It gets worse. The photos are not the bottom of the barrel when it comes to Hong Kong real estate. Those who are in the worst poverty are the ones who live in cages. It's literally a bunk bed with sides enclosed with cage wiring. They have no walls, minimal possessions and live day to day.
The 'cage' appears to be so that resident can lock their belongings inside when they aren't there (you can see padlocks hanging on the doors of some).
I can't really offer much of a useful statement on the realities of being chronically homeless (which is what these men essentially are) in a big city or on the root causes of the situation in Hong Kong, both social and economic. But I can say that the immediate needs of shelter, which come with a lack of space, privacy and security, are very likely to exist very close to home for anyone living in a big city. Here are some examples of sleeping arrangements for homeless in Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles (some are emergency shelters, some are permanent):
That was the second thought that occurred to me as well (the first was to be absolutely horrified). The reporter said the rent for one of those cages is 12 (AUD I believe) per month. Likewise, that only left each cage dweller with 13 AUD per day from their welfare check for other expenses (which the narrator said was not enough to afford 3 meals every day after other expenses). So if the cost of living in a cage for a month is roughly the cost of 3 meals (though that must be calculated at the cost of eating out, because even in the US you can eat quite well on $13 a day if you are frugal and know how to cook and budget) then they are spending less than many U.S. homeless shelters charge (it's not uncommon for homeless shelters to charge anywhere from $5-12 per night here). It's by no means a comfortable lifestyle, but it's better than being homeless and I believe many Americans receiving welfare and/or disability actually have far less buying power with what they receive, considering it's usually not nearly enough to meet rent, utilities, and food and transportation costs).
Do these people have access to cooking facilities? Also a lot of the stuff there is being bought in bulk, and I imagine that storing stuff might be a problem. And of course, there is the omnipresent fact that many poor people do not have the time/knowledge to prepare many kinds of meal.
20+ years ago I worked at a food store frequented by urban poor including some homeless and as a starving student at that time I fit right in.
At that level "cooking" is buy a bun (or two) from the bakery for 50 cents (or less if day old), a dollars worth of sliced meat from the deli, a slice or two of deli cheese for a quarter, grab a handful of condiment packets from the deli, and "cook" that into a sandwich lunch for about two bucks while laughing at the $7 premade subs from the deli or the fast food joint. And frankly the ingredients are probably higher quality than the fast food restaurant.
why? if you're poor, the amount of time you need to spend just taking care of life's basic necessities goes way up. getting things done efficiently, getting other people to do things for you, and deciding you can sacrifice a few hours' earning potential to do something else, are all things that require you be well-off first.
However, access to cooking facilities can be a huge problem. A lot if the stuff in your blog can be done with a few pieces of cookware and a hot plate, but even that might be hard to get a hold of for some.
Those remind me of the Caribbean slave huts (about 4-5 m^3 for two people). I think the cages are worse. I know people who camp in the huts (still standing) but I can't imagine anyone (with other options) voluntarily spending a night in one of those.
Good video. I disagree that the government should do anything about it though. What's the alternative, make them homeless? If there is both supply and demand, let people do what they want. If San Francisco allowed this, there would be far fewer homeless people, but the only options they give them are $2,000 a month apartments or living in the streets. So lots of people live in the streets.
No, the alternative is to have the government build subsidized housing and then enact strict price controls so that even poor families can afford to live reasonably. That's how it was done in Singapore for example and is why they can live in "spacious" 30-70 m^2 apartments despite having a higher population density than Hong Kong. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_housing_in_Singapore.
Public housing or housing vouchers are one thing. Price controls are another. Price controls are absolutely, without a single empirical doubt, the worst policy you could enact. You might as well start torching your housing supply...the effects are the same.
An agency colleague and I did volunteer design and marketing work for a Hong Kong food bank (St. James). At the time it was one of the few food banks in HK (I don't know if this has changed or not, but I'd be surprised if it has). Part of our initial work was research and I was pretty shocked that the HK govt didn't even set a national poverty line. Given a rough line of half median income, over a million HK residents were easily below at the time.
If you're talking strictly social security, even the government acknowledges it has a problem.
Here's a recent SCMP article where the welfare dept itself states that at least 40% of HK residents in poverty aren't covered by welfare.
