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How Small is Too Small?: Illegally Small Spaces

Culturally in America, settling for a small New York City apartment is all part of “roughing it” while working to make it big in the city. But that tiny apartment you’re renting out with affordable rent, no windows and no mail delivery may be more than the property of a really accommodating landlord. Square footage is shrinking while prices rise sky high in cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago and big influencers are looking to change what legal living really means. However, this issue slowly rising to the forefront of living concerns is not unique only to North America.

View the slideshow above for Benny Lam's shocking pictures of illegal living.

Similar issues concerning small living quarters have arised abroad, particularly in Hong Kong. Volunteering for the Society for Community Organization (SoCO), Benny Lam's photos of inadequate housing in Hong Kong have uncovered and aroused the public and government concern over the issue. Unable to afford the high rent of the world’s third-most expensive housing market, desperate citizens in Hong Kong are paying top dollar for double digit square feet housing. The smallest apartment is 28 square feet with size of around 4' x 7'. These tiny apartments, costing HKD $1,300 for 15 square feet ($167.72 USD), challenge the limits on legal living.

The Society for Community Organization (SoCO) was formed in 1971 by a group of men and women who care a great deal for the development of Hong Kong. They work to fight for the livelihood of the city's citizens and proactively campaign for a fair social system. The organization reports that as of 2010, around 100,000 people were living in cocklofts, cagehomes, and other forms of illegal housing. As it's illegal to live in these bedspaces, the government has no accurate way to track the number of these residents. These illegal spaces are a threat to human rights as a number of people have lost their lives in the inhumane, unregulated spaces. That’s why there’s big kudos to the human rights organization, the Society for Community Organization, who’s launched an ad campaign urging people to petition the local government to address this issue.


Many of these Hong Kong citizens in great need of their city jobs are patiently waiting for approval for publicly funded housing. Those pictured are from low-income families, singletons, elderly persons and unemployed persons living at urban slums in Hong Kong. These families desperate for low public rental housing often times wait years for an opening. According to SoCO, they have to afford a high rent rate (with rent rate around HKD $80 to 90 (i.e. USD $10.30-$11.50) per square feet per month) in the city. Opportunist landlords are illegally turning industrial buildings or sometimes already tiny apartments into micro-apartments and charging outlandish escalated prices. With nowhere else to turn, citizens clamor to the depressing spaces that break all the rules on healthy living conditions.

Check out the slideshow above for all you need to know about illegal living.

If you were surprised by this information, check out 10 Hidden Dangers in the Kitchen and The Dangers of Tap Water.

Photo Credit: Benny Lam, Society for Community Organization

Tags: Budget, News & Trends

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