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Despite growing demand in Ho Chi Minh City, supply of affordable apartments flatlines



Ho Chi Minh City has seen a nominal number of new affordable housing projects in the past five years, which has greatly frustrated the road to homeownership of the city’s up-and-coming young workforce.

As per Vietnamese law, social housing is put under strict regulations, where hopeful buyers must meet a score of criteria to become eligible for purchase.

Members of the general public are resting their best hopes on privately-developed affordable housing projects, yet the category is finding itself in a tight corner of the market, catching little interest from developers.

Fizzling supply

After the housing bust that haunted the domestic market from 2009 to 2013, Ho Chi Minh City and the surrounding locales observed a surge of housing projects from low- to mid-tier range, as 78 percent of the new housing projects in the area in 2017 were classified as B- or C-tier, according to a report from the real estate firm DKRA.

As per Vietnam’s Circular 31/2016, qualified apartment buildings are ranked in three tiers, with A signifies the highest standard, B the midpoint, and C the lowest possible, often associated with affordable housing projects.

However, in their report on the Ho Chi Minh City housing market in the third quarter of 2018, DKRA pointed out that supply of new C-tier apartments shrank to two percent.

By 2020, these numbers had almost gone to zero, while new high-priced units had dominated the market with 69 percent, the consulting firm said.

Meanwhile, the cost for the supposedly affordable housing units is rising over the typical workers’ heads, with the rate for an average C-tier unit going from VND16 million (US$700) per square meter to more than double that figure last year, which means a 15-20 percent increase per annum.

In the first three months of 2021, high- and mid-priced apartments were still seen taking over the market, while supply of affordable units remained scarce.

Buyers on a budget in Ho Chi Minh City are having a hard time finding listings at the price below VND35 million ($1,516) per square meter, as apartments in neighboring Binh Duong and Dong Nai Provinces have already soared to VND33-45 million ($1,429-1,949) per square meter.

A recent research of the Ho Chi Minh City Real Estate Association also confirmed the dominance of high-end housing projects, which covered 70 percent of the market, while mid-tier developments accounted for 25 percent.

Meanwhile, affordable housing only makes up one percent, or 163 projects, out of all housing projects in Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding areas that called for investments in 2020.

This proves an indication of the imbalanced development of the local real estate sector, which bodes a dubious future of unsustainability.

A house of 36 square meters wide that accommodates 10 people in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

An apartment of 36 square meters in area accommodates 10 people in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

The great hunt for homes

For the time being, the interest rate for private home loans, with no favorable conditions applied, floats at 10-11 percent per year.

At this rate, a loan of VND1 billion ($43,332) over a 10-year term would require VND200 million ($8,664) in compound interest per year.

In case of a future hike in interest rates, the total interest to be paid in 10 years could easily equate, even surpassing the initial loan amount.

Duc Minh, a father in Tan Phu District of Ho Chi Minh City, said a loan like above would require the combined income of his and his wife’s to reach at least VND30 million ($1,308) per month, as he still has to pay for food, schooling bills for his children, as well as saving for unexpected events.

“This is why we’ve been on the fence [about taking out the loan,] while the housing price is still skyrocketing,’ he said.

According to Minh, an apartment of 60 square meters in the outlying districts of Ho Chi Minh City would cost at least VND2 billion ($86,664), which is totally out of his financial capacity at this moment.

Khoi, a resident of Thu Duc City under Ho Chi Minh City, said he is scrambling to find an apartment in suburban districts with his budget of VND1.5 billion ($65,000).

“I feel like entering an unfair race between homebuyers and the market price. The rate always rises two or three times faster than I can save,” he stated.

Khoi attributed the phenomenon to the swing investors, who cram sales opening events of housing projects to buy and pump the price up, which will drive people with actual demands to find a place to leave the game.

Construction site of an apartment building project in Thu Duc City under Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

The construction site of an apartment building project in Thu Duc City under Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Manufactured hype

Last year’s skyrocketing cost of housing in Ho Chi Minh City can be accredited to developers’ choice to create supply scarcity, as well as a high demand for housing as investment property, which took up as much as 70-80 percent of units in new apartment projects.

On top of that, accompanying fees for land and legal procedures have pushed up real estate prices in the southern city, said Su Ngoc Khuong, senior director of investment at the real estate firm Savills.

Over the past three years, a real estate upswing in the southern metropolis has been recorded every year after the Lunar New Year holiday, which usually takes place in late January or early February.

“It’s just manufactured hype, as realistic transactions are very low,” said Pham Lam, deputy president of the Vietnam Association of Realtors.

“Real estate brokers are complaining as they have been facing struggles to sell for months.”

Regarding the recent real estate fevers, Lam pointed out that they all stem from insider reports of new master plans for development, which could drive prices of local land through the roof.

However, these information sources are usually manipulated by a powerful few, who seek to profit from the market mania on which they have the upper hand.

Lam also pointed out growth in idle money among Ho Chi Minh City citizens, as well as high hopes among speculators for the real estate market in a period of economic recovery, as reasons for the housing boom.

