Four-year-old Vera Wong Zi-wei’s favourite possession isn’t the latest Disney princess doll, but her brand new study desk which fits in to the 200 sq ft subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po she calls home.
Wong’s desk, including a secret compartment for her stationery and toys, is actually a rare commodity for families which can be squeezed into cluttered, shoebox apartments.
“She employed to only be capable of do homework on a folding table that would have to be set aside on a regular basis, however she can work and play within the same space. It’s the initial place she goes to when she gets home now,” Wong’s mother, Yan Nga-chi, said.
Coffin cubicles, caged homes and subdivisions … life inside Hong Kong’s grim low income housing
Wong, who lives with her mother and grandmother, is among 70 low-income families which may have benefitted from the project that aims to transform the living quarters of tiny flats with Furniture hk.
“Many grass-roots families don’t get the extra cash to invest on furniture. Instead, they’ll hoard lots of second-hand furniture regardless of whether it’s not so practical since they don’t know if they’ll have the ability to afford it in the foreseeable future,” said social worker Angela Lui Yi-shan, who runs the project with human rights advocacy group Society for Community Organisation.
The HK$3 million home modification project, sponsored with the South China Morning Post since 2013, provides approximately 120 low-income families with custom-made furniture, including desks, shelves and storage cupboards, and also give their house a mini-makeover by rearranging their living quarters.
Just before the modification, Yan’s apartment barely had any walking space when folding tables were set up for dinner or homework.
A three-seater sofa which doubled like a bed for Yan’s elderly mother had blocked half the corridor that generated the bathroom and kitchen.
A huge desk with little space for storage took up most of the family room, even though the floor was cluttered with multiple plastic boxes piled in addition to one another.
Hong Kong’s poorest squeezed as rents for tiny subdivided flats rise at double rate for other homes
The group of architects rearranged the existing furniture and designed the research desk as well as two new shelving units to match Yan’s family room.
By utilising our prime ceilings in old tenement houses, Yan’s family could use floor-to-ceiling storage instead of having storage boxes consume limited floor space.
With the average four-year wait around for public housing and ever-increasing rents within the private sector, many residents who live below the poverty line are forced to tolerate cramped 47dexlpky squalid living issues that range between cage homes to coffin cubicles.
Almost 200,000 people lived in a few 88,000 subdivided units in 2015, based on official figures.
The Society for Community Organisation’s project focuses on families with education needs, in the hope that providing a passionate working space will assist children focus better on their own studies and finally supply the family the opportunity to escape poverty.
“Most in the children we assist lie on a lawn or bed to accomplish their homework, and it’s not best for their own health or development, but this project will help change that,” Lui said.
DOMAT, the not-for-profit architecture firm that designs the Wood furniture Hong Kong, visits each family individually and makes items to suit the family and the peculiar layouts resulting from partitioned flats.
The furniture, built by a contractor in mainland China, is made to be flexible thus it can remain with your family if it moves into another subdivided flat or public housing.
“Based on the daily habits, we percieve how our designs can match the requirements. We would like to use furniture like a tool to improve their space, as opposed to just providing new furniture,” architect Maggie Ma said.
The company’s personal approach to the project can be another key reason why the firm is not going to like working together with developers.
“What I realised [in building high rises] is a lot of the process is controlled by market demand and so what can pull in more cash,” Ma said.
“In a means, they sacrifice a bit of the user’s needs, so that we wanted to search for designs which are more humane. This project actually causes us to be understand a little more about how people live and precisely what is most important in their mind.”
Although she was forced to move out of her apartment into another subdivided flat once the installation, Yan said the latest furniture had transformed her home.
“When you initially transfer to a flat, you don’t really think excessive regarding the furniture. Everything was fine as long as we had space to set our things. However, we can find out how practical Dining Chairs Hong Kong can be and the way it can make an improved living quarters,” she said.
Ma’s partner and fellow architect Mark Kingsley said: “It’s unlike those Shows where you go to the house and they’ve totally transformed it into something very different. The ambition from the project is more modest – to make small changes that can have a big impact on the household.”