News+Politics
In Hong Kong, Some People Live In (And Pay Rent For) Metal Cages
February 8, 2013
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(Photo: AP)

Here's a stark reminder of the living conditions some people have to face because they don't make very much money. In Hong Kong, one of the world's wealthiest cities, some of the poorest people live in metal cages.

Journalist Kelvin Chan from the Associated Press writes about Leung Cho-yin, a 67-year-old former butcher who pays 1,300 Hong Kong dollars ($167) each month to live in a cage crammed into a run-down apartment in a working-class West Kowloon neighbourhood.

Leung's only income is the HK$4,400 ($515) he receives in government assistance each month. Once his rent is paid, he has $11.60 a day to live on.

Conditions in the apartment are unsanitary. Bedbugs are treated as a fact of life in the living space, which Leung shares with about 12 other single, elderly men. There are two toilet stalls, no kitchen, and the walls are brown with dirt.

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(Photo: AP)

An estimated 100,000 people in Hong Kong live in what's known as "inadequate housing." As well as cages, there are apartments subdivided into tiny cubicles or coffin-sized metal-and-wood sleeping compartments, as well as rooftop shacks.

One reason so many people have to live in these conditions is the rise in housing prices that has taken place recently. In the first 10 months of 2012, home prices rose 23 per cent in Hong Kong, and they've doubled since 2008, when they fell to low levels during the global financial crisis.

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Mansions in an upscale Hong Kong neighbourhood (Photo: AP)

As a result, many families have to live in cramped, uncomfortable conditions. Hong Kong's chief executive, who took office in January, says he'll make improving housing conditions a priority.

"Cramped living spaces in cage homes, cubicle apartments and sub-divided flats has become the reluctant choice for tens of thousands of Hong Kong people," he said in his inaugural address.

He also unveiled plans to increase the supply of public housing in the medium term from the current rate of 15,000 new spaces per year.

Although the recent increase in housing prices may have driven more people to live in these conditions, maybe the most shocking thing about this story is that it's not new. In fact, people have been living in cages in Hong Kong for decades.

Back in 2009, CNN documented some of the cubicle and cage homes in the city:

And check out this 1995 documentary from ABC in Australia about Hong Kong's "Cage People," one of whom had been living in a cage for 30 years at that point:

The gap between rich and poor in Hong Kong has grown in recent years, according to a report released in June, 2012. It found that the city's wealth gap had outstripped Singapore, the UK, and Australia, as well as cities like New York and Washington.

According to Demographia, an annual housing affordability survey, the median home price in Hong Kong is 12.6 times the annual median household income. In the U.S., that figure is 3.0, and in Canada it's 3.6.

Via MSN Now

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