Amid the public housing crunch, single people earning a low wage are taking up residence in subdivided flats and cage homes, but the cheaper rent comes with a steep emotional price: isolation from loved ones.
More than 70 per cent of people living in such cramped places say their families have not visited them in the past six months, a survey has found.
"Normal things like meeting with family members has become a rare thing for many of them," said Angela Lui Yi-shan, a community organiser with the Society for Community Organisation, which conducted the survey. "People may have the impression that they are a flexible group, but 90 per cent of them have no savings. Housing is a big obstacle to their personal development."
She announced the survey findings yesterday and sought to highlight what she said was unreasonably high rent charged for housing on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.
The survey, conducted between September and November last year, included 113 single people, aged between 18 and 59. More than 60 per cent had a job but none earned more than HK$9,200. The organisation said there were at least 9,000 such people across Hong Kong.
Peter Ng, 29, is one of them, returning each day to a cage home in Tai Kok Tsui. Like many of those interviewed for the survey, Ng said his housing situation defined his social life and personal development.
"I dare not tell my girlfriend that I live in such a place, needless to say [anything about] inviting her to my home," Ng said.
Though most of those interviewed were unmarried or divorced, half said it was unlikely they would start a family in the next five years, with 60 per cent citing their housing situation as the reason. More than half of respondents had applied for public housing, but about 40 per cent have been waiting over three years - some more than 10 years.
The organisation is urging the government to build more public housing and abolish the points system, which gives less priority for young and single people.
Older people start with a higher score which increases with time, meaning young people who got in line first may have older people "jumping the queue".