The issue of subdivided flats has spread to the entire city, a Hong Kong research group has said, after a government report revealed that there were 704 subdivided flats on the outlying Islands – the first time they have been found in the rural district.

The number of subdivided households has increased by almost 17 per cent – from 91,787 in 2016, to 107,371 in 2021. A total of 215,709 people were living in subdivided dwellings in 2021 – including 1,505 foreign domestic workers – according to the Census and Statistics Department’s 2021 Population Census.

A subdivided flat in Tai Wo Hau. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

The government report, released on Thursday, reflected a worsening trend, said the Liber Research Community. It also may not be reflecting the full picture, the group said, as it did not specify whether units in industrial buildings were included, nor did it count capsule units or bunk beds.

“The increase in the number of subdivided flats not only showed that the trend of subdivided units may not have improved in recent years, but also shows that the 30,000 units of light public housing provided by the government is far from enough to handle the huge number of households living in subdivided flats,” the group’s statement on Thursday read.

In its bid to tackle the city’s worsening housing problems, Chief Executive John Lee’s government launched two working groups for land planning and housing. The government also vowed to decrease the waiting time for public housing to four and a half years within four years.

Hong Kong’s John Lee meets with China’s Xi Jinping on Friday. Photo: GovHK.

Last October, Lee was praised by lawmakers for heeding instructions from China’s Xi Jinping to tackle the crisis. Last July, Xi asked the new administration to “earnestly address people’s concerns and difficulties in daily life… Currently, the biggest aspiration of Hong Kong people is to lead a better life, in which they will have more decent housing…”

Rent rising

Thursday’s government report also showed an increase in the median rent for subdivided flats – from HK$4,500 in 2016 to HK$5,000. Subdivided flat residents had a greater rent burden, as the median rent per square foot for such residents was HK$42, compared to HK$25 across the city, said the Liber Research Community.

“The poorer [the people], the more expensive their housing,” the research group said.

More residents were also having to travel to a different district for work, with only 29.9 per cent of subdivided flat residents living in the same district as their workplace in 2021, compared to 42.2 per cent in 2016.

Hong Kong housing. Photo: GovHK,

“Previously, one of the reasons citizens live in subdivided flats was because it was near their workplace,” the research group said. “The remote locations of transitional housing, nowadays, is expected to exacerbate the situation where citizens have to travel to a different district to work – the poorer they are, the higher the transportation cost.”

The report also reflected a particularly serious housing issue for some ethnic minorities, said Liber Research Community The number of people with a Pakistani background living in subdivided flats amounted to one tenth of the entire ethnic population, whilst a quarter of those with a Nepalese background lived in a subdivided units.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.