Imag­ine liv­ing in a shoe box


Marie Claire (South Africa) - - BULLETIN -

when you think of crowded cities, the first im­age that comes to mind is one of bustling streets, packed trains and con­gested side­walks. Less ob­vi­ous are the pri­vate spa­ces: where do all those people go? Where do they con­sider home? For many people in Hong Kong, the an­swer is a minis­cule cu­bi­cle in one of the city’s ur­ban slums. Some of these apart­ments are only a few me­tres squared, for whole fam­i­lies to live in. Other people sub­sist in ‘caged hous­ing’ (a bunk bed-sized space sur­rounded by a metal cage), wait­ing on in­tractable lists for of­fi­cial hous­ing.

‘Hong Kong is re­garded as one of the rich­est cities in the world; how­ever, lurk­ing be­neath this pros­per­ity is also ex­treme poverty. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of people still live in caged homes and wood­par­ti­tioned cu­bi­cles,’ said Ho Hei-wah, the di­rec­tor

of Hong Kong-based ad­vo­cacy group So­ci­ety for Com­mu­nity Or­ga­ni­za­tion (SoCO). SoCO doc­u­mented these liv­ing con­di­tions to draw at­ten­tion to the sti­fling re­al­i­ties of the city’s high pop­u­la­tion den­sity and grow­ing wealth in­equal­ity. The pho­tos had to be taken from an aerial view to cap­ture the rooms, which are al­most as high as they are wide (the small­est apart­ment pho­tographed was 2,6 square me­tres). Ver­ti­cal space is metic­u­lously ac­counted for: rick­ety piles of be­long­ings al­low a lit­tle more space; the aerial view por­trays the claus­tro­pho­bia of the tiny rooms.

With a pop­u­la­tion of seven mil­lion, Hong Kong is one of the most densely pop­u­lated cities in the world (over 6 620 people for ev­ery square kilo­me­tre). But ur­ban over­crowd­ing is a global cri­sis. Over half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion now live in me­gac­i­ties, and the UN projects that this will soon reach 70 per cent. As people flock to cities in the hope of bet­ter eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties, rents sky­rocket while the avail­able space shrinks. ‘These people have to af­ford an ex­pen­sive rent rate,’ Hei-wah said. ‘It equals to ap­prox­i­mately £6-7,50 (over R106) per square foot per month and some­times have to wait years for pub­lic rental hous­ing be­cause there are so few in Hong Kong.’

Some of these apart­ments are only a few me­tres squared, for whole fam­i­lies to live in

Res­i­dents of high-rise apart­ment blocks ex­ist in cramped and crowded con­di­tions. Over 100 000 el­derly in­di­vid­u­als and other so­cially vul­ner­a­ble groups, un­able to af­ford ad­e­quate homes, live in tiny rooms.

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