Four-year-old Vera Wong Zi-wei’s favourite possession isn’t the latest Disney princess doll, but her brand-new study desk that matches in the 200 sq ft subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po she calls home.

Wong’s desk, complete with a secret compartment on her behalf stationery and toys, is a rare commodity for families which can be squeezed into cluttered, shoebox apartments.

“She used to only be capable of do homework over a folding table that had to be put away on a regular basis, however right now she will work and play inside the same space. It’s the first place she goes toward when she gets home now,” Wong’s mother, Yan Nga-chi, said.

Coffin cubicles, caged homes and subdivisions … life inside Hong Kong’s grim low income housing

Wong, who lives together with her mother and grandmother, is among one of 70 low-income families which may have benefitted coming from a project that aims to transform the living area of tiny flats with Furniture hk.

“Many grass-roots families don’t get the extra money to spend on furniture. Instead, they’ll hoard lots of second-hand furniture even though it’s not very practical simply because they don’t determine if they’ll have the capacity to afford it in the future,” said social worker Angela Lui Yi-shan, who runs the project with human rights advocacy group Society for Community Organisation.

The HK$3 million home modification project, sponsored through the South China Morning Post since 2013, can offer as much as 120 low-income families with custom-made furniture, like desks, shelves and storage cupboards, as well as give their house a mini-makeover by rearranging their liveable space.

Ahead of the modification, Yan’s apartment barely had any walking space when folding tables were set up for lunch or homework.

A three-seater sofa which also doubled as a bed for Yan’s elderly mother had blocked half the corridor that triggered the bathroom and kitchen.

A sizable desk with little storage area took up a lot of the living room, even though the floor was cluttered with multiple plastic boxes piled in addition to the other.

Hong Kong’s poorest squeezed as rents for tiny subdivided flats rise at double rate for other homes

They of architects rearranged existing furniture and designed the analysis desk and two new shelving units to fit Yan’s living room area.

By utilising the top ceilings in old tenement houses, Yan’s family could take advantage of floor-to-ceiling storage as an alternative to having storage boxes take up limited floor area.

Having an average four-year watch for public housing and ever-increasing rents within the private sector, many residents who live beneath the poverty line have to tolerate cramped 47dexlpky squalid living conditions that range from cage homes to coffin cubicles.

Almost 200,000 people lived in some 88,000 subdivided units in 2015, according to official figures.

The Society for Community Organisation’s project concentrates on families with education needs, in the hope that providing a devoted working space can help children focus better on his or her studies and ultimately give the family a chance to escape poverty.

“Most of the children we deal with lie on the ground or bed to perform their homework, and it’s not best for their health or development, but this project may help change that,” Lui said.

DOMAT, the not-for-profit architecture firm that designs the Wood furniture Hong Kong, visits each family individually and makes things to suit the family and the peculiar layouts caused by partitioned flats.

The furnishings, built with a contractor in mainland China, was created to be flexible therefore it can remain with your family whether it moves into another subdivided flat or public housing.

“Based on their own daily habits, we see how our designs can match their needs. We would like to use furniture as a tool to enhance their space, as opposed to just providing new furniture,” architect Maggie Ma said.

The company’s personal approach to the project can be another key reasons why the firm will not like working together with developers.

“What I realised [in building high rises] is the fact so much of the procedure is controlled by market demand and so what can bring in more income,” Ma said.

“In a method, they sacrifice some the user’s needs, therefore we wanted to consider designs that happen to be more humane. This project actually makes us understand more details on how people live and what is most essential to them.”

Although she was forced to move away from her apartment into another subdivided flat after the installation, Yan said the brand new furniture had transformed her home.

“When you initially move into a flat, you don’t think an excessive amount of regarding the furniture. Everything was fine so long as we had space to get our things. However right now, we can easily see how practical Office chairs Hong Kong could be and just how it will make a better living space,” she said.

Ma’s partner and fellow architect Mark Kingsley said: “It’s unlike those Tv programs where you get to the home and they’ve totally transformed it into something completely different. The ambition of your project is much more modest – to make small changes that could have a big effect on your family.”