Paying $1M for a Saigon 'tube house' just isn't worth it

By Minh Quan   May 29, 2023 | 10:21 pm PT
Paying $1M for a Saigon 'tube house' just isn't worth it
Tube houses on Bui Vien Street in HCMC's District 1 in 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
After dozens of years of living in the United States, my uncle decided to move back to Vietnam. He brought nearly US$300,000 for his plans to resettle in his homeland, but was shocked to hear the prices of a tube house in Saigon.

Tall and thin, Vietnam's tube houses, known as nha ong, were built to optimize space in crowded urban areas.

A three-story house in an alley near downtown Saigon with a total floor area of 140 square meters was introduced to him at the price of VND21 billion ($895,000).

If he sells all his assets in the U.S., with some help from his son, he can pay for it.

But "it’s not worth it," he said, "paying almost $1 million for a tube house."

He decided to move further to the outskirts, where he bought a large piece of land and built a house with a garden and a fish pond.

For dozens of years, the tube house has become a symbol of life in urban Vietnam. People in crowded cities accept living in these houses that often do not have enough space for proper rooms or to bring enough air and sunlight to the people inside.

I visited my friend who has a tube house and had to bend and contort myself just to use the restroom which was built under the stairs to make use of the space.

Many people still accept paying for tube houses as they are usually near a city center, but clearly, a price tag of nearly $1 million does not justify the living quality they provide.

Now the only way to end this unreasonable pricing for tube houses is to build a lot of roads to connect the inner city areas with the outlying districts. Once people have easy access to the city centers, they will be willing to move to the outskirts and live in more spacious houses.

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