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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 which fits in to the 200 sq ft subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po she calls home.

Wong’s desk, including a secret compartment on her behalf stationery and toys, can be a rare commodity for families which can be squeezed into cluttered, shoebox apartments.

“She accustomed to only have the capacity to do homework over a folding table that needed to be put away at all times, however she will work and play in the same space. It’s the first place she will go 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 together with her mother and grandmother, is among one of 70 low-income families which have benefitted from a project that aims to transform the living area of tiny flats with Furniture shop in Hong Kong.

“Many grass-roots families don’t hold the extra cash to invest on furniture. Instead, they’ll hoard lots of second-hand furniture even if it’s not too practical simply because they don’t determine if they’ll have the capacity to afford it down the road,” 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, can offer as much as 120 low-income families with custom-made furniture, including desks, shelves and storage cupboards, as well as give their home a mini-makeover by rearranging their living space.

Just before the modification, Yan’s apartment barely had any walking space when folding tables were put up for dinner or homework.

A three-seater sofa that doubled as a bed for Yan’s elderly mother had blocked half the corridor that triggered the bathroom and kitchen.

A sizable desk with little storage area took up many of the living room area, even though the floor was cluttered with multiple plastic boxes piled on top of one another.

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

The team of architects rearranged the present furniture and designed the investigation desk and 2 new shelving units to fit Yan’s living room.

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

Having an average four-year wait for public housing and ever-increasing rents inside the private sector, many residents who live below the poverty line have to tolerate cramped 47dexlpky squalid living issues that vary from cage homes to coffin cubicles.

Almost 200,000 people lived in certain 88,000 subdivided units in 2015, as outlined by official figures.

The Society for Community Organisation’s project focuses on families with education needs, with the hope that providing a passionate working space will assist children focus better on their studies and eventually offer the family the chance to escape poverty.

“Most of the children we deal with lie on the floor or bed to do their homework, and it’s not great for their 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 things to suit the household and the peculiar layouts as a result of partitioned flats.

The furniture, built by way of a contractor in mainland China, was created to be flexible therefore it can remain with the family if this moves into another subdivided flat or public housing.

“Based on their daily habits, we notice how our designs can match their needs. We would like to use furniture like a tool to improve their space, rather than just providing new furniture,” architect Maggie Ma said.

The company’s personal method of the project can be another key reason why the firm fails to like utilizing developers.

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

“In an easy method, they sacrifice a little bit of the user’s needs, so that we wanted to look for designs which are more humane. This project actually causes us to be understand more about how people live and what is most essential in their mind.”

Although she was made to move out of her apartment into another subdivided flat following the installation, Yan said the latest furniture had transformed her home.

“When you first of all move into a flat, you don’t really think an excessive amount of regarding the furniture. Everything was fine so long as we had space to put our things. However right now, we could observe how practical Office chairs Hong Kong can be and the way it can make an improved living area,” she said.

Ma’s partner and fellow architect Mark Kingsley said: “It’s not like those Tv programs where you get to your house and they’ve totally transformed it into something completely different. The ambition of your project is far more modest – to produce small changes that can have a big affect on the family unit.”