How one Shanghai operator is disrupting rental markets

Harbour Apartments is building units for the "sociable millennial"

New York Weekend Edition /
Oct.October 14, 2017 10:05 AM

Harbour Apartments’ chief executive and founder Huang Haibin has a vision for Chinese cities’ rental markets and it involves an unsuspecting typology you could be forgiven for thinking you’d graduated from — the dormitory.

Harbour’s approach is to refurbish old buildings into “co-living” suites, glammed up dorms that share amenities in common areas, rent for between $90 and $3,000 per month, according to the South China Morning Post. The dorms are aimed at the “sociable millennial” who’s making bank, but can’t afford to buy their own home.

Since 2015 when Huang started the firm, Harbour’s portfolio has expanded to 24 buildings in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou with an average occupancy rate of about 96 percent. Thanks to a recent cash injection of about $60 million from Hong Kong-based Gaw Capital Partners, the firm has set its sights on creating 20,000 new units and expanding into Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Xiamen by the end of the year; Huang wants to have 80,000 rental units built by 2019.

Huang’s strategy speaks to a larger expectation among developers that China’s rental housing market’s value is growing, in large part due to the government’s favorable zoning laws allowing commercial and rural land to be converted into residential rental developments.

Beyond bringing the dormitory back in style, Harbour is also re-imagining the rental process.

“In Hong Kong, most people still rent flats through property agents, but we say ‘why do you need them any more, and why pay commission?’” said Huang to SCMP. Harbour tenants can rent their room online — or in cash — and an access password is sent to their phones to allow them to enter their room. Renting an apartment should be “as easy as ordering home-delivery food,” according to Huang.

[South China Morning Post] — E.K. Hudson


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