Opening fashion boutiques, cafés, and restaurants in old apartment buildings may be a trendy more for an up-and-coming entrepreneur in Ho Chi Minh City, but for residents neighboring these condo shops it is a terrifying prospect.
Though the trend already exists in Hanoi, the administration in the Vietnamese capital requested earlier this week that people stop transforming their apartments into non-residential spaces.
Looking to their counterparts in Hanoi, apartment tenants in Ho Chi Minh City are anticipating the local administration will soon enact a similar ban.
In the southern metropolis locals searching for clothing, dining, and even spa and sauna bathing, can frequent any of the dozens of deteriorating apartment buildings that have been transformed to serve the area’s shopping needs.
One of the most famous apartment-turned-business venues in Saigon is the condo building at 42 Nguyen Hue Street flanking the popular walking street in the city’s downtown area.
Only 20 residential tenants still reside in the decades-old building, with most of the apartment units leased to shop and café owners.
Though consumers welcome the business, the growing number of clients frequenting these venues means nothing but nuisance for the ‘real’ apartment residents.
V.N., who rents an apartment on the fourth floor, voiced her annoyance with sharing the building’s only elevator with shop customers.
“There are times when I have to walk four floors to my unit because there is a crowd queuing for the lift,” she said.
For N., an apartment building should never be turned into “something like a supermarket.”
“Who will be responsible when there is a fire?” she questioned.
Another tenant, N.T.D., an eighth floor resident in the building, said she cannot stand the noise caused by customers in the eateries and cafés in the building.
“The shops do not close until 11:00 pm, and the building is extremely noisy on weekends,” she says.
D. also fears the security situation in the building.
“It used to be much easier to oversee the building when there were only residential tenants,” she said. “Now that there is always a sea of people coming and going, it is impossible to ensure security.”
At a condo building on nearby Ton That Thiep Street, the situation is no different. Residents here are concerned over the threat of fire, especially since the building already caught a blaze once this year.
While the ban on running business inside apartment buildings in Hanoi is hugely supported by tenants in Ho Chi Minh City, business owners in the capital are not happy at all.
It is much cheaper to rent an apartment to open a shop than street-front premises, and not all shop-in-condo buildings are unsafe, they said.
A 40-square-meter apartment unit at 42 Nguyen Hue is available for rent at VND15 million (US$670) a month, while a storefront in the same area in District 1 fetches at least VND40 million ($1,786).
Tran Cong Bay, a fashion shop owner in an apartment in Hanoi, said it is unfair to get rid of the whole barrel just because of some bad apples.
Bay said he is running his business from his own apartment unit and poses no threat to the whole building, as “most of the business is done via Internet and phone transaction.”
Other business owners suggest that authorities only force businesses with a high risk of fire and explosion to move from residential buildings.