Want to live in a cage? Choose Land Value Taxation (LVT)
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Tue Apr 9 23:19:08 BST 2013
Hong Kong and Kowloon have a hybrid form of LVT
called 'Government Rent' levied on all
hence the tendency to 'cram 'em in'.
Where home is a metal cage: How tens of thousands
of Hong Kong's poorest are forced to live in 6ft by 2ft rabbit hutches
Leung Cho-yin, 67, pays £105 a month for a cage in dilapidated apartment
210,000 people are on waiting list for public housing, double from 2006
Leung and his elderly roommates wash their clothes in a bucket
(click the link for lots more pix)
By Nick Enoch - PUBLISHED: 22:05, 7 February 2013
| UPDATED: 16:02, 8 February 2013
For many of the richest people in Hong Kong, one
of Asia's wealthiest cities, home is a mansion
with an expansive view from the heights of Victoria Peak.
For some of the poorest, like Leung Cho-yin, home is a metal cage.
The 67-year-old former butcher pays 1,300 Hong
Kong dollars (£105) a month for one of about a
dozen wire mesh cages resembling rabbit hutches
crammed into a dilapidated apartment in a gritty,
working-class West Kowloon neighborhood.
Home to tens of thousands, such cages - stacked
on top of each other - measure 6ft by 2.5ft.
Cheng Man Wai, 62, lies in the cage, measuring
16sq ft, which he calls home in Hong Kong
To keep bedbugs away, Leung and his roommates put
thin pads, bamboo mats, even old linoleum on
their cages' wooden planks instead of mattresses.
'I've been bitten so much I'm used to it,' said
Leung, rolling up the sleeve of his oversized
blue fleece jacket to reveal a red mark on his hand.
'There's nothing you can do about it. I've got to
live here. I've got to survive,' he said as he let out a phlegmy cough.
Some 100,000 people in the former British colony
live in what's known as inadequate housing,
according to the Society for Community Organization, a social welfare group.
The category also includes apartments subdivided
into tiny cubicles or filled with coffin-sized
wood and metal sleeping compartments as well as rooftop shacks.
They're a grim counterpoint to the southern
Chinese city's renowned material affluence.
Forced by skyrocketing housing prices to live in
cramped, dirty and unsafe conditions, their
plight also highlights one of the biggest
headaches facing Hong Kong's unpopular
Beijing-backed leader: growing public rage over the city's housing crisis.
Leung Chun-ying took office as Hong Kong's chief
executive in July pledging to provide more
affordable housing in a bid to cool the anger.
Home prices rose 23 per cent in the first 10
months of 2012 and have doubled since bottoming
out in 2008 during the global financial crisis,
the International Monetary Fund said in a report
last month. Rents have followed a similar trajectory.
The soaring costs are putting decent homes out of
reach of a large portion of the population while
stoking resentment of the government, which
controls all land for development, and a coterie
of wealthy property developers.
Housing costs have been fuelled by easy credit
thanks to ultralow interest rates that
policymakers can't raise because the currency is
pegged to the dollar. Money flooding in from
mainland Chinese and foreign investors looking
for higher returns has exacerbated the rise.
In his inaugural policy speech in January, the
chief executive said the inability of the middle
class to buy homes posed a threat to social
stability and promised to make it a priority to tackle the housing shortage.
'Many families have to move into smaller or older
flats, or even factory buildings,' he said.
'Cramped living space in cage homes, cubicle
apartments and sub-divided flats has become the
reluctant choice for tens of thousands of Hong
Kong people,' he added, as he unveiled plans to
boost supply of public housing in the medium term
from its current level of 15,000 apartments a year.
His comments mark a distinct shift from
predecessor Donald Tsang, who ignored the problem.
Legislators and activists, however, slammed Leung
for a lack of measures to boost the supply in the
short term. Some 210,000 people are on the
waiting list for public housing, about double from 2006.
About a third of Hong Kong's 7.1 million
population lives in public rental flats. When
apartments bought with government subsidies are
included, the figure rises to nearly half.
Anger over housing prices is a common theme in
increasingly frequent anti-government protests.
Legislator Frederick Fung warns there will be
more if the problem can't be solved. He compared
the effect on the poor to a lab experiment.
'When we were in secondary school, we had some
sort of experiment where we put many rats in a
small box. They would bite each other,' said Fung.
'When living spaces are so congested, they would
make people feel uneasy, desperate,' and angry at the government, he said.
Leung, the cage dweller, had little faith that
the government could do anything to change the situation of people like him.
'There's too little space here. We can barely breathe' - Lee Tat-fong, 63
'It's not whether I believe him or not, but they
always talk this way. What hope is there?' said
Leung, who has been living in cage homes since he
stopped working at a market stall after losing part of a finger 20 years ago.
With just a Grade 7 education, he was only able
to find intermittent casual work.
He hasn't applied for public housing because he
doesn't want to leave his roommates to live alone
and expects to spend the rest of his life living in a cage.
His only income is HK$4,000 (£330) in government
assistance each month. After paying his rent,
he's left with $2,700 (£220), or about HK$90 (£7.40) a day.
'It's impossible for me to save,' said Leung, who
never married and has no children to lean on for support.
Leung and his roommates, all of them single,
elderly men, wash their clothes in a bucket. The
bathroom facilities consist of 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. The hallway walls have turned brown with
dirt accumulated over the years.
While cage homes, which sprang up in the 1950s to
cater mostly to single men coming in from
mainland China, are becoming rarer, other types
of substandard housing such as cubicle apartments
are growing as more families are pushed into poverty.
Nearly 1.19 million people were living in poverty
in the first half of last year, up from 1.15
million in 2011, according to the Hong Kong Council Of Social Services
There's no official poverty line but it's
generally defined as half of the city's median
income of HK$12,000 (£985) a month.
Many poor residents have applied for public
housing but face years of waiting. Nearly
three-quarters of 500 low-income families
questioned by Oxfam Hong Kong in a recent survey
had been on the list for more than four years without being offered a flat.
Lee Tat-fong is one of those waiting. The
63-year-old is hoping she and her two
grandchildren can get out of the cubicle
apartment they share in their Wan Chai
neighborhood, but she has no idea how long it will take.
Lee, who suffers from diabetes and back problems,
takes care of Amy, nine, and Steven, 13, because
their father has disappeared and their mother -
her daughter - can't get a permit to come to Hong
Kong from mainland China. An uncle occasionally lends a hand.
The three live in a 50sq ft room, one of seven
created by subdividing an existing apartment.
A bunk bed takes up half the space, a cabinet
most of the rest, leaving barely enough room to
stand up in. The room is jammed with their
possessions: plastic bags filled with clothes, an
electric fan, Amy's stuffed animals, cooking utensils.
'There's too little space here. We can barely
breathe,' said Lee, who shares the bottom bunk with her grandson.
They share the communal kitchen and two toilets
with the other residents. Welfare pays their
HK$3,500 (£285) monthly rent and the three get
another HK$6,000 (£490) for living expenses but
the money is never enough, especially with two growing children to feed.
Lee said the two often wanted to have McDonald's
because they were still hungry after dinner,
which on a recent night was meagre portions of rice, vegetables and meat.
The struggle to raise her two grandchildren in
such conditions was wearing her out.
'It's exhausting,' she said. 'Sometimes I get so
pent up with anger, and I cry but no one sees because I hide away.'
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Size: 164 bytes
Desc: not available
-------------- next part --------------
+44 (0)7786 952037
Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered that shall not be
revealed; and nothing hid that shall not be made known. What I tell
you in darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye hear in the
ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27
More information about the Diggers350