Home Modification for Low-income Families

DOMAT

 

This project brings together architects and social workers to tackle housing issues in Hong Kong, where at one-in-five of the population live in poverty. Renowned for high density living and exorbitant house prices, we focus on families with children living in inadequate homes, with the aim of enhancing their study environment at home to improve the long-term prospects of the family. These families who await government subsidised housing must seek affordable housing in the private market, which offers tiny spaces (10-15sqm) to rent. These are often ‘subdivided units’ where a landlord has divided an existing house into smaller self-contained flats; they are found in dense tenement building in older districts where the conditions are cramped and often squalid. 
 
We developed a strategy of modular furniture as a spatial tool which organise the daily living space and utilise the high ceilings of the tenement buildings. Providing furniture allows the families to be direct beneficiaries, rather than modifying the architectural space, which would be to the landlord’s advantage and could risk rental increase; when the family moves to a new home, they can take the furniture with them. 
 
The furniture is designed from blockboard with simple finishes for honesty of materials as well as lasting longer than flat-packed furniture. Being modular and lighter weight than plywood, the families can carry it up and down stairs and rearrange or adapt the modules with simple tools to fit their new homes. To date, we have worked with 235 families and will continue towards 300.

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