Hong Kong had around 210,000 people living in the so-called subdivided units (SDUs), extremely small living spaces that were created by partitioning regular flats, in 2016, with the bulk of the dwellers of those cramped units under the age of 45, according to a government report.
The “2016 Population By-census Thematic Report: Persons Living in Subdivided Units”, which was released by the Census and Statistics Department on Thursday, showed there were about 92,700 SDUs existing in some 27,100 quarters in Hong Kong, indicating that each of those quarters was subdivided into 3.4 SDUs on average.
Based on estimations that these SDUs accommodated some 91,800 households and that the average household size was 2.3 people, there were about 209,700 people living in SDUs in 2016, up from 195,500 seen in a previous survey in 2014.
The report found that 56.9 percent of the SDUs were in Kowloon, followed by the New Territories (23.6 percent) and Hong Kong Island (19.5 percent). District Council areas with a larger number of SDUs included Yau Tsim Mong (21,500), Sham Shui Po (15,400), Kowloon City (9,000), Eastern (8,400) and Tsuen Wan (6,600).
In terms of age group, 28.4 percent of those living in SDUs were aged below 25, while 39.4 percent were in the 25-44 age group. Together they accounted more than half of the total. Twenty-four percent were aged 45-64 and those aged 65 and over accounted for 8.2%, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Chan Wing-tung, director of Platform Concerning Subdivided Flats and Issues in Hong Kong, a non-governmental organization, questioned the accuracy of the numbers, saying he thinks the figures represent an underestimate.
Chan believes several tens of thousands of households living in the SDUs were not included in the data as similar units in industrial buildings and cubicles were not taken into account.
Another factor that is likely to have contributed to the wrong estimate is that many SDU residents may have refused to be surveyed, he said.
Chua Hoi-wai, chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS), pointed out the fact that the median per capita floor area of accommodation was only 5.3 square meters, smaller than the minimum standard set for public rental housing estates, which is 5.5 square meters.
This suggests many grassroots families were living in very bad environments, Chua said. The government should try to resolve the issue through various measures, including boosting the supply of transitional housing as well as public rental units, he said.
The HKCSS, a federation of non-government social service agencies, launched a flat-sharing scheme, Community Housing Movement, last year with an aim to ease Hong Kong’s tight housing supply by providing low-cost units to tenants who live in subdivided flats while waiting for public rental housing.
The goal is to solicit 500 units to be shared by 1,000 families.
In other findings, the Population By-census report unveiled Thursday showed that not all of the people who lived in subdivided flats were very poor.
Around 13,300 of the 91,800 SDU households, or close to 15 percent, had monthly incomes in excess of HK$20,000.
The occupants included many with service, sales or non-technical jobs, while some were even professionals or held managerial or civil servant jobs.
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