Hong Kong, with its dense population and limited land supply is notorious for its housing issues.
Sky-high property prices, expensive rents and long waiting time for public housing have resulted in a number of families living in subdivided flats. According to the report of the Task Force for the Study on Tenancy Control of Subdivided Units appointed by the government, there are over 100,000 subdivided flats in Hong Kong which accommodate an estimated 226,000 people. Given that the housing problem won’t be solved any time soon, some makers and organizations get creative to provide better living conditions to subdivided flats tenants.
Project Space aims at helping the underprivileged by improving their living environment. They started by providing home repairs and donating furniture. They also organize events to improve the look of buildings in their neighbourhood (painting, refurbishing…),thus building a stronger connection within the community.
Frank Yau, one of the founders of Project Space, recalls that he mainly did interior design of luxury houses after graduating architecture school. Yet he has noticed that many of the population live in subdivided flats with poor living conditions. This makes him reflect on what he has learned – apart from designing houses for the rich, is it also possible to help the underprivileged? This is exactly why he established Project Space with his friends from college.
Apart from home maintenance, they also tailor-make suitable furniture for residents of subdivided flats or public housing. As subdivided flats vary in size and conditions, they have to design furniture that can be easily stored and placed in a small space. Frank believes that it is necessary to get the community involved in the process. You can teach them how to analyze their place, such as measuring the size of the space or identifying some potential danger zones so that they can spontaneously improve their place. Making them understand where the problems lie is the best cure – if you don’t leave any room for their own development, they will only end up getting back to square one even if you have helped them.
‘I also worked in the education field when I was young. Children growing up in different environments show quite a big difference in all aspects.’ In addition to improving housing problems, education is also pivotal in changing the life of the underprivileged. Collaborating with various schools and organizations, Project Space offers basic electronics classes and woodworking classes to children and youth from time to time to equip them with more skills.
Frank believes that we also have to put emphasis on the education of children from wealthy families, as they may not be able to understand the situation of grassroots families. He wants to let them know the other side of the story – there are some people in Hong Kong who live in poor circumstances – through elements like arts and creative work. For that, Project Space has designed a mobile app using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) with the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. They hope to raise public awareness of the problem of subdivided flats through games and visual perception, so as to improve the living conditions of the community living in ‘inadequate housing’.