“A regular apartment would be more comfortable, but it’s about 2,000 yuan a month. That’s too much for the type of people who live here. They want to save what they can. We fill the lowest niche,” said landlord Dong Gang, whose former farmhouse is now a two-story concrete structure divided into about 30 makeshift rooms.
One of the 1,000 original residents of Xinzhuang, he has been renting to migrants for 20 years. Complicated zoning laws mean that Dong cannot expand beyond the footprint of his original home, hindering investments that might improve housing quality.
“In Beijing over the last two years they’ve been ‘cleaning up’ crowded tenements — that raises rents and forces many out,” said Hu Xingdou (胡星斗), a specialist in migrant issues at the Beijing Institute of Technology.
Within the next two years, Beijing city is expected to allow migrants to rent, but not buy city-built housing units. Even so, many migrants will not qualify to rent, and the number of government-built units often falls short of the number of migrants displaced.
“There is going to be less of this type of housing, because almost all cities have policies now to demolish ‘villages within cities,’” according to estimates by Tom Miller, author of China’s Urban Billion.