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Public housing tenants struggling hard to make both ends meet

Whampoa Gardens estate in Hung Hom. [PAUL YEUNG / BLOOMBERG]

Hong Kong is a city of stark financial contrasts, being home to luxury-brand flagship outlets and also to three in 10 people living in public housing heavily subsidized by the government.

Despite being helped financially, the cost of living weighs heavily on this group.

According to the Census and Statistics Department, they paid rent of HK$1,500 ($191) on average in 2016, an increase of HK$190 on 2006.

For 50 percent of the city's 7 million people living in private housing, their rent nearly doubled from HK$5,100 to HK$10,000 over the same period.

The much lower rents for public housing residents have provided them with a crumb of comfort.

In the 2014-15 financial year, spending on food took up HK$6,159, or 46 percent, of their monthly household expenditure, according to a survey carried out by the department every five years.

Eating lunch in cha chaan tengs, or Hong Kong-style diners, costs HK$50 per person on average.

A bottle of water in a convenience store costs more than HK$7, while a small bottle of cola costs about HK$9.

Even cooking at home is not cheap for those with little money. According to a survey in 2016 by the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, it cost HK$114 to make a single dinner such as fish or pork with vegetables.

A pack of cigarettes in the city costs nearly HK$60 and a small bottle of imported beer HK$18.

Those living in private housing spend more on food a month - HK$8,324 - but it only takes 23 percent of their monthly expenditure compared with those living in subsidized public housing.

Tenants in public housing pay HK$1,049 a month on average on public transportatiunderwater creampieon, while those in private accommodations spend HK$2,849 to get about.

A train journey from Lo Wu on the border with the Chinese mainland to Central district on Hong Kong Island costs HK$49.

Hailing a taxi costs HK$24 for the first kilometer and HK$8.50 for each ensuing kilometer.

For drivers, 1 liter of gasoline costs HK$15.80 and the registration fee for a vehicle such as a new electric Volkswagen e-Golf can be as high as HK$199,480 - more than 60 percent of the retail price of HK$326,980.

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