Laws against shoebox units won’t help

Mr Paul Chan, in his letter “Set minimum size for homes” (June 14), has good intentions but such a law would not help anyone.

We should let individuals decide if they prefer a small private apartment to, for instance, renting or buying a more spacious public flat.

Legislation to impose minimum standards is not always bad. It is often used in other settings to address undesirable outcomes of market forces.

For instance, some countries have laws for minimum wages and policies on overtime pay to curb exploitation of low-wage workers. We also have minimum standards in various industries to prevent consumers from being exploited or misled.

The spirit of such legislation is to protect those who cannot protect themselves. But a person or young couple who buys a shoebox apartment does so of their own will and with their own money.

They are not amongst the poor and have alternatives, such as buying or renting a public resale flat. If they choose an option some of us find hard to understand, that is no reason to remove that option by law.

The abundance of shoebox units provides an option for middle-class citizens, or permanent residents whose families live overseas, to own property instead of forking out for rental in the country they call home.

Allowing for more property ownership options empowers individuals because ownership accords more rights and stability than renting.

Yes, an abundance of cramped apartments is not ideal for a country that desires to be family-friendly. But this is due to market forces. Let us address the latter to ensure homes remain affordable and then let individuals make a choice, instead of imposing a law to deal with a symptom.

From Su Sicheng

Source : Today – 2012 Jun 18

Comments are closed.