People in Hong Kong are moving into 20-square-foot 'coffin homes' to save money

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Simon Wong has spent the last 20 years learning the hard way how to live with less. Less clutter, less money, and, most noticeably, less space.

Wong, a 61-year-old Hong Kong resident, is one of a growing number of citizens forced into so-called "coffin homes," 20-square-foot cages that offer just enough space to lie down and hang a few shirts and pairs of pants.

His monthly rent of $226 would be enough to share a roomy one-bedroom apartment in many American towns (though admittedly it would only be enough to rent a closet in big cities like New York City and San Francisco). Instead, his living space measures just 4'x6'.

Hong Kong's housing prices are currently at an all-time high, with the average price per square foot now hovering around $1,380. (In New York City, it's roughly $1,645.) Hong Kong's chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, has called the housing crisis "the gravest potential hazard" to society, as only 7% of the city's land is zoned for housing.

People like Wong are casualties of that affordable-housing scarcity. The government estimates some 200,000 people live in coffin homes, but as a spokesperson for the Society for Community Organization told Reuters, the true number could be much higher.

Peek inside the 'coffin homes':

10 PHOTOS
'Coffin homes' sprout in Hong Kong
See Gallery
'Coffin homes' sprout in Hong Kong
Kam Chung, 49, adjusts his brace between wooden boxes people use for living in Hong Kong October 9, 2012. In Hong Kong's middle-class residential area, short distance from its shopping and financial districts, 24 people live in these wooden boxes, or "coffin homes", packed in a single apartment of little over 50 square meters. Its residents pay 1450 Hong Kong dollars ($180) for their living space built of wooden panels of 2 meters by 70 cm. To maximize income from the rent in central Hong Kong landlords build "coffin homes", nicknamed due to their resemblance to real coffins. Space has always been at a premium in Hong Kong where developers plant high-rises on every available inch. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY REAL ESTATE BUSINESS)
People sit in a common area between wooden boxes they use for living in Hong Kong October 9, 2012. In Hong Kong's middle-class residential area, short distance from its shopping and financial districts, 24 people live in these wooden boxes, or "coffin homes", packed in a single apartment of little over 50 square meters. Its residents pay 1450 Hong Kong dollars ($180) for their living space built of wooden panels of 2 meters by 70 cm. To maximize income from the rent in central Hong Kong landlords build "coffin homes", nicknamed due to their resemblance to real coffins. Space has always been at a premium in Hong Kong where developers plant high-rises on every available inch. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY REAL ESTATE BUSINESS)
Ah Gut, 40, stands between wooden boxes people use for living in Hong Kong October 9, 2012. In Hong Kong's middle-class residential area, short distance from its shopping and financial districts, 24 people live in these wooden boxes, or "coffin homes", packed in a single apartment of little over 50 square meters. Its residents pay 1450 Hong Kong dollars ($180) for their living space built of wooden panels of 2 meters by 70 cm. To maximize income from the rent in central Hong Kong landlords build "coffin homes", nicknamed due to their resemblance to real coffins. Space has always been at a premium in Hong Kong where developers plant high-rises on every available inch. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY REAL ESTATE BUSINESS)
An apartment block is seen through the window of a space where people live in wooden boxes in Hong Kong October 9, 2012. In Hong Kong's middle-class residential area, short distance from its shopping and financial districts, 24 people live in these wooden boxes, or "coffin homes", packed in a single apartment of little over 50 square meters. Its residents pay 1450 Hong Kong dollars ($180) for their living space built of wooden panels of 2 meters by 70 cm. To maximize income from the rent in central Hong Kong landlords build "coffin homes", nicknamed due to their resemblance to real coffins. Space has always been at a premium in Hong Kong where developers plant high-rises on every available inch. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY REAL ESTATE BUSINESS)
A movie is shown on a television in a common area between wooden boxes where people live in, Hong Kong October 9, 2012. In Hong Kong's middle-class residential area, short distance from its shopping and financial districts, 24 people live in these wooden boxes, or "coffin homes", packed in a single apartment of little over 50 square meters. Its residents pay 1450 Hong Kong dollars ($180) for their living space built of wooden panels of 2 meters by 70 cm. To maximize income from the rent in central Hong Kong landlords build "coffin homes", nicknamed due to their resemblance to real coffins. Space has always been at a premium in Hong Kong where developers plant high-rises on every available inch. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY REAL ESTATE BUSINESS)
Akee, 34, who works as a waiter rests in a wooden box that he lives in Hong Kong October 9, 2012. In Hong Kong's middle-class residential area, short distance from its shopping and financial districts, 24 people live in these wooden boxes, or "coffin homes", packed in a single apartment of little over 50 square meters. Its residents pay 1450 Hong Kong dollars ($180) for their living space built of wooden panels of 2 meters by 70 cm. To maximize income from the rent in central Hong Kong landlords build "coffin homes", nicknamed due to their resemblance to real coffins. Space has always been at a premium in Hong Kong where developers plant high-rises on every available inch. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY REAL ESTATE BUSINESS)
King, 18, who works as a bartender smokes his cigarette in a wooden box he uses as living space in Hong Kong October 9, 2012. In Hong Kong's middle-class residential area, short distance from its shopping and financial districts, 24 people live in these wooden boxes, or "coffin homes", packed in a single apartment of little over 50 square meters. Its residents pay 1450 Hong Kong dollars ($180) for their living space built of wooden panels of 2 meters by 70 cm. To maximize income from the rent in central Hong Kong landlords build "coffin homes", nicknamed due to their resemblance to real coffins. Space has always been at a premium in Hong Kong where developers plant high-rises on every available inch. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY REAL ESTATE BUSINESS)
A NGO worker speaks to people living in wooden boxes in Hong Kong early October 9, 2012. In Hong Kong's middle-class residential area, short distance from its shopping and financial districts, 24 people live in these wooden boxes, or "coffin homes", packed in a single apartment of little over 50 square meters. Its residents pay 1450 Hong Kong dollars ($180) for their living space built of wooden panels of 2 meters by 70 cm. To maximize income from the rent in central Hong Kong landlords build "coffin homes", nicknamed due to their resemblance to real coffins. Space has always been at a premium in Hong Kong where developers plant high-rises on every available inch. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY POVERTY)
Kam Chung, 49, wears a brace as he rest in a wooden box that he lives in Hong Kong October 9, 2012. In Hong Kong's middle-class residential area, short distance from its shopping and financial districts, 24 people live in these wooden boxes, or "coffin homes", packed in a single apartment of little over 50 square meters. Its residents pay 1450 Hong Kong dollars ($180) for their living space built of wooden panels of 2 meters by 70 cm. To maximize income from the rent in central Hong Kong landlords build "coffin homes", nicknamed due to their resemblance to real coffins. Space has always been at a premium in Hong Kong where developers plant high-rises on every available inch. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY REAL ESTATE BUSINESS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Wong says he's applied for public housing, but has received no response indicating whether he's been accepted or denied.

