Inside Hong Kong’s 50 Sq. Ft. ‘Coffin Cubicle’ Homes

November 1, 2017, 7:29 PM UTC

Hong Kong residents have less living space than prisoners in high security jail cells, according to a new study by the Kwai Chung Subdivided Flat Residents Alliance.

The average living space per person in Hong Kong is 50 square feet, roughly the size of three toilet cubicles and half the size of a standard parking spot.

The name for such a small space? The “coffin cubicle.”

Coffin cubicles are miniature homes that combines toilets with kitchens and cram in beds too small to stretch one’s legs. From cooking, cleaning, and sleeping, all activities take place in these tiny spaces.

Hong Kong has been ranked the world’s least affordable market by the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey for the seventh straight year, averaging $4.50 per square foot to rent since June. The city’s apartments cost 18.1 times the gross annual median income.

Hong Kong has long been known for it wealth and prosperity—but beyond the glitz, this is the reality for many residents. Approximately 200,000 people lived in subdivided units like these in 2015, according to a Census and Statistics Department report. These units range from illegally built shacks and windowless rooms to exceedingly small apartments.

In an interview with National Geographic, photographer Benny Lam said he became accustomed to the coffin homes after four years of visiting hundreds of tiny spaces.

“Living like that should never be normal,” he told the magazine. “I had become numb.”