Weiyi Cao


The State and the Market: Mapping the (In)Equity of Social Rented Housing for Migrants in Chongqing

Advised by Susan N. Snyder and George E. Thomas

The current prevalence of social rented housing, or gongzufang, varies city by city in China. Most cities’ program has targeted low- to moderate-income urban residents and has excluded low-income rural migrants who do not possess local hukou, the permanent residence certificate, from accessing social rented housing. This thesis analyses Chongqing’s migrant-inclusion policy of social rented housing program, which has made migrants eligible to apply for housing dwellings, and its gap between policy justifications and empirical evidence. Although the migrant-inclusion policy has been justified by achieving rural-urban equality, it has been strategically used by the municipal government as a tool for promoting industrial growth.

By deploying hedonic regression models, the study explores the housing preferences of low-income households from the rental market and then estimates the “market value” of each of the twenty-one social rented housing communities. Next, the study identifies two types of social rented housing communities in terms of their shaping forces: The ideology of equality usually results in a community of higher “market value”, while the ideology of productivism leads to a community of lower “market value”. The study maps out which justification has been the dominant force shaping each of the twenty-one social housing communities in Chongqing. While the two justifications of equality and productivism complete each other in the municipal government’s decision-making of social rented housing, the thesis argues that both two types of communities still form underlying conditions that exclude rural migrants and create inequity issues.

Weiyi Cao, MDes. This figure maps the market rented and social rented housing across the metropolitan Chongqing. All projects of social rented housing (pink crosses) are located distant from the most desirable areas as indicated by higher rents (red dots) of the market rented housing. The two earliest projects of social rented housing, which are labeled with numbers 1 and 2 on the figure, are relatively close to the desirable areas and are directly connected with major highways. In contrast, other projects are located on the periphery of the city.
Weiyi Cao, MDes. This figure summarizes how variables of amenities, building attributes, and unit attributes are correlated with the housing rents in both the overall market and the low-cost market. The checkmark means the variable does have a correlation with rents, while the cross mark means no correlation; the upward thumb indicates a positive correlation, while the downward thumb implies a negative correlation. For example, the low-cost submarket, which represents low-income households' choices, do not regard the public transit as a rent premium; however, the submarket value the proximity to primary/middle schools and food markets. This figure implies the different priorities and preferences between the general population and the low-income population when renting housing.
Weiyi Cao, MDes. This figure shows the ratio of actual rents to the estimated "market value" of the twenty-one social rented housing communities. The lower this ratio is, the more attractive the community appears to people because the gap between the "market value" and the actual rents of the community is larger. As we see, the projects' "market value" estimated from the overall model (in red) vary to a large extent from 32% to 56% with an average ratio of 44%; in contrast, their "market value" estimated from the low-cost market (in blue) remains very close, only slightly fluctuating around 59% in terms of its ratio of actual rents to estimated "market rents". This trend implies that different social rented housing projects' quality and popularity are regarded as distinct by the general population, while regarded as relatively similar by the group of low-income populations.