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The Daunting Effect of Caged Homes on an International Hub

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

By: Brayden Yau

In Hong Kong, around 200,000 people are living in subdivided flats, also known as cage homes. These cage homes are less than 60 square feet in size and are smaller than most prison cells around the world. The cage homes bring shame upon Hong Kong's general population because it informs others of Hong Kong's disregard for the welfare of our citizens, but rather, prioritize capital. For families to be living in such cramped spaces is simply inhumane and beneath the dignity of a human being. If we can afford large enclosures for animals in zoos, then we should strive to create a better living environment for our fellow citizens.

Although Hong Kong has one the most stable economies on the planet, poverty and wealth inequality is gradually widening. Many people who are struggling in poverty are forced to live in cage homes where conditions are appalling. In cage homes, residents do not have the freedom to even fully stretch their legs, let alone do homework in comfort. As many as a whole family of 4 can be living inside a 54 square feet cage home. Furthermore, there are no spaces for residents to store their belongings, and as a result, the hallways and the stairwells are so stuffed with boxes and suitcases that they constitute a fire hazard. Worse yet, in the event of a fire, none of the residents would be able to escape due to the blockage. In all countries, such conditions would be considered to be illegal. While it is also illegal in Hong Kong as well, no one enforces it, and it marks a point of shame for Hong Kong as a city. To make matters worse, there is no air conditioning, which means under Hong Kong’s sweltering heat in summer, those in cage homes experience uninhabitable living conditions. Privacy inside cage homes is out of the question, and even during a pandemic, there is no such thing as social distancing, which not only puts their lives in danger but can also cause a huge outbreak in Hong Kong. In addition, cage homes lack cleanliness, resulting in the infestation of diseases and bacteria.

There are crucial questions that we need to ask ourselves, such as: Is it inevitable that people must live in such deplorable conditions? I am sure you would say no and agree that solutions are not unachievable. We have the means to rectify this human tragedy. The government’s tax revenue mainly comes from the selling of land to real estate developers and property taxes. This is what minimizes the taxes for the citizens in Hong Kong while raising the price of land. Real estate developers who buy this expensive land are forced to make as many subdivided flats as possible in order to maximize their profit. As a result, the price to rent or buy property is very expensive in Hong Kong compared to other places in the world and many people cannot afford it. Therefore, they are forced to rent smaller properties that come at a cheaper price, such as subdivided flats, also known as cage homes.

This huge issue impacts our city’s reputation but is not impossible to solve. I believe there are still several other ways the government can help to alleviate cage homes. For example, I believe that the government should give subsidies to real estate developers in order to help maximize their profit so that the rent for tenants will be cheaper and the flats will be more spacious. Another way the government might be able to help is by providing and building more council housing for those in need of it so that everyone will have a safe place to live with appropriate living conditions. The government can also help alleviate cage homes by improving the standards and living conditions of the subdivided flats, such as providing more frequent maintenance and cleaning protocols. All these are solutions that will help improve the welfare of those who are living in cage homes. Looking at Singapore, which is in a similar situation as Hong Kong, in terms of the paucity of available land and housing, yet the government makes it their priority to ensure that all citizens have an affordable home befitting their human dignity.

Consider taking action against this pressing issue we have in our city. By improving the welfare of our citizens and alleviating cage homes, Hong Kong will be presented with an opportunity to further prosper as an international financial hub.

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