For Many in Beijing, Home Is Deep Underground

Cellars and even bomb shelters are turned into low-cost housing
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2010 8:11 AM CST
Soaring apartment prices in Beijing are driving hundreds of thousands of people underground.   (AP Photo/Greg Baker)

(Newser) – With real estate prices soaring in Beijing, millions can't afford an apartment ... and more and more people are being forced underground, into makeshift apartments in cellars and even bomb shelters, reports Der Spiegel. Few of these accommodations have kitchens or emergency exits, and they are often illegal, but they are inexpensive. One 27-year-old fitness trainer pays $68 per month for a room in a cellar that can fit a desk and bed—one floor down, the rooms are even cheaper.

An average apartment rental in Beijing costs $455 a month—up from $413 a year ago and $350 the year before that. And buying an apartment costs a whopping $335 per square foot. With neighboring villages being torn down to make way for new housing and office space, thousands more migrants are streaming into the city. But little low-cost housing is being built, meaning economic pressures are only going to grow. But for some, the benefits of living in Beijing are worth the hardships of living underground. "I love my work, and I feel free," says the young fitness trainer, who recently upgraded to a new cellar room with a shaft that allows a bit of daylight in.

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