The Ho Chi Minh City Construction Department shut down several sleep box units for fire, explosion and other safety hazards after inspecting 58 facilities providing some 2,165 sleep box rentals.
The Department of Construction said its inspection found the southern metropolis had 67 separate houses that rent out tiny living quarters, just big enough for a bed, known as “sleep boxes.”
However, authorities have only managed to evaluate 58 facilities with around 2,200 sleep boxes, while the other nine facilities were closed down by their owners, preventing official personnel from entering and evaluating them.
Sleep boxes originated decades ago as a service at airports providing space for people to rest and pass time in, for a fee, between flights.
But since 2021, the human-sized cubby holes have become a form of urban living space in Ho Chi Minh City, where low-income earners such as students and workers have begun to rent them at low prices as their primary living space in the city.
But regulating and managing the tiny dugouts has been difficult for authorities as there are currently no existing fire or safety standards for such accommodations in city settings.
Sleep box facilities are usually located near universities and in outlying districts to attract students and workers.
The largest number of sleep boxes in HCMC are found in Go Vap District, where 15 facilities harbor 474 sleep boxes. Next is Phu Nhuan District, which is home to nine houses that provide 335 sleep boxes, and Binh Thanh District where six facilities rent out 243 boxes. Each box spans 2-2.2 m in width and costs about VND1.8-2 million per month to rent.
The department said the model encourages too many people to live in too small a space, and in too close a proximity to one another, creating a situation that does not satisfy any kind of fire safety criteria. As such, the department has proposed that municipal authorities instruct districts to evaluate such facilities and ensure safety.
A representative from the Go Vap District police said authorities have fined and forced the dismantling of a 13-story house and two cafes that had been converted into sleep box facilities. At the point of the check, the facilities had divided the spaces using plastic and wood, and their electrical systems were deemed not safe enough. Dozens of motorbikes were also parked on the first floors without proper fire safety measures.
Following their dismantling, the police will re-evaluate any re-constructed properties to see if certain criteria have been met.
“The unit will continue to re-evaluate sleep box locations to prevent [unsafe ones] from sprouting back up,” the representative said.
Dang Minh Nguyen, vice chairman of the Binh Thanh District People’s Committee, said that since mid-October, the district has forced 42 sleep box rental houses, stuffed with hundreds of boxes, to be dismantled. He also said the owners of houses with big enough rooms only need to remove their sleep box dividers and add fire safety equipment in order to rent them out again.
But some facilities were built with original rooms too small to meet standards, in which case demolition is necessary, according to Nguyen.
Source: VN Express