I think the problem in HK is the number of undocumented immigrants. No papers, no open borders, surrounded mostly by water, these people are easy to exploit. I was told that many of the construction workers' (building skyscrapers) wages barely amount to the cost of the day's food.
Cough, ahem, well, it was also explained to me that there may be some systematic labor-related problems with construction quality in those buildings. Not exactly related to worker pay-rate, but the gist is that they tend to pour the concrete too wet (because it is easier/faster to work). This is probably because of productivity-based bonus pay for foremen. The difference in strength isn't enough to cause a building to fail under nominal conditions, but catastrophic failure is more probable in some destructive event (weather, earthquake, explosion, etc).
People are driven to these places by economic opportunities. They are not living in cages because they have nothing else to do, but because they want to live in Hong Kong, even much better conditions in mainland China is of no interest to them. This is like how people abandon their well built, fully paid out 3-bedroom apartments in mainland Russia and flock to Moscow where they share rooms with strangers, with 5-10 people living together in an apartment in their 30s. This isn't poverty, this is how people try to escape poverty. They cannot be helped to do it (otherwise more people will flock in - you can't move all China/all Russia to Hong Kong/Moscow), and should not be banned from trying (that kills economic progress, with Russians staying in Russian province means they will simply slowly die of vodka, in Moscow they might do something useful, i think same goes to Chinese).
Is that really how it works in SG? I've been told housing prices are outrageous there and if you're too poor to afford public housing you get shipped off to the poor house and are not allowed to leave unless you can find someone to take responsibility for you.
Note: I've only visited SG so this is 2nd hand info through my friends in SG.
That's sort of how it works here. The Singaporean housing market is divided into HDB (public housing) and Condo (private housing). Condo's nowadays start at around SGD 1m for something small and basic, but aren't such a bad deal with banks charging interest of just 1.8% on a 40 year loan. Most Singaporeans can't afford this with an average monthly wage of just SGD 2,000 per month.
Public housing on the other hand is heavily subsidised and somewhat controlled for PRs and citizens. FYI Singapore was a giant slum up until the government formed the HDB board in the 1960s. The CPF (Singapore's retirement fund) can be used as a deposit against your apartment which nowadays start at SGD 300,000 if you go far from the city. As you can guess, this results in many people having a lot of cash tied up in non-liquid assets when they retire that leads to a host of other issues.
I moved to Singapore 3 years ago from Australia and love the place and prefer life here to Hong Kong any day.
I was in Singapore and now I'm living in HK. Reading that SG has higher density than HK made was surprising, because here in HK there are so many needle-like apartment buildings, but I didn't see that so much in SG.
I think the reason is that HK does have bigger area than SG but actually far less land is being used in HK (many hills), so practically speaking, the density is higher in HK :)
A hungry homeless person is everyone's problem and a huge risk. No matter how you slice it, you end up paying the price: the value of your house goes down, the crime rate goes up, etc. It is a myth that you can escape poverty. Sure, you can move to an expensive gated community with a white gloved guard shooing away the "undesirables", but why do you think it's so expensive?
Moreover, a hungry homeless person is a security risk. How many iPhones, GPS's, laptops, etc. are stolen in a smash-and-grab incidents? How many people get hurt? No, not by your friendly neighborhood homeless lady, but by a person who feels they have no other choice but to steal or a person who is hooked on an addictive substance and can't stop?
Poverty also does not take a lot of people. A few percent here and there will cause enough headaches to become noticeable.
And poverty is chronic in society. It's not like if you took all the homeless, poor, and hungry and shipped them off to some unknown land you'd rid of the problem. No, instead more people would be pushed into the margins, becoming poor. You have to treat the cause.
Therefore, if poverty is inherent in certain societal setups, if it is everyone's problem (i.e.: everyone pays the cost) and it takes only a small percentage of people being poor to become a big problem, it is in the interest of everyone to change the societal setup so that poverty is minimized. Your original point was that it's not the government's job to do this. I argue that it is. The government (by the people and for the people) would not be doing it's job if it wasn't taking care of me or the person next to me.
As an aside, some might argue that private charities work much more efficiently than governments when it comes to homelessness/poverty/hunger. Personally, I believe a balanced approach works best. Big slow moving government projects with lots of oversight and restrictions coupled with flexible and quick-acting private charities are much more effective than either of the two.
