China's urbanisation drive leaves migrant workers out in the cold
Beijing/Shanghai: Twenty minutes' drive from Shanghai's glitzy financial district, dozens of migrant workers are preparing to abandon homes in old shipping containers, as one of the more unusual solutions to China's housing shortage faces the wrecking ball.
Cheap but crowded neighbourhoods are being cleared across China as part of a stepped-up "urbanisation" campaign by China's new leaders. The country aims to spend an estimated $6 trillion on infrastructure, including housing, as a projected 400 million people become urban residents over the next decade. But in an ironic twist, the clearance of so-called "villages within cities" removes cheap housing stock for the very people targeted to fuel that migration, without providing sufficient replacement units. The land is sold by municipalities to developers who generally erect expensive apartment towers.
That throws into question how the government can achieve its ambitious goal. "On the one hand, the law doesn't allow former farmers to expand housing for migrant workers, on the other hand local governments don't have the money to build affordable housing either," said Li Ping, senior attorney for Landesa Rural Development Institute in Beijing.
About 130 million Chinese migrants live in tiny, sub-divided rooms rented out by former farmers whose villages have been swallowed by sprawl, according to government surveys.