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Manteca’s houses dwarf Hong Kong’s

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HOME, SMALL, HOME

Tony Lam, right, and his co-worker Kei Chan worked through the Salvation Army to lend a helping hand to Chinese senior citizens Mr. and Mrs. Lee in sprucing up their small apartment working on thei...

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POSTED January 23, 2014 1:28 a.m.

Editor’s note:  Tony Lam graduated from Sierra High School some 10 years ago and is now working as a real estate professional in Hong Kong.  While a high school student he worked part time at Kahl Photography Studio assisting in wedding assignments and was a charter member of the Manteca Rotary Interact Club.



While the average size of new homes in Manteca is increasing per Dennis Wyatt’s recent article “New Manteca homes regain square footage,” a more humbling kind of living environment more than 8,000 miles across the Pacific reminds us how fortunate we are to have comfortable living environments in the Central Valley.

As for the real estate market here, I am doing corporate consulting which in a nutshell means that corporations such as B of A, Citi, and HP outsource their real estate functions to firms like the one I work for in Hong Kong.  For example, B of A may have a portfolio or real estate that they lease or own in a city and we will help them formulate strategies so that they know exactly what is the best course of action once a building comes up for renewal.  Some of my colleagues get paid by commission but, on the consulting/strategy side, we are typically paid on a salary basis.  Although salary here is definitely lower than in the U.S., the tax is lower as well, so it works out to be about the same.

The real estate market here in China is all about speculation where investors purchase not based on expected cash flow from their investment, but they purchase based on what they think the capital appreciation will be when they sell.

It was the year 1992.  My earliest memory of Manteca was when my cousins and I roamed around barefoot on the soft grass of Quail Ridge Park on Mission Ridge Drive.  Having immigrated from the large, high density metropolis of Hong Kong, where my family of six shared a 600-square-foot flat, Manteca was a dream come true.  Moving to Manteca meant that we traded our small flat in Hong Kong for a large four bedroom, 2,000-square-foot, single family residence with our very own large backyard. 

That was more than 20 years ago.  I moved back to Hong Kong in 2011 expecting that living conditions would have improved since my childhood.  However, I was surprised to find that conditions have actually gotten worse.  This past weekend, my company, CBRE, in partnership with the Salvation Army helped clean homes of the elderly who have limited mobility in the Shum Shui Bo district of Hong Kong.

My colleague and I met an elderly couple in their mid-80s living in a 300-square-foot studio apartment.  Most of the apartment was taken up by furniture.  This left just barely enough free space for two people to walk around without having to bump into one another.  The one thing that I observed was that there was only one single bed near the window which probably meant that while one person sleeps on the bed at night, the other would have to sleep on the couch.  The realization that an elderly couple in their 80s cannot lie down in the same bed because there is not enough room is concerning.

With housing prices that are higher than New York’s low income households often reside, in something called micro units, described as one and two bedroom apartments that are further divided into three to four individual units that are less than 90 square feet each in size.  Aside from the obvious density issue, micro units also present a fire hazard as electrical wires are often manipulated to support the additional power usage of additional units.

While the Hong Kong government has pledged to address the housing problem by increasing housing supply of residential flats every year by 40 percent, it remains to be seen whether living conditions will improve.

Having lived in a micro unit in Hong Kong myself since moving back, I can’t help but appreciate my wonderful childhood memories of playing kickball in the large open grassy fields of Nile Garden Elementary School.  A simple park, such as Cotta Park, that I use to drive by on a daily basis, is now something that I realize I should not have taken for granted.

Even though I’m thousands of miles away, I’ve been trying my best to stay updated on the latest news in Manteca via the Manteca Bulletin website.  It looks like there will be a big business park coming soon in the southeast side of town.

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