Eye-Opening Photos of Hong Kong’s “Coffin Cubicles” Reveal Extremely Cramped Living

hong kong coffin cubicle

Photo: Benny Lam

Photographer Benny Lam has spent the past four years capturing a dark undercurrent to Hong Kong's housing market. Brimming with neon lights and luxury brands, outwardly Hong Kong projects an image of wealth and glamor, but behind closed doors, for many people, the truth is different.

In his new story for National Geographic, Lam takes us inside apartments known as “Coffin Cubicles,” where more than 200,000 people—including 40,000 children—live. Ranging from 15 to 100 square feet, these dire living conditions have popped up due to a lack of developable land. With a population of 7.5 million, this dearth of apartments have caused prices to skyrocket and for many—pushed out by high rents—to find themselves living in subhuman conditions.

Moving into subdivided units, some of which are piled high with bunk beds rented for $250 a month, 15-square-foot coffin cubicles, or small cage homes made of wire measure that are as small as 6′ x 2.5′ the conditions are shocking at first sight. After many years photographing these tiny dwellings, Lam recalls telling a tenant with a larger than normal room, “You have a big coffin home!” Immediately feeling bad about his comment, Lam recalled “Living like that should never be normal. I had become numb.”

Read more about the situation on National Geographic and view more images of homes shared by these brave citizens, who put aside their shame and embarrassment to open up their doors in hopes of bringing awareness to the situation.

Photographer Benny Lam has spent the past four years documenting the cramped living conditions in Hong Kong, which has driven many into renting 15-square-foot wood planked spaces called “Coffin Cubicles.”

Hong Kong cage homes

Photo: Benny Lam

hong kong coffin cubicle

Photo: Benny Lam

“You may wonder why we should care, as these people are not a part of our lives. The only difference between us and them is [their homes]. This is a question of human dignity,” Lam reminds us.

Hong Kong Housing Crisis

Photo: Benny Lam

hong kong coffin cubicle

Photo: Benny Lam

Benny Lam/SOCO: Website | Facebook

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by National Geographic.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.

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