964), old and tiny apartments, 180 sq ft gross, 130 sq ft saleable, photos (if any unit is currently available for sale).

One Prestige (2018), new tiny apartments, smallest being 163 sq ft net, floorplan.

Hong Kong also contains numerous buildings with one apartment per floor. Do not think that all are luxury apartments. Someone owned a 8-meter wide piece of land and decided to built a skyscraper on it! Since even for a single apartment, you need a staircase with 2 access points, the staircase may be occupying half of block floor area! Examples:

Seng Fai Building (1997), 552 sq ft gross, see SengFai floorplan.

Profit Nice Mansion (1999), 333 sq ft gross / 222 sq ft saleable, no floorplan found.

But Fullic Court (1995) is the absolute craziness of narrow building! 360 sq ft gross, 197 sq ft saleable… you MUST SEE the Fullic Court floorplan!!

Do you know more buildings with one apartment per floor? Share with us! Leave a comment! I want to make a collection of floorplans of narrow tall buildings.

Why are Hong Kong apartments small?

One possible explanation: original Hong Kong was about 100 square kilometers, including the Hong Kong island and the tip of Kowloon Peninsula south of Boundary Street, comprising mostly mountainous terrain, until the 950 square kilometers of New Territories was leased, despite that this lease happened in 1898, people keep concentrating in the original area. Most of New Territories was (and some still are) rural, only the nearby area north of Boundary street was urbanized and became New Kowloon. The “New Towns” built beyond mountains, spaced away from original city, appeared only since 1970s.

Another explanation: traditionally old Hong Kong apartments had just one room for all, living, dining, sleeping, completed by a small kitchen and a small bathroom. Bedrooms appeared later, they are not used for other purpose than sleeping, so they can be small as 4 sqm, saving apartment area for having a large living room. Most older public housing floor plans don’t show other internal walls than the kitchen and bathroom ones. I guess that were sold without internal walls and owners who like to have separate bedrooms, had to built themselves? However all apartments were designed with a pre-designated number of bedrooms.

OK… now they have plenty of flat land in New Territories, why they KEEP building tiny apartments? Is this a fashion? conservative chinese, corrupt government or mafia of private developers?

Cost of construction includes land acquisition, lift, fittings, common areas, etc. these are more expensive than walls and floor slabs. I don’t think that a 25% increase in apartment size would raise cost of construction with more than 5%. I noticed many private estates with long and narrow apartments, big spaces between buildings, they could have designed slightly bigger apartments without any increase in block length or reduce the number of apartments in estate.

According my research, today apartment sizes grown about 20% since 1980s (I need more research to see today trends), but grown not enough, Hong Kong STILL holds the record of smallest average apartment size in the world.

However, I ask for explanations from someone that lived in Hong Kong for many years!

ANSWER (thanks to EL left comments below): each piece of land is sold with a max allowed gross floor area, but the number of apartments is not limited. The government do not release enough land to cope the demand for apartments, then most developers try to fit as many apartments as possible in the gross floor area. This is why most apartments are small, while the several big ones are sold at much bigger price per square feet.
The bay windows, if are at least 50 cm from floor and ceiling, and max 60 cm extrusion from outer wall face, are excluded from gross floor area. So since 1980 most developers provide extruded bay windows to create extra (but unusable) space in apartments, creating the nickname “Hong Kong – City of bay windows“.

Hong Kong property price trends

Hong Kong Residential Price Index

Housing database

Data sourced from HousingAuthority.gov.hk and Centadata.com, compiled in Excel for easy use for researchers and businesses. Price in Singapore Dollar (1 SGD = 0.7 USD = 5.5 HKD). After purchase I offer you one FREE update, for next updates you need to pay 50% per update.

Hong Kong Housing Database 

Simple, estates database

Region, district, estate, age, total units,
transacted prices per sq ft.

