Urban villages have proliferated in almost every Chinese city as consequence of the urban sprawl commanded by local governments, sometimes with the purpose of financing their budgets. They expose the imperfections of the double property system, where the government has a monopoly of the primary land market. The term “urban village” (chengzhongcun – 城中村）refers to the situation where the city ends up encircling the village. Most of the farmland has been expropriated and urbanized, and only the villagers’ original homesteads remain. Soaring real estate prices in the surrounding city reduce the possibility of an eventual expropriation and redevelopment of the area.
In the meantime, the original residents make a good profit from renting rooms, mostly to migrant workers who have restricted access to urban formal housing, due to the high prices, and the lack of stable jobs and tax returns. Housing conditions are precarious and villagers are not keen to invest much money, hoping for an eventual expropriation. Buildings like the one in these photos date from the 1950s. They are made of mud bricks and have dirt floors, water leakages are frequent, and some lack running water. The average rent is around 50€ for a 15 square meter room. Migrant workers adrift on the fringes of citizenship.