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1001 Chinese Tales: High rent, housing prices killing will of ‘ant tribe’

By Yu Jincui (Global Times)

10:23, July 20, 2013

(GT/Peter C. Espina)

A girl asks her boyfriend, "Sweetie, why can't we live in a nicer, more expensive place?"

"But darling, we're going to live in a more expensive apartment soon - the landlord is raising our rent," her boyfriend bitterly responds.

The joke could not better depict the frustration of tenants in Beijing, who desperately want to buy their own home and escape the shackles of a landlord.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, housing-related prices rose by 3.1 percent year-on-year in June, with rental costs up 4.1 percent. It was also reported that since 2010, housing rentals have sustained an upward trend, seeing 42 consecutive months of increased prices.

In China, given sharply soaring property prices in many cities, especially big metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, owning a home has become an unaffordable luxury. Millions of people working and living in cities are forced to make due with a dingy room or even just a bed to save on rent.

The recent tale of 25 renters, mostly fresh college graduates, who were cramped into a two-bedroom 80-square-meter flat stacked with bunk beds, is not surprising.

But news of the apartment, near Beijing's East Third Ring Road, where housing prices have skyrocketed to as much as 60,000 yuan ($9,762) per square meter, did re-open a sore spot for the public. The tenants who pay 800 yuan a month endure sweaty conditions and fetid odors in the summer, and wait at least two hours for their turn to take a shower.

The neologism "ant tribe" or yizu created a few years ago describes exactly this situation, where low-income renters, usually migrant workers or students, suffer through the packed and horrid living conditions while striving for a brighter future.

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