The appealing attractions and wonders advertised in Hong Kong’s facade hide an insinuating secret. Behind the opulent complexes and malls lie moldy structures, a domicile for over 200,000 cage home dwellers.
Subdivided-flats, infamously known as “coffin homes” or “cage homes” are smaller than the minimum space requirement of most zoos in the world at less than 300 sq. ft, some smaller than a parking space. In certain flats, there is barely enough room to sit upright. Subtly blending in with the nuances of an urban international financial hub, they are a living reminder of the negligence of the government, the greed of real estate developers, and the abject suffering of the poor.
According to the government’s official Thematic Household Survey report, “the median rent to income ratio for the residents stands at a staggering 32.3%” (HKFP Lens). I shudder to think how demoralizing it must be for residents to pay a third of their income for these appalling conditions. It seems like a cruel jest on the part of the government, who offer minimal assistance to undermine the residents’ hopes of breaking the poverty cycle engendered in part by the avarice of developers who intentionally subdivide these apartments just to maximize their profit margins.
These homes are a testimony to the extreme wealth gap existing in Hong Kong and most capitalist societies. Next to the Four Seasons and luxury apartment complexes in the most expensive housing market in the world are buildings where families are subjected to the indignity of living in cages, hidden from view.
As a citizen of Hong Kong, I am ashamed for accepting this abhorrent condition as normal, as if Hong Kong’s lack of space is culpable, but the real issue is that as a society, we accept treating our fellow citizens like animals. Hong Kong’s current cash reserve stands at 500 billion HKD. If the government wants to help, I am sure something can be done.
Cage homes must not become coffins for the residents’ hopes and dreams for the future.