In wealthy Hong Kong, there's a dark side to its packed housing market. Hundreds of thousands of people are forced to live in partitioned shoebox-sized apartments, "coffin" homes and other inadequate housing.

The rise in both rent and home prices in Hong Kong, one of Asia's wealthiest cities, forces thousands of people to live in inadequate housing. In this picture, Yeung Ying Biu sits partially inside the cage that he calls home.
The rise in both rent and home prices in Hong Kong, one of Asia's wealthiest cities, forces thousands of people to live in inadequate housing. In this picture, Yeung Ying Biu sits partially inside the cage that he calls home.

Hong Kong is one of the most highly populated places in the world. The population density in this semi-autonomous Chinese territory is 7,050 people per sq km.

Hong Kong is also a regional financial hub. In 2016, the city was home to a total of 1,379 regional business headquarters who operate beyond its borders.

Although the city houses many wealthy business people, home ownership is out of reach for a substantial number of residents.

Housing costs have been fuelled by easy credit thanks to ultra-low interest rates that policymakers can't raise because the currency is pegged to the dollar.
Housing costs have been fuelled by easy credit thanks to ultra-low interest rates that policymakers can't raise because the currency is pegged to the dollar.

For the seventh year in a row, the 13th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2017 named Hong Kong the world's most expensive housing market.

Li Suet-wen and her children are shown in their room crammed with a bunk bed, small couch, fridge, washing machine and small table in an ageing walk-up in Hong Kong. She pays $580 (HK$4,500) a month in rent and utilities. (AP)
Li Suet-wen and her children are shown in their room crammed with a bunk bed, small couch, fridge, washing machine and small table in an ageing walk-up in Hong Kong. She pays $580 (HK$4,500) a month in rent and utilities. (AP)

Hong Kong's private home prices rose 1.2 percent in May from April, according to an index compiled by the Chinese Rating and Valuation Department. That's an overall rise of more than 20 percent from May 2016.

Home prices have jumped 364 percent since 2003.

In 1997, one square metre of an average-sized apartment in Hong Kong would have cost $10,654, according to data from the Hong Kong Rating and Valuation Department.

The same amount of space cost roughly $17,852 last year.

Victoria Peak is Hong Kong's most exclusive neighbourhood as many luxury houses are built there. (AP)
Victoria Peak is Hong Kong's most exclusive neighbourhood as many luxury houses are built there. (AP)

Income inequality is at its highest level in over four decades in Hong Kong.

For many of the city's richest, home is a mansion with an expansive view from the heights of Victoria Peak. But for low-income earners, home is wherever they can find shelter. This might be a metal cage, or a cubicle.

Wong Tat-ming sits in his
Wong Tat-ming sits in his "coffin" home which is next to a set of grimy toilets in Hong Kong. He pays $310 (HK$2,400) a month for a compartment measuring three feet by six feet. (AP)

According to the Society for Community Organization, a social welfare group, some 100,000 people in the city live in what's known as inadequate housing.

Some of the subdivided units are so small that a person cannot even fully stretch their legs out. (AP)
Some of the subdivided units are so small that a person cannot even fully stretch their legs out. (AP)

Inadequate housing means cramped apartments, some of which are no bigger than a parking space. It also means apartments subdivided into tiny cubicles or filled with coffin-sized wood and metal sleeping compartments, as well as rooftop shacks.

The cages, stacked on top of each other, measure approximately 1.5 square metres. (AP)
The cages, stacked on top of each other, measure approximately 1.5 square metres. (AP)

Forced by skyrocketing housing prices to live in cramped, dirty and unsafe conditions, their plight challenged Hong Kong's former leader Leung Chun-ying.

Leung took office as Hong Kong's chief executive in 2012, pledging to provide more affordable housing.

Hong Kong's new leader Carrie Lam, who took over this month, has also said she is "very determined" to tackle the high cost of housing.

The house crisis helped fuel pro-democracy protests in 2014. (Reuters)
The house crisis helped fuel pro-democracy protests in 2014. (Reuters)

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, the city's former commissioner for poverty, said the government plans to free up land for public and private housing over the next 10 years.

"Property prices have always been a problem and still remain a problem that we need to tackle," he said.

But later, the government admitted it will likely fall short of meeting its housing supply target of building 460,000 flats in the next decade.

Author: Zeynep Sahin

Source: TRT World