Hong Kong has been consistently ranked among the top 3 spots of the world’s wealthiest cities for a decade. It is said that every 1 out of 7 households is a millionaire in Hong Kong. Hong Kong and Beijing wear a mask of extravagant lifestyles, skyscrapers, financial hub, and opportunities but if looked beyond the mask- faint cries of poverty, sorrow, depression can be heard. It is quite fascinating and confusing at the same time to articulate that in a spectrum of lifestyles of people of Hong Kong, there are two opposite poles of well-being that can be seen. It is also said that 1 in 5 is living below the poverty line. While these figures are quite well matching up the pace, an overview of Hong Kong will clear the air.
Hong Kong is situated on the southern coast of mainland China and has a dense population along with the main city; the rest of the area being a non-habitable, rocky & mountainous region. This does not leave much of the land in the hands of the people staying there. Therefore, creating a Mammoth demand for land and very little to supply. This has forced the market rates to go astronomically high for over a decade.
Another reason for such exorbitant prices is that the government has ownership for the whole land of China which is why when the private developers want to purchase the land to start their operations; they are handed over the land as per lease bases on a very high amount due to high demand. Now, to gain profits, these private developers offer houses or a ‘living space’ at very huge prices making it even harder for the common man to afford. This leads to lakhs of people living in the streets or just spending their night in the coffee shop, or making such arrangements for them.
Just to acknowledge the gravity of the situation, a ‘cage home’ whose area is 70 square meters has a monthly rent of 1800 HKD (Hong Kong Dollars) translating to Indian ₹16,000 for a house smaller than a parking space in a parking lot. Land to man ratio in Hong Kong is completely disrupted. The government of China has miserably failed to manage its land system in Hong Kong. It has been observed that the average wait time to acquire a home is more than 5.5 years and sometimes it can even take up to 10 years. Many journalists are not allowed to videotape the living conditions because a lot has been already exposed including unsafe, unhygienic conditions and the government is imposing strict restrictions over the safety and betterment of the people living in such bleak condition making it more miserable for them to keep up with the guidelines. This made the people residing over there more aggressive towards journalists and hurled them out of the apartments.
The demand for land has been ever increasing since the Asian Financial crisis that took place due to the crippling currency exchange rate in 1997. Although an economic meltdown on a global level was expected out of the crisis prevailing in the South East Asian countries due to the extent of this crisis, things didn’t go as per the rules, instead, South-East Asian countries attracted huge investments due to higher rate of return offered by them in the phase of development. This in turn made these countries more glamorous and attractive which led to development of modern cities as we see today.
To eradicate this problem, the government came up with a solution of building artificial islands to make affordable homes, but this idea is not environment friendly so still, it is a matter of discussion for them, even if the decision rules out in favour of this decision it will take more 8 years to accommodate.
Local start-ups have come up for the people who are willing to accommodate differently than a stereotypical housing system, in which specialized cabins are made which are not suffocating or claustrophobic and at the same time, saving space and be hygienic too. Again, to implement these ideas is still a very long way to go and it will deep penetration into the apartments and households where it is desperately needed, will require a great deal of attention, effort and time.