by Angela Cheung, Richelia Yeung, Winnie Ngai
The Census and Statistics Department figures show that there were approximately 200,000 people living in 88,000 subdivided units in 2015.
In the same year, Chinese University of Hong Kong polled 66 families in subdivided flats. Their average per capita living space was 47.8 square feet. Compared with the previous year, the result was down by nearly 30 percent. Individual tenants in these subdivided flats tenant occupied an area that was 25 square feet less than the minimum in public rental accommodations.
“My room is just a bed and a very little space,” said Emmi Salo, an exchange student at the City University of Hong Kong. She has been living in Apple Dorm, a new form of subdivided flat since August.
Salo said that security and hygiene were her concerns in the room which is less than 100 square feet.
“My door cannot lock. So I feel like anyone can break into my room easily,” she said.
Salo also complained that the living environment in Hong Kong is not as clean as her hometown in Finland. “I guess people have different standards for hygiene.”
Mr. Lu ( who did not want to give his real name) owns a property agency that rents out the Apple Dorms to students. He. said that the living environment of cage homes is worse than original apartments because it is shared by many tenants in a limited space.
“Many of the stand-alone apartments are divided into four or five units,” he explained.
Lu believes such environment would create psychological stress on residents in the long term.
But tenants often have no choice because subdivided flats are all they can afford.
For HKD$3200 a month, Salo said the rent of the mini flat she lives is comparatively lower than other flats in Hong Kong. An apartment unit of a similar size in tenement house costs
“The transport facilities in Sham Shui Po is convenient,” said Lu. He explains that many subdivided flats tenants are working in the service sector, living downtown could save their travelling time and transportation cost.
The supply of subdivided flats skyrocketed in recent years, according to Dr Leung Hon-chu, at the Department of Sociology at Hong Kong Baptist University. High rental for en suite apartments and the long wait for public housing, he said, are the causes.
Leung said the insufficient supply of public housing cannot meet the soaring demand in the society.
“Subdivided flats is the only choice for poor social groups as a temporary shelter,” he added.
In order to help the underprivileged people get into decent homes, Dr. Leung suggests the government and non-governmental organisations can help.
“The NGOs can help the poor people to voice their concerns to the government,” he said. He suggests the non-profit organizations could bridge between the two extreme political parties in Hong Kong – the democrats and the pro-establishment camp.
Leung also mentioned the lack of land is the biggest challenge faced by the Housing Authority on the construction of public housings.
“Effective land use planning is needed for the government in the moment,” he said.
360° Subdivided Flats – Apple Dorm