Web Exclusive: Apartments the size of a king-size bed housing people in Hong Kong

Web Exclusive: Apartments the size of a king-size bed housing people in Hong Kong

(CNN) - Can you imagine living in a home not much bigger than a king sized bed?  It is reality for over 170,000 people in Hong Kong.     

This is the part of hong kong you don't usually see: A home not much bigger than a single bed.  Belongings stacked to the ceiling.  Every last inch of space is used.  These are subdivided units-- small apartments that are split into tiny sections and then rented out individually.

This couple lives there with their 11 month-old son.  They're among the roughly 170,000 people in hong kong cornered by high rent and a public housing supply that doesn't come close to meeting demand.

The cramped space isn't even the most challenging part for Mrs. Lei.  The most difficult part is the shared bathroom, she says. If you want to use it, but there are people in there, you can't. Even if it's urgent.

Nine people share one toilet, one shower, and one kitchen and this doesn't even come cheap.  The Leis are paying five dollars per square foot in rent, a dollar more than the average for a new one bedroom flat in this area.  To draw attention to this issue, the society for community organization commissioned a collection of photos of these homes.  They were taken two years ago but are on display now.

A community organizer says they're caught in limbo living like this.  "They cannot carry out their plan. They cannot see their future. They are just waiting for a change in their lives," says Natalie Yau, Society for Community Organization.  That change is public housing.

The Hong Kong government says it's aiming to provide 20,000 units a year, but there are 240-thousand applications pending.

One man lived in a unit just 23 square feet.  He had to wait for ten years for public housing.  The government says it's trying to maintain a three-year waiting period for families like the Leis.  But until public housing becomes available, or the rent becomes too much to bear, this is where the family will stay-- in the shadow of one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

For some perspective, you can cross the whole apartment in about four steps, it's just about 60 square feet.


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