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Hong Kong poor cramped in mini-apartments

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Roughly 170,000 people are cornered by high rent and a public housing supply that doesn’t come close to meeting demand. (Source: CNN) Roughly 170,000 people are cornered by high rent and a public housing supply that doesn’t come close to meeting demand. (Source: CNN)

HONG KONG (CNN) - This is the part of Hong Kong you don't usually see: a home not much bigger than a single bed, belongings stacked to the ceiling and every last inch of space used.

These are subdivided units - small apartments that are split into tiny sections and then rented out individually.

You can cross this whole apartment in about four steps; it's just about 60 square feet. To put that into context, a king-size bed is 42 square feet, and a family of three lives here.

Wife Huang Yu-Hua and husband Lei De-Cheng live here with their 11-month-old son.

They're among the roughly 170,000 people cornered by high rent and a public housing supply that doesn’t come close to meeting demand.

The cramped space isn't even the most challenging part for Huang Yu-Hua.

The most difficult part is the bathroom, she says, which they share with other families. If you want to use it but there are people in there, you can't, even if it's urgent.

Nine people share one toilet, one shower and one kitchen.

"I really can't get used to living here," she said.

And this doesn't even come cheap. The family pays $5 per square foot in rent - $1 more than the average for a new one bedroom flat in this area.

To draw attention to this issue, the Society for Community Organization commissioned a collection of photos of these homes.

They were taken two years ago but are on display now.

Community organizer Natalie Yau says they're caught in limbo living like this.

"They cannot carry out their plan,” Yau said. “They cannot see their future. They are just waiting for a change in their lives."

That change is public housing. The Hong Kong government says it's aiming to provide 20,000 units a year. But Yau says there are 240,000 applications pending.

One man lived in a unit of just 23 square feet. He had to wait for 10 years for public housing.

The government says it's trying to maintain a three-year waiting period for families.

But until public housing becomes available, or the rent becomes too much to bear, this is where the family will stay - in the shadow of one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

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