Affordable housing provision in Chinese cities: a solution for whom?
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Dr. Lei Yu
Access to adequate and secure housing is a basic human right, which impacts all aspects of a person’s wellbeing. This requires government to play a role in housing provision to ensure basic housing needs, particularly for the most vulnerable social groups. In China, post-reform housing policy and practices have experienced two major transitions: from a socialist welfare system to a more market-based provision through the 1990s; and from a pro-growth market enabling strategy in the pursuit of a homeownership society, to a more people-oriented regime, committing to “adequate housing for all” (住有所居) in the context of surging housing affordability and inequality challenges over the past decade. This research investigates this recent evolution of Chinese affordable housing policy and its effect on improving people’s housing welfare in urban areas. Since 2007, there has been a massive expansion of affordable housing construction sweeping through urban areas, with a total of nearly 40 million affordable housing units built nationwide over the five year period from 2011 to 2015. At the municipal level, however, the program design for service provision presents great diversity, delivering mixed outcomes where the policy impact varies across different target groups and between cities. The contribution of this research lies in providing insights into such disparity, by bringing the mechanisms of central-local interaction in policy process to the focus of implementation analysis. It achieves this by unpacking the policy evolution and practice of two affordable housing programs, the Public Rental Housing (公租房)and Urban Shantytown Upgrading (棚户区改造), which form the core of China’s current affordable housing regime. Under each program, using comparative case analyses, the investigation scrutinises the program delivery from a contextual and action-focused approach, delving into the observations about what happened, why and how it happened in particular local contexts, and their association with the policy outcome, considering who has been served and who has been left behind. The empirical data draws on in-depth documentary analysis and fieldwork observation in Guangzhou, Chongqing, Shanghai, Liaoning (Shenyang and Fushun). Overall, the research findings reveal that, notwithstanding the concerted effort by the central government, with strengthened administrative control while providing funding incentives to engage local compliance with policy goals, the discretionary power of city governments in manipulating the process of service delivery has largely endured. Through examining distinctive behaviours of “selective implementation” in the policy process across different localities, the evidence shows that the willingness of local governments to engage in program expansion under central policy directives depends less on the anticipated need, than on the perceived opportunity to advance local interests and priorities. Reflecting on the distributional consequences of affordable housing provision among different social groups and across cities, this research sheds light on the mechanism of affordable housing provision as a system of stratification, contributing to the changing pattern of social inequality and segregation in urban areas.
KeywordsChinese affordable housing policy; urban housing governance; central-local relations; comparative implementation study
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