Imagine living in a shoe box
FORGET THE ABSTRACT STATISTICS ABOUT URBAN OVERCROWDING: THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
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.’ Soco.org.hk
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.