Hong Kong COVID Crime & Punishment — Life Played Out In A Coffin Home

view up from street in Hong Kong, with tall builidngs on all sides

Homewise, how small is too small? This is a societal issue that must ultimately be faced.

We already have one kind purely practical answer: when it comes to basic shelter in the face of necessity, a sleeping bag is not too small to call home. A tent is not too small to call home. A bedspace in a vast converted dormitory is not too small.

But what size of permanent physical living space is a lower limit for the health and welfare of any individual citizen in a civilized society? As it turns out, there are readily available answers to this question, and they involve more than simple floor space measurements.1

Housing developers have discovered that great profits can be mined by subdividing large spaces into tiny rental units.2 Where it has become permissible to build such very small units, ingenious repackaging and upbeat advertising have served to direct attention away from terms such as “impossibly cramped” or “truly squalid.” One of the latest terms, which glorifies minuscule sleeping rooms paired with shared facilities such as toilets, is “co-living.” New “co-living” accommodations with conditions that would shame a 19th century boarding house are offered as the latest in “trendy downtown living” for those shopping for increasingly unavailable rental housing.

Not all governments have rushed to embrace the hype attached to this form of living, at least not to the point of modifying zoning bylaws to accommodate co-living development projects.3

However, much to the misery of its citizens, there is one world city that is a living laboratory for the calibration of what is suitably small housing when it comes to both physical and mental health: Hong Kong.

However Hong Kong’s cramped millions survive in their tiny homes during the best of times, the COVID-19 pandemic is a trial of Hong Kong human health in the worst of times. And that city, with limited or no standards for the size and essential amenities for housing, reflects the physical and mental damage that unbridled capitalism and enabling governments can inflict upon its citizens. Read more in Bloomberg CITYLAB: Homes as Small as 60 Square Feet Worsen Hong Kong’s Covid Crisis

Footnotes

  1. An obvious example: a 4,000 square foot (375 square metre) mansion floorspace with 4 inch (10 centimetre) height is suitable for moles, skunks, groundhogs, and cats on a mission, but not humans.
  2. Try: Hong Kong Style Micro Home Living Already Alive and Well in America
  3. Neither trendy nor downtown, Ireland has recently decided. Try: Irish Grow Impatient With Housing Development “Help”

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