Temporary homes are castles for Hong Kong’s poor [Video]
A new apartment building in Hong Kong made out of container-like blocks left 70-year-old Lau Kai Fai and his family feeling like they had won the lottery.
His new 290 square foot flat is relatively spacious by Hong Kong standards.
Hong Kong is one of the most crowded urban areas in the world.
And Lau is one of the first beneficiaries of the city’s latest attempt to address this — by building ‘transitional homes’ for people waiting for public housing.
His new space is a far cry from apartments in other big cities like London or Tokyo.
But it’s more than triple the size of where him and his family used to live — cramped in a subdivided flat otherwise known as one of Hong Kong’s infamous “coffin homes.”
Lau’s wife, Tian Jiayu:
“The place where we used to live was very small, and the dining table was also very small. You can’t put more than two or three bowls on it. We have to take turns to have meals… Our family could not eat at the same dinner table before but now we can have meals together.”
But not all locals are as lucky as Lau’s family, who can bide their time in a temporary flat for the next two years.
On average, the wait for public housing can stretch to over five years.
More than 200,000 Hongkongers living in subdivided flats are on the waitlist.
37-year-old Coco Chan is one of them.
She’s currently crammed into an 80 sq ft flat with her husband and 7-year-old son.
”The space is too small and there is no room for activities. My son can only stay on the bed or here in the living room and now he even can’t go out. We used to take him to the park nearby but now he can’t because of the health crisis. We can only stay at home.”
As of June, 800 transitional homes have been built so far out of the 15,000 being planned over the next three years.
They’re being constructed on idle land leased by the government or private developers for only a few years, although the buildings’ parts can be moved around and reused.
But the project doesn’t come without challenges, like lack of land and money.
A spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau told Reuters the government launched a nearly $650 million (HK$5 billion) funding scheme in June to support transitional housing projects by NGOs.
But NGOs say the government isn’t doing enough.
With more than 1 million of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents being squeezed into poverty, the pressure is still on — to find more permanent solutions to the city’s serious housing shortage.