spc one square meter taipei_00023611.jpg
Which city has the most unaffordable housing prices?
03:01 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Where are the most expensive cities to buy a home?

New York City, London, Hong Kong, Monte Carlo are always the leading contenders.

But could there be another, less spoken of candidate, in the Far East?

By one measure at least, the Taiwanese capital of Taipei is home to one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the world.

Official government data places the ratio for housing prices to income in the city at 15.

“Hong Kong right now is about 14.5 or 14.8,” says Tony Chao, Managing Director, Jones Lang LaSalle Taiwan.

According to Demographia, a research group that uses a similar methodology as Taiwan’s central government to calculate housing price-to-income ratio around the world, London scores 8.5, New York 6.1 and Sydney 9.8.

Demographia’s own findings place Hong Kong at 17 this year.

Why so pricey?

Taipei’s housing market is unaffordable mainly because of stagnant average income levels, which have remained at roughly the same level for more than a decade.

taiwan graphic osm

“If you increase the income (in Taipei) by three times, then the ratio becomes 5, which becomes very healthy,” says Chao.

Another factor is the limited supply of land in the city, making it difficult to find space for new projects, including government housing.

Measuring just over 270 sq km (104 sq miles), “Taipei is kind of the smallest city in Asia Pacific,” says Chao. The city also offers freehold land for buyers making occupied land almost impossible to redevelop.

By comparison, Shanghai measures just over 6,300 sq km (2,432 sq miles), Singapore measures about 700 sq km (270 sq miles) and Bangkok measures around 1,500 sq km (579 sq miles).

But, that doesn’t mean the whole housing market is over priced.

Its luxury sector is quite a “bargain” when compared to other major metropolitan areas, explains Kai Chen, research director at Taiwan Sotheby’s International Realty.

A rich man’s game

For example, one high-end apartment represented by Taiwan Sotheby’s International Realty, measuring 600 sq meters (6,458 sq ft) and located a stone’s throw away from the Presidential Palace, costs $19 million.

A property of the same size in a prime location in New York would cost upwards of $60 million.

taipei osm garphics

Additionally, in 2009 the Taiwanese government cut inheritance tax rates from 50% to 10%, providing an incentive for high-net worth individuals who have made their wealth outside of Taiwan to look to the country to park their cash.

Thawing relations with China have also fueled expectations that this boom in the luxury sector will continue.

But all of this raises the important question: when will housing be affordable for the middle income families of Taipei?

Read: Can you identify the city from its blueprint?

Read: Architects plan skyscraper that casts no shadow