Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world, which makes it an especially hard place to live if you’re poor: Even a cramped, rundown slum apartment can cost $11 per square foot, nearly three times the average in a city like New York. Hundreds of thousands of people live in inadequate housing. Some of those live in even worse conditions: "cage homes," apartments that are only big enough for a bunk bed surrounded by a wire walls.
The photos in this series, taken by a volunteer for a Hong Kong nonprofit called the Society for Community Organization (SoCO), show a little of what it’s like to live in a space the size of a storage unit. One of the apartments shown here is only 28 square feet. Each picture was taken with a camera mounted to the ceiling, since the rooms were too small for the photographer to fit inside.
Residents are people living on the fringes of Hong Kong society—low-skilled workers, the unemployed, and elderly people living on their own. Others are recent immigrants from mainland China. "Newly arrived families from China struggle for survival," says Hei Wah Ho, SoCO's director.
The nonprofit was formed to help fight for better housing in the 1970s, when Hong Kong, still a colony, was going through a huge economic boom that left many people behind and squatting in illegal or rundown apartments. Today, when Hong Kong has one of the highest per capita rates of billionaires in the world, the situation is still pretty much the same.
“Hong Kong…is regarded as one of the richest cities in the world,” says Ho. “Lurking beneath this prosperity is great inequality in wealth and a forgotten group of poor people. SoCO’s underprivileged clients are increasing in numbers— while the city’s wealth continues to accumulate."
The organization helps to bring together low-income apartment dwellers in grassroots efforts to push the government to provide safer, cleaner subsidized options. Right now, Ho says, people "have to afford a high rent rate in the city and wait for public rental housing over years, because of the low public housing supply in Hong Kong and the inept allocation and eligibility policy of public housing."
These photos are one effort to get the local government to pay attention.