Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Subdivided flats (劏房)

A week after the deadly fire in Fa Yuen Street, I happened to pass by the area, and saw the residents going back to retrieve their belongings.  The fire had long been put out, but the aftermath was starkly evident.  This was, of course, a huge tragedy with many causes. 

One thing that stuck in my mind was that these people are not the poorest in Hong Kong.  Those subdivided flats cost $3,000 per month, for a 120 square feet unit.   If you don’t have a decently-paid job, you cannot afford to live there.  Some of them have respectable jobs that paid $10,000 a month.  However, they don’t really have much choice.  They do not qualify for public housing.  For employment and other reasons, they have to live in the inner city.  Yet they cannot afford to rent units of better quality (safety, ...). 

Property development is one of the main drivers of Hong Kong’s prosperity.  One of the consequences, however, is that housing costs in the city are insanely high.  Many of us are forced to live in cramped, low-quality, unsafe flats in order to make enough money to maintain the present “(poor) quality of life”.  The people who really benefit from all this nose-grinding labour?  The mega-rich real estate developers, of course.


YTSL said...

Hi Stephen --

Have you seen the King's Cube spoof advert?


The thing is that many people living outside of Hong Kong might not realize that large numbers of Hong Kongers really do live in spaces as small as that shown in the video -- and even fewer still will realize that these spaces are not all that cheap to rent!

StephenC said...

No, I haven't. But I do now. Thank you for pointing me to it. I think it qualifies as "Theater of the Absurd - Hong Kong style".

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