Not to mention the toll on the children of the poor who do not get enough good nutrition, education, or a sense of safety and permanence to grow up to be respectable, law-abiding citizens.
That's what I don't get about allegedly intellectual, allegedly fiscally conservative people who are anti-welfare. They think that it's about not "giving a free ride" to people who "don't deserve" it. They are neither intellectual nor fiscally savvy enough to understand that there is always a cost, and to help and house people with welfare -- even people who will never "contribute" -- will cost far less in the long run than the ripple effect from feeling righteous.
Right and if the people of Hong Kong thought the government should be providing suitable housing for everybody who comes to Hong Kong (note that many of these people are foreigners) then they would vote in politicians who would make that happen.
As the video pointed out, only about half of government officials in Hong Kong are directly elected by the population. For the remainder, there is little pressure or incentive to get anything done in this regard.
Not everybody who comes to HK, but permanent residents in HK. Foreigners shouldn't get to come and grab resources. One of the reasons property prices in HK is so ridiculously high is because of many mainlander speculators coming in buying up apartments, jacking demand even higher. The reason this city needs government intervention is because the government controls the majority of land supply, and there isn't nearly enough to satisfy everybody.
they are not being forced to live there, they are choosing to do so and paying rent. they are free to move anywhere else they want, including across the border to mainland china where it is much cheaper.
It is absolutely the governments job to give people places to live if they are unable (not unwilling) to do so on their own. The difficulty lies in determining who is truly unable and who is simply unwilling.
How long does it take to stop working? I'm living in Copenhagen, and it seems to have been working here for quite a while now. And it makes the city much nicer for everyone. As a middle-class professional, I don't need the social welfare system myself (at least, not currently), but I still do benefit from the quality of life that comes from living in a city with very low crime, relatively low poverty, and reasonably good (though far from perfect) economic equality.
Occasionally people do leave, whether for tax reasons or other reasons, but on the whole even the wealthy agree that the quality of life you get from living here is worth the expense paid in taxes, compared to moving somewhere that's more unequal and more violent. If anything I would guess there is a net influx of well-off people, and there would be more of one if immigration rules were loosened, to make it easier for wealthy people to move here from outside Europe.
For Denmark, about another 7 years. Why do you think the government is acting the way it does? (For those not familiar with the situation, pursuing a reform strategy in straight opposition of explicit pre-election promises). By then, the baby-boomers will have retired and the smallest generation in modern history is left to pay for everything.
As for crime, there is no evidence that low inequality causes low crime rates, or the opposite. Significantly more inequal Switzerland and Singapore has lower homicide rates.
Do you honestly believe that there is no level of taxation where the ultra-rich (and the moderately rich which is where most tax-revenue comes from anyway - there are just many, many more of them) will react and leave?
Not really. Wealth attracts people primarily due to change in relative status as compared with other people. So if you do progressive taxation, someone who makes 1 million before tax still ranks higher than someone who makes 2 million before tax, even if ends up that they make 700,000 and 1,200,000 respectively. Due to the marginal utility curve of having more money, they really aren't that different off in other non-status related respects either.
It certainly can have adverse affects on investment payoffs that distort market logic; if you could figure out a way to progressively tax consumer consumption instead of income you could get around that.
Rich people who live in Hong Kong do not view their relative wealth like people who live in Manhatten, because they surely travel frequently and are thus acutely aware of just how much richer they are than everybody else on the planet, while rich people in Manhatten can get trapped in the cognitive bubble you are describing and misunderstand their relative wealth.
Singapore, being a rich island nation, works the same. If they started taxing the shit out of their rich it would certainly result in many of those people leaving the country and many, many more not setting up shop their in the first place.
Sure they do but on average a millionaire from HK is going to travel internationally a lot more - especially to poor countries - than a millionaire from New York, simply due to geography and living on a small island. All they have to do is walk over the border into Shenzhen to get a sense of just how rich they are. One could conceivably grow up in NYC and never grow to truly appreciate how much their life differs from those in the poorest parts of the World.
Queens/The Bronx/Harlem aren't that far from the Upper East Side... They're not Shenzhen by any means, but they should serve as a decent reminder, especially if they're aware that those places are relatively rich compared to lots of places.
to rebut this sticking to your libertarian premise (which I don't agree with, but you might actually listen then!):
Government intervention caused this. The government strictly controls which land can be built on, and restricts supply so much that this is what is left. If government stopped restricting which land developers could buy, build on, and sell as housing (which is a bad idea for another reasons, but not libertarian ones) then this problem would go away.
