Along with China’s rapid urbanization has come a rush for housing in Chinese cities. While construction struggles to keep up with demand (although certain housing projects sit empty), existing housing prices have skyrocketed. One side effect of this price effect has been to drive rural migrants into the ground or, more accurately, underground.
Until 2010, Chinese residential building policy required the construction of bomb shelters and storage basements with apartments and homes. As cities become densely populated and prices surged, many landlords turned these basements and shelters into underground apartments. The apartments, which are relatively cheap and often of poor quality, represent a sharp divide in the citizenry of cities. Those who live underground are looked down upon (puns aside) by residents who live on the surface. Many individuals who live underground are embarrassed by their lodging and express hopes that their children and grandchildren can live on the surface.
This unique situation is indicative of the urbanization, population density, rural migration, and changing housing market in China. As China continues to grow in both size and quality of life, hopefully these poor-quality housing situations will shrink and eventually disappear as access to surface-level abodes expands. But, as incomes grow and demand increases, so will prices, perpetuating a cycle of inaccessible surface housing.