Poor People Renting Cages for Homes in Hong Kong
Hong Kong elite, the society's crème de la crème, all have one thing in common: They live in beautiful, massive mansions.
The poor? Their digs aren't as luxurious.
Leung Cho-yin, 67, pays 1,300 Hong Kong dollars ($167) a month for one of about a dozen wire mesh cages crammed into a broken-down apartment.
According to MyFoxNY.com, the cages measure 16 square feet. To keep bedbugs away, people put thin pads, bamboo mats and old linoleum on their cages' wooden planks.
"I've been bitten so much I'm used to it," said Leung, a former butcher. "There's nothing you can do about it. I've got to live here. I've got to survive."
Leung and his elderly male roommates wash their clothes in a bucket. The bathroom facilities are two toilet stalls, one of them adjoining a squat toilet that doubles as a shower stall. There is no kitchen, just a small room with a sink.
According to the Society for Community Organization, a social welfare group, about 100,000 Hong Kong residents live in inadequate housing, which includes apartments subdivided into tiny cubicles or coffin-sized wood and metal sleeping compartments.
People are forced by skyrocketing housing prices (also known as the "free market") to live in these cramped, dirty and unsafe conditions.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Hong Kong home prices rose 23 percent in the first 10 months of 2012 and have doubled since bottoming out in 2008. Rents have followed a similar trajectory.
The soaring costs have been fueled by ultralow interest rates that policymakers can't raise because the currency is pegged to the dollar. Money flooding in from China and foreign investors looking for higher returns has contributed to the rise in prices.
About 210,000 people are on the waiting list for public housing, which is about double the amount in 2006. About a third of Hong Kong's 7.1 million population lives in public rental apartments.
Many poor residents have applied for public housing but face years of waiting. Nearly three-quarters of 500 low-income families questioned in a recent survey had been on the list for more than four years without being offered an apartment.