Reaping the benefits of shrinking living space in Manila

May 8, 2012 / By

It used to be unthinkable for a middle class household to acquire a 40 sq m residential-condominium unit for a family of four. Small units used to be only an alternative for single occupants. However, shrinking living space has developed as a consequence of the continuous real estate development caused by the rise in condominium selling prices. This is especially evident in the vicinity of the premier business districts of Makati CBD, Bonifacio Global City and Ortigas CBD. From 2005-2011, capital values for residential condominiums increased by as much as 50% in these districts. Hence, the allowable development density is ideally maximised at the present time to accommodate the most homebuyers possible, particularly in the districts within Metro Manila. Here, the busy lifestyle of many citizens in premier business districts has tended to sanction the home as a sleeping area.

Prior to 2005, residential-condominium living spaces were larger. Subsequently, units have shrunk by as much as 50% of their previous average sizes in newer residential projects.

Table 1. Average Unit Sizes of Condominiums in Metro Manila (in sqm)

Source: Jones Lang LaSalle Leechiu Research & Consulting

Smaller units are practical options for middle-class families, as they are strategically located in condominium projects relatively close to business districts, allowing for shorter travel time from home to work. These residential projects are also conveniently situated near support facilities such as shopping centres, restaurants, schools and transport terminals. Moreover, smaller unit offerings are generally affordable.

According to the Philippine Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), a single-occupancy condominium unit may be as small as 12sqm if it is in a highly urbanised area, while a family-dwelling unit may have only 36sqm, the minimum for open-market condominiums. While effective layout design can make a small space seem large, a family living within the confines of that small space will naturally develop the urge to go out of the unit for family bonding. They dine out, shop, watch movies or simply lounge around together in the condominium-amenities area.

Retail is now commonly offered as a component of residential condominiums, much like office buildings, mainly to service the requirements of its occupants. A condominium with an average occupancy level of 80% will normally have a retail offering that likewise enjoys healthy foot traffic. Developers who plan their developments in a way that joins residential condominiums with multi-level retail centres provide their retail tenants with a major catchment market comprising the condominium’s residents.

In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, housing units are increasingly being viewed as only sleeping areas. However, as we seek to balance our work and home life, we set aside time for bonding with our family and friends. To achieve this we tend to venture out of our small living spaces and ultimately fuel the retail operations of nearby developments.

Ultimately, shrinking living units present a win-win scenario for both residential-condominium developers and buyers. The upside for homebuyers is convenience and affordability, while for developers it is maximised sales volume and additional income generated from retail operations.

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