Smaller flats on VN’s new-building agenda, but concerns remain

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For commercial housing projects in Vietnam, the proportion of apartments with an area of less than 45sqm should not exceed 25 per cent of the total number of apartments in the project. THANHNIEN.VN/VIET NAM NEWS

The Vietnamese Ministry of Construction will continue to limit the floor-area of new apartments to no less than 25sqm, according to a new circular on technical regulations for apartment buildings.

The regulations are a part of the ministry’s Circular No 03/2021/TT-BXD on national technical regulations on apartment buildings (QCVN 04:2021/BXD) that took effect from July 5 and replaced Circular No 21/2019/TT-BXD.

In both the new and old circulars, the ministry has stipulated that the minimum usable area of an apartment in housing projects is not less than 25sqm.

In addition, for commercial housing projects, the proportion of apartments with an area of less than 45sqm should not exceed 25 per cent of the total number of apartments in the project.

Ho Chi Minh City Real Estate Association chairman Le Hoang Chau said small-scale apartments in any high-end, mid-end or affordable housing project have the lowest total cost compared to other apartment sizes.

The price of a high-end housing project is about 45 million dong ($1,950) per sqm, so the price of a small apartment with an area of about 30sqm in this project is only 1.35 billion dong. Young people just starting work can afford these, Chau said.

Meanwhile, affordable apartments with a price of 25 million dong per sqm have a value of 750 million dong. That is a very affordable price, meeting the needs of many people, he said.

Hoang Anh Saigon Co director-general Doan Chi Thanh says this is good news for business.

In a housing project, small apartments are often purchased due to their lower purchase price compared to large-area apartments.

However, there is not a big enough supply of small apartments to meet demand due to the limited number of small apartments in new development projects.

This pushes up the per-sqm price of this market segment roughly five-to-10 per cent more than of large-area apartments. Many projects, as a result, have small-area apartments with a price of 40-50 million dong per sqm.

Many experts believe that a 25sqm apartment is not the answer to the problem of a lack of housing for low-income people in urban areas.

The price for this kind of apartment is still far beyond the reach of many people.

Architect Ngo Viet Nam Son said many countries have regulations on small apartments with the minimum being a 21sqm flat in China, 24sqm flat in the Philippines and 27sqm flat in the UK.

Small apartments have a bedroom, living room, kitchen and one toilet. These apartments are built for just one person.

That said, these countries also have very specific regulations for this type of apartment, including the criterion that only one person can live there, Son said.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has regulations that allow the construction of a 25sqm apartment, but does not yet have specific regulations on limiting the number of people living in that apartment.

Small apartments can accommodate one or two people and even a family of three. This puts pressure on social infrastructure and transport, he said.

Savills Vietnam research director Do Thu Hang said that depending on the scale of the project, small apartments will create pressure in terms of overall operation. This includes demand for electricity, water, waste treatment, fire prevention or the need to use common utilities.

The 25sqm “micro” apartment also poses a challenge in terms of managing the number of people living in the apartments, with security and public safety.

The planning approval by the competent state agency must also have important criteria, Chau said. Including land use, construction density, the number of floors and especially the population of the project.

Chau also notes that the management and operation of the apartment management board also plays a direct role, contributing to limiting negative impacts on infrastructure.