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Your Vietnam

General Giáp’s legendary words echo as health workers battle COVID-19 outbreak



Illustration by Trịnh Lập

by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

The latest COVID-19 outbreak has put Hà Nội’s National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in lockdown for 14 days from May 5. 

Since the first COVID-19 community case in this latest outbreak was found in Hà Nam Province on April 29, three days prior to a four-day national holiday, as of the time of writing on Thursday morning, the number of community cases hit 64 in just eight days.

New variants of the coronavirus from India and the UK have also been detected in Việt Nam. 

The actions of the country in recent days are reminiscent of the world-famous hand-written letters by General Võ Nguyên Giáp when he called on the advancing troops to race faster to Sài Gòn in 1975 and reunite Việt Nam.

Thần tốc, thần tốc hơn nữa,” which literally translates as “flashing speed and faster,” has encouraged today’s health officials and ordinary citizens alike to quickly track down the source and new COVID-19 cases in Hà Nam, Yên Bái, Đà Nẵng, Vĩnh Phúc, HCM City and Hà Nội. 

The country has been switched back on to alert mode to fight the coronavirus. 

A quick list of communities that have reported positive cases have been developed by Hà Nội’s Medical University’s Practice Hospital for you to check. 

After the four-day national holiday over the last weekend, health officials warned more coronavirus cases will spring up in the fortnight following the massive amount of people returning to work from beaches in Nha Trang, Vũng Tàu and Phú Quốc.

The haunting image of the news broadcast on national TV showed two identical pictures: one of people bathing in the Ganges River in India and the other of people enjoying the beaches in Việt Nam. Needless to say, the images were supposed to warn the public in Việt Nam to learn a lesson from the tragedy unfolding in India. 

Over the past week, prior to the holiday, Việt Nam’s Ambassador to India Phạm Sanh Châu wrote a heartfelt letter, regarding a young employee of the embassy in New Delhi, who had COVID-19 and was in a critical condition.

The eloquent letter not only told readers what was going on in India but also how the embassy has been coping with the situation and send signals to warn our fellow countrymen. 

As another wave of positive cases will be tracked down, there is a new list of banned activities to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, with fines ranging from VNĐ3 million (US$135) to VNĐ40 million ($1,800) and jail sentences ranging from seven years to life in prison. 

The Hà Nội People’s Committee reported it collected VNĐ300 million ($13,000) of fines over the holiday weekend from fines on people in public spaces without a facemask. 

The health chief officer in Lý Nhân District, Hà Nam Province has been suspended for lack of proper surveillance on a local resident during home quarantine. Provincial health officials in Yên Bái Province have been publicly warned for letting a COVID-19 patient get into close contact with a hotel employee and infecting them. Health Minister Nguyễn Thanh Long has also warned of positive cases within quarantine camps. 

The centralised COVID-19 quarantine period has even been extended to 21 days, a dramatic change from the previous two-week duration. This means possible positive cases will be less likely to leak into the community, but increases the risk those in quarantine may catch the virus, the health minister warned.

In Đà Nẵng, local community COVID-19 mobile teams, born out of the last outbreak in July 2020, have been switched onto active mode. Local teams will announce virus prevention measures on public loudspeakers in local green markets and visit people under home quarantine to check their temperature and health conditions and provide them with food. 

A3 plastic posters have been hung outside the residences of those under home quarantine to ward off unnecessary visits from neighbours and relatives, who have a heartwarming tradition of checking up on those who are sick.

An outsider may call this public shaming of those with the virus, but from a health point of view, this means people in quarantine don’t have to rudely tell well-wishers to go away, the poster does it for them. 

Under Vietnamese law, anyone who spreads a dangerous contagious disease to other people can be fined from VNĐ50 million ($2,270) to VNĐ200 million ($9,000) or be jailed for one to five years. 

Final exams at schools across the country have been scheduled, but students have been ordered to stay at home and study online. It remains to be seen if they will have to take the final exams online as well. 

A new fight with the coronavirus has begun at the country’s top centre for treating this disease, and the country’s newly-elected Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính faces a daunting task of sustaining the country’s safety and growth, which was done well by his predecessor, when great teamwork from the last cabinet kept Việt Nam and its citizens safe and healthy, slowly escaping the pandemic that has wrecked the world with immense human losses. VNS


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Your Vietnam

Spreading the word about the culture of wellness



Henri Hubert, ambassador for Global Wellness Day Vietnam

An ambassador for Global Wellness Day Vietnam since 2018, Henri Hubert, director of Le Nom Group, a visual communication agency, believes that good health and a good spirit can help convey the true beauty of life. 

Hubert speaks to Việt Nam News reporter Bồ Xuân Hiệp about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, spread love to the community, and work together for a healthy living environment amid the Covid-19 pandemic on the occasion of Global Wellness Day Vietnam on June 12.

Inner Sanctum: Could you tell us about the Global Wellness Day event? 

Global Wellness Day, a non-profit day event and a social project dedicated to living well, is organised on the second Saturday of June every year internationally. 

First held in 2012 in Turkey, the event has become popular worldwide. With the slogan “One day can change your whole life”, the event aims to help people start living well.