Updated May 2018


Free SAMPLE
Hong Kong Housing Database 

Detailed, buildings database

Region, district, estate, phase, block, number of floors,
units per floor, total units, occupation date

Updated May 2018


Free SAMPLE
Hong Kong Housing Authority Database 

Housing Authority

PRH / TPS estates and HOS / PSPS courts with 36 columns of data, all possible data from HKHA Estate Locator

Updated May 2018


Free SAMPLE
Hong Kong Housing Database 

Original 2011 database
Housing Authority 400 estates, source: housingauthority.gov.hk
Housing Society 48 estates, source: hkhs.com
Private housing 1300 estates, source: Gohome.com.hk and Centadata.com combined, including floor area ranges.


Free SAMPLE

Districts: Central & Western, Wan Chai, Eastern, Southern, Yau Tsim Mong, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon City, Wong Tai Sin, Kwun Tong, Kwai Chung & Tsing Yi, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, North, Tai Po, Shatin, Sai Kung & Tseung Kwan O, Islands, Marine.

History

I created a database of Housing Authority and Housing Society public housing estates early as 2011 from my personal interest during initial research of Hong Kong.

Few months later, an insurance company saw it and contacted me asking me for details regarding private apartment sizes in each district, so I voluntarily offered to extend my research to private estates too. Was the first time I was doing a large project at someone’s request rather than personal interest, I made the mistake of not discussing the price before starting the job, when I realized that I have spent about 100 hours compiling data manually, I attempted to ask $200, but they never paid me… so I stopped working and never gave them the extended database. The database being mixed from 2 sources, is a bit messy. I will finalize database and update it if needed, when I find a customer paying for my effort.

A year later I published Hong Kong housing database on website for anyone else to purchase it if needed, at same time I published the Singapore Housing Database, which currently gets sales every month.

At the moment I stopped working, the Hong Kong database was complete for public housing, all 400 Housing Authority estates, all 48 Housing Society estates, and 1300+ private developments (all estates and most important individual buildings), it contains, block types, number of blocks, number of apartments and their flat size range, also an incomplete list of demolished estates (please contribute if you know any other demolished estate not listed in it!). FREE sample include biggest 92 private estates.

By 2016, nobody ever paid for my work, I created a new database sourcing data from Centadata only, this time using web scraping technologies learned one year earlier, and put it for sale at lower price. 1 person purchased in 2017.

In May 2018 been contacted by a customer interested in a housing database detailed to individual buildings so I worked with my programmer partner to make a more complex script to scrap data from Centadata website and I also made myself Housing Authority database. One more customer purchased detailed database in June 2018.

Gross floor area, saleable floor area, and efficiency explained

Hong Kong use an unique system where Gross floor area include a sharepart of common spaces, thus two blocks with identical apartment units but with different number of units per floor had different gross floor area stated for each apartment, because in the block with fewer apartments per floor the common areas were divided to fewer apartments. In other countries Gross floor area meaning is like Hong Kong’s Saleable area.

Net floor area is the internal room space between face of walls.

Saleable floor area include full thickness of external walls, half thickness of walls shared with other units, internal walls thickness, as well as balconies, but exclude bay windows.

Gross floor area also include a sharepart of common areas (lifts, staircases, corridors) so it should not been taken in serious.

Housing Authority shows internal floor area in case of PRH estates, while for TPS, HOS and PSPS estates it shows saleable and gross floor area.

The efficiency (Saleable floor area) is usually 75-85% of Gross floor area, higher value for the blocks with bigger apartments and for low-rise blocks, since the common area of a blocks with a given number of units per floor is approximately same for regardless of apartments size. More details about what is gross floor area and efficiency here insitu.com.hk and eaa.org.hk.

Home owners should be interested in internal floor area, the percentage of internal floor area from saleable area vary much, as newer and taller buildings require thicker walls, take a look how thick are the walls of The Masterpiece. Higher floors may have thinner walls so larger rooms.

BEWARE! Most, if not all private developers, as well as all real estate websites, publish gross floor area as primary value of apartment size, confusing people. We cannot make a law to force developers to quote the saleable floor area and put an END of this annoying confusion?

Starting from 2012 or 2013, websites like Centadata.com and GoHome.com.hk added saleable floor area beside gross floor area in every listing.