Housing the People

Publication | October 2013

This issue analyzes historical improvements in housing stock and the growth of housing market in the People's Republic of China. Statistics are based on Census 2010 and NBS Statistical Yearbooks.

  • Housing supply in the People's Republic of China (PRC) has increased tremendously in recent years to meet demand, but affordability is increasingly an issue. A State Council document mandates the provision of 36 million new affordable homes under the 12th Five Year Plan (FYP) for 2011-2015.
  • Home ownership in the PRC is very high compared to other countries. As of 2010, home ownership was almost universal. Living space increased nine-fold in urban areas and 4.5-fold in rural areas in the past 3 decades. Effectively, two-thirds of all housing was built after 1990. This rapid expansion in housing has been an important contributor to GDP growth.
  • The private housing market is developing rapidly - both rental and sales - especially in urban areas. Within three decades of privatization reforms, the real estate market in the PRC is now one of the largest in the world. Patterns are very much geographical: rentals and private commercial housing are most prevalent in the bigger cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangdong.
  • However, as of 2010 over 35% of all housing did not have access to tap water and 28% did not have toilets. In some provinces, more than 55% of houses are without toilets, and over 62% are without tap water. This is not just an issue for self-built houses in rural areas. Two-thirds of renters in Beijing and Shanghai - mostly migrant workers, fresh college graduates, and low-income families - also did not have toilets or kitchens in their housing units. Thus, a well-rounded affordable housing policy should also include provisions to both upgrade existing housing and also increase the supply of higher quality, affordable rental units with adequate sanitation, water, and basic amenities.