I think modern life is all about the hustle and bustle, making people rush to eat, hurry to work, meet deadlines and so on.

The pressure from work, family and life has caused people to suffer, for example, from depression, which affects millions of people worldwide.

People sometimes don’t remember the last time they breathed fresh air, ate a nutritious meal, or enjoyed a peaceful moment with their loved ones. 

When mentally tired and depressed, people tend to turn cold to everyone around them. Ask yourself, “How long has it been since you actively helped others?”

Do you realise how quickly the products you purchase are delivered to you? The convenience is accompanied by disposable plastic containers being discharged constantly into the environment, causing serious pollution, damaging humans’ health, and resulting in severe diseases. 

The cost of waste processing and medical treatment has become a serious social burden.

Recognising these problems, our mission at Global Wellness Day is to educate, support and empower people and the community so as to improve and maintain their overall health and well-being. 

By encouraging such healthy lifestyle choices, we want to promote a culture of wellness all across the Vietnamese community.

Our goal focuses on encouraging everyone to participate in the wellness programmes we are working hard on and have a long-term commitment not only to these events but also to a healthier lifestyle. 

More than 160 countries will be celebrating the Global Wellness Day with a range of activities on June 12.  

Inner Sanctum: How can we maintain health amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected us both mentally and physically because of travel restrictions and lockdown measures? 

It is absolutely natural for any of us to feel stressed, anxious and lonely during this time. The World Health Organization (WHO) said the consequences of Covid-19 on our mental, physical and psychological well-being have been very negative.

Physical health and mental health are inseparable. Together they form a balance that represents a person’s general state of health. According to the WHO, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and is not just the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Mental health is therefore the basis of an individual’s well-being and will fundamentally determine a person’s ability to function and deal with the problems of everyday life. Mental health also depends a lot on a person’s physical state of health, and vice versa.

It is important to recognise the value of our lives, pause and think, be free from the stress of city life and bad habits, make peace with ourselves, raise awareness about living well, and increase motivation.

Inner Sanctum: What wellness recommendations would you like to spread to the community?

I believe true beauty is rooted in the way we live and think and a healthy body.

As you may have noticed, people seem to take care of themselves only when they are really sick, or when they think they are losing or gaining weight. It’s almost a default of the human race. However, precautionary measures are absolutely necessary.

On how to take care of oneself, I personally think the mind is the basis, so maybe you should try to surround yourself with positive people who always have a smile on their face and get rid of stress as well as the people who cause it. 

In my view, big ideas really stem from the smallest actions. Long-term habits for us to live better must be done step by step. 

Let’s adopt simple activities every day to maintain a good lifestyle and protect the environment such as walking for an hour, drinking more water, avoiding plastic bottles, eating healthy food, doing a good deed, having dinner with your loved ones, and going to bed early. 

The most important thing is self-discipline. We all know what to do. Talking is easy, but committing is another story. It all boils down to what you actually do for yourself.

This year, we have an elaborate programme in Việt Nam. We have planned a range of activities, including dinners, lunches, meetings, workshops, and physical and intellectual activities prior to the official event on June 12. 

We will continue our activities until December with the focus on the Wellness Gala Dinner. 

Inner Sanctum: What should be done to raise people’s awareness about well-being amid the pandemic?

It is interesting how the pandemic, a heartbreaking disaster, has been creating a sense of urgency around the world, and thus increasing the need for awareness of well-being.

Wellness insiders, donors and healthcare workers around the world are trying to improve the effectiveness of communication, raising public awareness and educating people about wellness-related issues. 

We need help from everyone and every institution, including families, schools and companies, especially the media and advertising campaigns.

As the workload is colossal, it will be necessary to form teams or units with specialists and responsible people who can work together to strengthen public awareness and training campaigns. 

I think they can design a space, for example, a website where they can share the results, their experiences and perspectives. The site can be used to pool resources allocated for scientific research or initiatives to raise awareness, and to build knowledge based on what works and what doesn’t.

The team can work together to create communication standards, public awareness assessment, and training in welfare-related topics.  VNS 


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Your Vietnam

Japanese artist’s ‘Element and Release’ exhibit opens at L’Usine



Japanese artist Yohei Yama displays his new paintings at his solo exhibition “Element and Release”, at L’Usine until June 27. Photo from the organiser’s Facebook page

HCM CITY — Japanese artist Yohei Yama’s solo exhibition “Element and Release” has opened at L’Usine in HCM City.

Yama takes inspiration from scientific facts and the logical order of the universe to create swirling and inconsistent circles of tiny trees for his works, reflecting the unevenness of nature.

Yama is known for paintings with layers of lines, colour and patterns. His works are inspired by nature, spinning the waves of the cosmos and weaving together the rhythm of natural forces.

Yama worked as a photographer before he began painting at the age of 26. He has held more than 30 solo and group exhibitions in Japan, France and Việt Nam.

The “Element and Release” exhibition is open until June 27. The venue is at 19 Lê Thánh Tôn Street in District 1. — VNS


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