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Housing around the World

I love exploring the world via Google Earth, Street View, and various websites, doing case studies, reviewing countries and comparison, paying most attention to living conditions, real estate market, housing and apartment buildings, infrastructure and public transport.

world cities

Greatest Cities in the World

– ONE city per country, is not mandatory to be the capital or the largest city.
– City should have at least 1 million people, never mind of Venice.
– Should be taken in consideration as many points is possible, but biggest point is for the living conditions. This ranking is like “Best cities to LIVE” not “Best cities to VISIT (as tourist)”.
– The ranking is not related with the photos. I just added one random landmark photo for each city.

United States suburban homes

Housing in North America

United States is a country of contrasts. Skyscrapers in downtown and low-density landed houses in suburbs. Despite of being one of the wealthiest countries of the world and having one of the highest costs of living in the world, American face income inequality and many living under poverty line. This article is valid at some extent for Canada, Australia and New Zeeland too.

According Greenlivingpedia, average sizes of NEW homes as 201.5 sqm in USA (average detached home 217.8 sqm), and 214.6 sqm in Australia (average detached home 245.3 sqm). What is unclear is if these numbers include garage area.


Housing in North Korea (and life inside country)

North Korea is an interesting country for being full of mysteries. It is the most isolated country in the world and most of information comes from government media, tourists and defectors, which contradicts each other. All articles about North Korea found on internet have less or more degree of inaccuracy, including my own article.

North Korea is widely considered as the worst place to live. In reality, it is not that worse, living there is just… different than the rest of world. North Koreans have no contact with outer world and live happily as long they do what the Supreme Leader wants and obey stupid laws, brainwashed by government that their country is the best on earth. While the industry is lagging several decades behind rest of world, the population is one of the most educated in the world, reaching a level of order and discipline that should be example for any citizen in the outer world.

At first impression, North Korea looks a developed country, with high literacy rate, beautiful architecture and well-planned cities, but actually it is one of the poorest countries in the world, and the single highly educated country suffering by famine. The economy started rising again in 2000s, but most of money goes to political elite and their nuclear program, while population suffer from malnutrition.

South Korea apartments

Housing in South Korea

South Korea may be one of the best places to live, being one of the most developed countries in the world, one of the world’s fastest growing economies from 1970s to 1990s, one of the most equilibrated income of the world. South Korea overtook Japan in some ways. I love South Korea more than Japan mostly because of architecture and apartment complexes, the Japanese cities having too many landed houses.

More than half of South Koreans live in massive of apartment blocks, private developers built distinct complexes but with identical buildings arranged in grid all around the city. South Korean society emphasizes the family, not the community, and the apartment design reflect that. Korean developers pay attention to offering best living conditions instead of maximizing their own profits. Apartment blocks are usually 15 to 30 floors and large open spaces between them, not crowded by developers hungry for profit like in other countries. All units come with floor heating and high-tech fittings (details below). People hate the appearance of the apartment complex, but love to live in an apartment unit in that complex.

Hong Kong

Housing in Hong Kong & Macao

Hong Kong is the most vertical city in the world according Emporis Skyline Ranking, beating cities like New York, Singapore, or Sao Paulo in the number of high-rises (with over 12 storeys) or skyscrapers (over 100 and 150 meters in height), also beats all records of proportion of population living above any given storey number, but it has been recently defeated by Dubai in terms of supertalls (over 300 meters).

The massiveness of skyscrapers contrasts with the extremely small apartments, typical size is 35-45 sqm for 3-room and 50-60 sqm for 4-room. 3-room is most common apartment type, but today there are more 4-room under construction. Same for Macau too. Minimum ceiling height is 2.5 meters.

Once you leave Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, you enter in a very different world. New Territories include few “New Towns” less dense, but still with massive apartment towers. Unlike Singapore which is fully urbanized, HongKong also have rural areas, low-density village houses in New Territories, that foreigners call them “slums”. Hong Kong have lots of nature, scenic roads, forest walks, hiking trails, etc.

Price of typical, 50 sqm apartments vary from 2 million HKD (250,000 USD) in New Territories to over 6 million HKD in Hong Kong Island, even higher prices in Mid-Levels.

Norway housing

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.


Housing in Singapore

The greatest thing of Singapore is the public housing, built by Housing and Development Board, it is the home for 80% of Singaporeans, from low to middle class (the peak was 87% in 1988-1990). Unlike other countries where public housing is mostly rental, HDB public housing is mostly “sold”, helping Singapore to have the highest home ownership ratio in the world: 91%, but the home ownership is actually a 99 years lease to “owners”.

Typical, 100 sq m HDB apartments, are sold on resale market at prices from 400,000 SGD (320,000 USD) at island outskirts to 700,000 SGD (560,000 USD) in Queenstown, as 2013 bubble peak, doubled since 2007 due to undersupply. New HDB apartments are subsided at 20-30% less than market prices, with additional grants for first timers and low-income people.

The remaining 20% of housing stock is composed by private apartments, condos, landed houses and traditional shophouses.

Bangsar Malaysia

Housing in Malaysia

Malaysia have a total of 7,346,910 housing units, of which Detached 2,416,210, Semi-detached 528,408, Terrace/link 2,570,317, Townhouse 32,682, Cluster 63,345, Flat 744,187, Apartment or condominium 716,729, few more housing types do exist (as 2010). Home ownership ratio 72.5%.

Skyscrapers in Tokyo

Housing in Japan

Japan is one of the best places to live, the economy boomed after World War II but since 1990s the rising was very slow, it is still one of the most advanced economies in the world, highest standard of living, where everything run as it should, BUT… Japan is also one of the ugliest of all developed countries. They simply suck at architecture and urban planning. Except the downtown with skyscrapers, Tokyo skyline is dominated by ugly dense buildings and lots of cables hanging on streets.

Housing in Latin America

Latin America have a wide variety of housing, from luxury apartment towers to slums, sometimes next to each other. “Verticalization” is a symbol of progress, real estate developers are building numerous apartment towers aimed to middle class, at same time there is massive deficit of affordable housing. Favelas (slums) are home for 30% of Brazil population, some being built on mountain side and overlooking the waterfront crowded with luxury apartment towers for ultra-rich people. Although certain countries have high human development index, the income inequality is huge, high number of people living in poverty generate high crime rate.

Metro Manila

Housing in Philippines

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.

Many people are living in slums, of the rest who have legal land titles, many built houses that still looks like slums. In downtown Manila every unused piece of land get occupied by informal settlers, river beds are also heavily built, people living above highly polluted water and in danger of flooding.


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!

In my opinion, 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). For years it was a ghost city with slow selling apartments due to high prices and difficult mortgages.

Housing in India

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).

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.

Viaduct in Puxi Shanghai

Housing in China

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).

Since 2000s number of high-rise buildings increased rapidly, residential towers 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.

Ho Chi Minh City houses

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”.

Timeline of tallest buildings

Tallest buildings in the world

Philadelphia City Hall (1901), Singer Building (1908), Metropolitan Life Tower (1909), Woolworth Building (1913), Equitable Building (1915), Bank of Manhattan Trust Building (1930), Chrysler Building (1930), Empire State Building (1931), World Trade Center (1971), Sears Tower (1973), CN Tower (1976), Petronas Towers (1998), Taipei 101 (2004), Shanghai World Financial Center (2008), Burj Khalifa (2010), Jeddah Tower (under construction).