By Andrew Batt:

In some parts of Southeast Asia, they’ve been described as “almost inhuman”, yet elsewhere they’re being marketed as “a new trend for city living”. Shoebox units, micro units, - however you know them – smaller-sized condominium units are here to stay.
In Singapore, this property class has come under the spotlight and has generated much in the way of media coverage, but shoeboxes are not unique to the city state. The discussion in the city-state was reignited several months ago when Liew Mun Leong, Chief Executive Officer of Southeast Asia's largest developer CapitaLand, described the minute dwellings as “almost inhuman”.
In contrast, the Managing Director of one listed Thai developer has gone on record to sing the praises of what he describes as a new trend for major cities around the world. Thongchai Busrapan of Noble Development also revealed how sizes of condominiums in his company’s projects have plunged from 78 sq m for a one-bedder 10 years ago to as low as 25 sq m now.
I’ve personally squeezed into a number of 22 sq m show units in a number of Southeast Asian cities, and that’s something that I would suggest that you avoid doing if you’re in any way claustrophobic. But demand is there. Several Thai developers have made their name in developing ‘build ‘em small, sell ‘em cheap’ condominiums – and have been rewarded with 1,000 sales in just a matter of hours of launching.
Regardless of the fact that Thais are buying micro units in their thousands, for developers it makes financial sense. Land prices and construction costs have all been rising so launching smaller units does impact the bottom line.
Back to Singapore, and in response to the growing number of shoeboxes being developed, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, concerned at the trend, will introduce restrictions outside the city area on November 4 that will control the size of units that can be developed. Such restrictions are already in place in Thailand.
Aliwassa Pathnadabutr, Managing Director of CBRE Thailand, told “Although the smallest condominium size permissible under Thai law is 20 sq m, CBRE Thailand believes this is unlikely to become the typical size of a studio or one-bedroom unit. Such small units are designed for those buyers who want to live close to the city centre with convenient access to a BTS or MRT station, but who have a limited budget. Developers therefore would have to be creative when designing the layouts of these units so that they are efficient and functional, and meet the target buyers’ living requirements.”
Living in a 25 sq m space, even if it’s a five-minute walk from a mass transit station, in one of 483 units in a 38-storey Bangkok development might not be your idea of property paradise. At THB 2.6 million (S$103,242), and in some cases more, it’s not cheap either, but for some property buyers it’s exactly what they’re looking for.