Hong Kong — one of the world's wealthiest and most influential financial centers — is suffering a blistering, decade-long housing crisis.

A residential and commercial building where many "coffin homes" are located in Hong Kong. | (Kin Cheung)

With an ever-expanding population trying to cram into Hong Kong's relatively tiny territory, demand for residential space is high — and realtors are milking the market for all its worth. Property prices in Hong Kong have soared 154 percent since 2007, compared to a 42 percent growth in incomes. The city's median house prices are now 19 times the median income.

The solution? Increasingly cramped spaces. More than 200,000 of the city's 7.3 million residents now live in "subdivided units" — apartments split so many times the space better resembles a cubicle than a home. And still thousands more live in even smaller forms of "inadequate housing," such as stacked wooden bunks or metal cages barely larger than a coffin.

(Kin Cheung)

Associated Press photographer Kin Cheung met with and photographed a handful of Hong Kong residents living in these "shoebox" and "coffin" homes.

One resident, a single mother, lives in a dim 120-square-foot unit — one of five partitioned out of a single apartment — with her two children, one 6 years old and the other 8. The single-room space contains "a bunk bed, small couch, fridge, washing machine, and tiny table."

"The bigger [the children] get, the more crowded it gets. Sometimes there's not even any space to step," she told the Associated Press. "They don't even have space to do their homework."

She pays the equivalent of $580 a month in rent, nearly half the monthly income she receives working at a bakery. Another man pays about $310 a month for his 18-square-foot compartment — one of the "coffin homes" — which fits a TV, an electric fan, and a few pieces of clothing on hangers; he sleeps on a sleeping bag.

(Kin Cheung)

(Kin Cheung)

The government has attempted to step in, but no policy has successfully restrained the skyrocketing prices with any lasting results. Public housing is the best bet these shoebox residents have for decent, livable homes. Indeed, nearly half of all Hong Kong residents live in either government-owned high-rises or homes bought with government subsidies. But the waiting list is already a quarter-million residents deep, and people can spend an average of five years idling in the queue.

The consequences of such sordid living conditions range from physical to psychological: Some people can't stretch their legs to sleep; sex can sometimes be impossible. The children Cheung met bicker constantly.

Take a tour of Hong Kong's heartbreaking "shoebox" homes:

(Kin Cheung)

(Kin Cheung)

(Kin Cheung)

(Kin Cheung)

This communal bathroom is shared by two dozen coffin home residents. | (Kin Cheung)

(Kin Cheung)

(Kin Cheung)