By Brayden Yau
Every day in our daily lives, laws, cultures, leisure activities, norms, communications, technology, art, and last but not least, the economy centers around our societal community here in Hong Kong. These shared networks provide stability, social support, a peaceful coexistence, and high quality of life to all of us within this community. However, major burdens such as financial barriers, social barriers, education barriers, and technological barriers all prove troublesome and harmful to our societal constructs, influencing the way we communicate and coexist with each other. Although Hong Kong is widely known as an international economic hub, the shadow hidden behind it shows how subdivided flats immensely disrupt the life of those who fall on the wrong side of the economy.
At least 280,000 people in Hong Kong live in subdivided flats, also known as cage homes. As a result, they are subject to inhumane conditions that tamper both with their overall physical health and mental health. For example, according to a social worker named Sze Lai-shan with the Society for Community Organization (SoCo), an average subdivided flat is 2 meters long and 1 meter wide, thus the total area will equal around 18 square feet. For those who are claustrophobic, this can impact their mental health because the atrocious conditions of compact subdivided flats only worsen claustrophobia. Furthermore, with global warming releasing its effect on Hong Kong’s average temperature, the tiny size of cage homes trap and suspend the airflow in the space inside, making the space inside the flat muggy and dusty, only increasing the temperature of the subdivided flat. For those with dust allergies, like myself, these conditions can feel like endless torture.
Tenants who occupy subdivided flats all have one thing in common. They lack the financial necessities to bring themselves above the poverty line in Hong Kong, and thus the only option for them is to rent the cheapest homes to live in. These people are unable to capitalize on the strong economy in Hong Kong because most of them have not been given the opportunity to redeem themselves mainly through quality education and housing. Some may even be unemployed due to the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent article published by the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the writer, Chan Ho-him states how findings have shown that subdivided flats closer to the city have higher rent than those in the suburbs. For instance, the average rent per square foot for subdivided units on Hong Kong Island was the most expensive, at HK$52.60, followed by HK$44 for flats in the New Territories, and HK$41.30 for Kowloon properties. The total monthly rent for cage homes less than 30 square feet large ranged from HK$1,800 and HK$2,400, primarily varying due to its location. Cubicles larger than that, however, ranging from 30 to 50 square feet large, had a monthly rent between HK$1,800 and HK$3,500, also mainly depending on its location. With the housing price in Hong Kong inflating at a rate of 2.8 percent YoY (year-over-year) as of July 2021, there is almost no doubt that those who are struggling to pay the current price of rent for subdivided flats will be caught in a disastrous predicament in the future.
In addition, as high as 50,000 people aged 18 or younger live in these subdivided flats, also known as cubicles due to their small area. Based on this fact, it is implied that their quality of living and educations may also be very low, as the living standards in subdivided flats are well below average. For the future generations to come, it is essential for them to be given opportunities to bring themselves out of poverty and lead a better life in the future. To be deprived of quality living standards and education (for all we know, they may not even receive education) is completely unfair to the younger generations who have no choice but to settle in these subdivided flats. Last but not least, the senior citizens who are not completely supported by the government and economy may feel excluded, ignored, and abandoned by the citizens of our society. Everybody plays a vital role in contributing to our society, thus it is essential that they feel part of the society (here in the Hong Kong community). Our societal norms must be able to uphold the fact that everybody must feel included in order for Hong Kong to maintain a sustainable community of citizens.
All in all, a stable and peaceful society requires a high quality of life and a self-sustaining economy and community. In order for this to happen, future generations deserve an opportunity to be well-educated, and most importantly, subdivided flats need to be completely alleviated, so that our economy can properly flourish and grow, and everyone in our society can be involved in a fair and safe environment.
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“Average Monthly Rent per Square Foot for Subdivided Flats 'SHOCKINGLY' HIGH.” South China Morning Post, 26 Sept. 2021, https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/3150120/average-monthly-rent-square-foot-subdivided-flats-hong-kong.
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