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Four-year-old Vera Wong Zi-wei’s favourite possession isn’t the most up-to-date Disney princess doll, but her brand new study desk that suits into the 200 sq ft subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po she calls home.

Wong’s desk, complete with a secret compartment on her behalf stationery and toys, is a rare commodity for families which are squeezed into cluttered, shoebox apartments.

“She used to only be able to do homework on a folding table that must be put away on a regular basis, however right now she can work and play inside the same space. It’s the first place she goes toward 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 together with her mother and grandmother, is one of 70 low-income families which have benefitted coming from a project that aims to transform the living space of tiny flats with Furniture Hong Kong.

“Many grass-roots families don’t have the extra revenue to spend on furniture. Instead, they’ll hoard a lot of second-hand furniture even though it’s not practical mainly because they don’t determine 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 by the South China Morning Post since 2013, can offer up to 120 low-income families with custom-made furniture, including desks, shelves and storage cupboards, as well as give their house a mini-makeover by rearranging their living quarters.

Before the modification, Yan’s apartment barely had any walking space when folding tables were create for dinner or homework.

A 3-seater sofa that doubled like a bed for Yan’s elderly mother had blocked half the corridor that generated the kitchen and bathroom.

A big desk with little storage space took up a lot of the living area, as the floor was cluttered with multiple plastic boxes piled along with the other.

Hong Kong’s poorest squeezed as rents for tiny subdivided flats rise at double rate for other homes

The team of architects rearranged existing furniture and designed the study desk as well as 2 new shelving units to put Yan’s living area.

By utilising the top ceilings in old tenement houses, Yan’s family could make use of floor-to-ceiling storage as opposed to having storage boxes use up limited floor space.

By having an average four-year wait for public housing and ever-increasing rents from the private sector, many residents who live below the poverty line are required to tolerate cramped 47dexlpky squalid living conditions that range between cage homes to coffin cubicles.

Almost 200,000 people lived in many 88,000 subdivided units in 2015, in accordance with official figures.

The Society for Community Organisation’s project targets families with education needs, with the hope that providing a devoted working space will help children focus better on their studies and in the end offer the family a chance to escape poverty.

“Most of the children we work together with lie on the ground or bed to do their homework, and it’s not great for their health or development, but this project might help change that,” Lui said.

DOMAT, the not-for-profit architecture firm that designs the table Hong Kong, visits each family individually and makes items to suit your family as well as the peculiar layouts resulting from partitioned flats.

The furnishings, built from a contractor in mainland China, was created to be flexible therefore it can stay with your family when it moves into another subdivided flat or public housing.

“Based on his or her daily habits, we have seen how our designs can match their needs. We should use furniture being a tool to boost 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 good reason that the firm is not going to like dealing with developers.

“What I realised [in building high rises] is that a lot of the procedure is controlled by market demand and what can bring in more money,” Ma said.

“In a way, they sacrifice a bit of the user’s needs, so we wanted to look for designs which are more humane. This project actually makes us understand a little more about how people live and what exactly is most important to them.”

Although she was required to move away from her apartment into another subdivided flat following the installation, Yan said the brand new furniture had transformed her home.

“When you initially transfer to a flat, you don’t really think an excessive amount of concerning the furniture. Everything was fine as long as we had space to put our things. But now, we can easily see how practical Lounge chairs hk may be and the way it can make a much better living space,” she said.

Ma’s partner and fellow architect Mark Kingsley said: “It’s not like those Television shows where you go to the house and they’ve totally transformed it into something very different. The ambition of the project is a lot more modest – to produce small changes that will have a big affect on the family.”

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