The Not So Glamours Side of Tiny House Living in China

“In a central Beijing basement room he shares with two others, He Bing, 23, who recently arrived from Chongqing city tries on his new shirt and borrowed tie and suit for size the night before a examination to become an insurance salesman. Migrants from other parts of China who are the backbone of the service sector in Beijing typically live in simple houses outside of the city centre or in air-raid shelters or basements like this one, paying 300 to 700 yuan a month in rent. With property prices skyrocketing in the Chinese capital, they cannot afford any other type of housing. Air raid shelters and basement spaces beneath apartment blocks are partitioned into rooms and rented out. Basement-dwellers, unkindly dubbed the ‘rat tribe’ by the Chinese press, rarely see the sun from their rooms and often put up with mold and mildew on their clothes and bedding in the summer, but many make this space their comfortable home in their time in the capital.” – Sim Chi Yin

See more photos and bios of folks living in China’s subterranean micro apartments. Photos by Sim Chi Yin.

10 thoughts on “The Not So Glamours Side of Tiny House Living in China”

  1. Tracy Hellene Butler

    Its atrocious that people have to live like that when they have so many empty apartment buildings that people cant afford. What kind of government would allow such a thing. Where I’m from kids get taken away if they don’t have their own bedroom. I hope the world gets better for them.

    1. Sadly, you could ask that question of the US government as well; we have millions of empty homes and millions of homeless people. Follow the money.

      1. I agree. If it’s a government’s job to create an atmosphere of fairness and equality then few governments, especially those like China and the U.S., where centralist values are held above all others.

    2. Context is important.

      By American or European standards, this might seem horrible and very substandard.

      Compared to alternatives in some rural parts of China, where these economic migrants usually come from, these spaces are an improvement, featuring electricity, access to running water and proximity to (relatively) high paying jobs.

      For what it’s worth, by the way, the vast empty apartment blocks built by speculators in recent years and seen in the Western Press, are located in minor cities without jobs or far away from the city center. Even if they were available for the same price as these tiny rooms, the cost of transit would make them unaffordable to these people.

  2. Mold!!! The damnation of a civilized healthy society. What a condemnation to have to live in those conditions. I feel compassion.

    1. Truth! Many people don’t seem to be aware of how disabling and deadly mold can be.

  3. it is not a government’s job to provide housing for the people. i am sorry for those who cannot afford more. yes there are those who are forced to live like this. i have had to live in poverty before & am blessed that i do not now. many have no choice of living in poverty. but many others choose to live in poverty all their lives because they are too lazy to get off their tails and do better. any government only has what it has stolen from one person to give to another. we each should choose to be ‘our brother’s keeper’ as is written in the Bible & in other books of other religions. Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us, & to paraphrase – as we do unto them, we do unto Him. so we are to help those in need – not leave it to others to do!! IT IS OUR JOB TO DO…NOT THE GOVERNMENT’S. also as thomas jefferson said ‘ any government that is big enough to do everything u want, is big enough to take everything u have’ …… i could go on, but u get my point. these tiny houses are wonderful for what we choose to use them for, and for their purposes. i am grateful that i do not have to live in one of them full time.

  4. Well, the size isn’t so bad. Tiny houses are kinda a trend now….
    Don’t look down on their homes because they don’t meet the standard of your neighborhood. So long as it isn’t dangerous to live there, it’s not a problem. (My father had a very nice house in a good area, we still had issues with it because we were at the bottom of a hill and it flooded, the weather/nature can’t really be helped. )

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