His only luxury may be that he's single. Unlike people living with family members or spouses, he doesn't have to negotiate scarce resources like food or privacy. Some families have no choice but to live in subdivided housing, meaning a father and daughter could live in one room while the mother and son live down the hall.

Wong, meanwhile, is free to watch TV or smoke a cigarette within the confines of his box at all hours of the day.

Hong Kong has announced plans to build more affordable homes over the next decade. By 2027, it plans to add 280,000 public homes and 180,000 private homes.

But in the meantime, many residents have no choice but to move into increasingly smaller homes, even if it means sacrificing every last creature comfort for a roof over their heads.

NOW WATCH: This 50-lane holiday traffic jam in China will make you regret ever complaining about your commute

See Also:

SEE ALSO: 28 crazy pictures of micro-apartments around the world

Read Full Story

Want more news like this?

Sign up for Finance Report by AOL and get everything from business news to personal finance tips delivered directly to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

Find a New Home

Buy
Rent
Value
Powered by Zillow

From Our Partners

Man Suspects His Wife Is Cheating On Him - Then His Daughter Reveals What's Really Going Man Suspects His Wife Is Cheating On Him - Then His Daughter Reveals What's Really Going
Nature Gets Revenge On Safari Hunter Who Killed Elephants And Lions For Sport Nature Gets Revenge On Safari Hunter Who Killed Elephants And Lions For Sport
Don't Get Too Close To a Newborn Giraffe Unless You Want to Get Kicked in the Nuts Don't Get Too Close To a Newborn Giraffe Unless You Want to Get Kicked in the Nuts