Let me get this straight. You think that if it were allowed to build on every square foot of HK, that there would be no housing problem in HK? What additional problems do you imagine would be created by the paving-over of every unit of land?
Coming from a family of humble means, poor, whom emigrated to the US from Mexico I can tell you that a lot of the reasons that poor people are poor is because they choose to be poor. So forgive me if I'm not too sympathetic about poor people.
In the USA of all the friends that I had I was the only one to go to college. We were all in the same boat but I chose to study and do my homework and they did not.
Then there were lots of other students that not only would they not care about their studies but they actually made it worse for the rest of us in a daily basis. They got into gangs, smoke pot, bullied other students, where disruptive during class.
You know what, fuck them. They chose to waste their youth, they chose to do nothing with their lives so I don't give a fuck about them being poor. I was there, in the trenches with them and I can tell you that nobody forced them to waste their lives. They did it of their own will.
> I disagree that the government should do anything about it though. What's the alternative, make them homeless? If there is both supply and demand, let people do what they want
Does letting people do what they want include building without permits (esp. on allotments not designated for housing)? It doesn't work this way, governments already exercise strong control over the housing market due to laws and regulations.
I don't live in HK, but where I live, the large property funds (whose demand has nothing to do with housing) have a dramatic effect on prices - they cause an artificial shortage by purchasing everything on the market, thereby increasing the value of their own portfolio (and their rents). So just "letting people do what they want" isn't going to help the housing situation, it just increases the GDP. The government should use the increased taxes (if any - too many loopholes) to compensate the negative effects.
If San Francisco allowed the sale of contaminated food there would be demand for it from people who have no choice. This is really a consumer rights issue. The landlords should provide a basic standard of safety for such high rents. The scope for exploitation is huge and the government should protect people from that. The size issue is less important.
If landlords are exploiting people and providing unsafe places to live, then that should be dealt with. I haven't seen anybody other than you mention those things though. People are just appalled by how small and ugly the rooms/cages are and they feel sorry for the people who choose to live there. The government shouldn't tell people who want to pay to live there that they cannot do so.
They mentioned in the video concerns about hygiene and electrical safety, and cockroaches. Twenty people sharing a toilet, how well do you think that works? What I am suggesting it telling landlords what they can and cannot do, not the residents. Every slum in the world has numerous landlords that don't maintain acceptable standards. To pretend that very poor people have the consumer freedom to challenge that is ignorant.
The problem is there is no supply and lots of demand. I'm too lazy to google for this, but the latest figure is something like demand is 2-3x greater than land supply. The government absolutely have to do something about this or this city will implode.
I lived in a 9 m^2 apartment (with some extra storage) for 3 years (cheap rent in Paris was nice). It was mostly fine, except you end up hearing neighbors. If not for that, it was pretty good. It had tradeoffs tho, apartment was next to castle of Versailles so lots of nature near. If you are single and there are outside areas to escape to, small living was ok for me at least. Poverty vs choice of living small makes a lot of difference for how it is. Small isn't inherently bad, surroundings matter.
That’s cheap? Wow. If it’s close to Versailles it’s well outside Paris.
I’m now moving into a 17sqft mini apartment (just for four months), one metro station from the center of Hamburg (20 min to my very central workplace, including a ten minute bus ride to the next metro station plus walking and waiting times). I will pay 270 euro/month for it, including heat and electricity.
You can get more spacious apartments in similar places in Hamburg for about 500 Euro/month. If you share an apartment with roommates you might even pay less than 400 Euro.
Is Paris really so much more expensive, even well outside the city? I mean, Hamburg (and Munich and now also Berlin) are already making headlines for their crazy expensive rents.
It’s a mini apartment with huge quotation marks around it. One 9 square meter living room (with cupboard, sofa, table), one 8 square meter bedroom, including a shower. Toilet and tiny kitchen niche in the tiny, 1 meter wide hall not included (for whatever reason) in the 17 square meters.
I still think the 270 Euro/month are pretty expensive for what it is, but luckily I only have to live there for four months (and in the summer, so I’m not going to be in there all the time and will rather try to enjoy the city).