China Urban Development Discussion Series: "The Underground City:Preliminary Findings about Beijing's Bomb Shelter Housing Market"

Speaker: Dr. Annette M. Kim, Associate Professor at MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP); Discussant: Dr. Albert Saiz, Associate Professor at MIT DUSP

China's scale of urbanization is unprecedented along many dimensions: land area, square meters constructed, population. Also well known are some of its spatial patterns: the astounding rate of land conversions in the urban villages on the periphery of Chinese cities as well as the redevelopment of land in the city center from hutongs to skyscrapers. But, less well studied are the millions of people living underground. For example, of Beijing's 20 million people, there are an estimated 2 million people living in bomb shelters and basements because it is the best space they can afford. Dr. Kim presents preliminary findings of her research about Beijing's elaborate underground housing market. Fieldwork interviews indicate that for this group of urban poor and recent migrants, the airless and cramped housing is preferable to the periphery for certain livelihood strategies and demographics. A socio-spatial order appears to be forming in which certain kinds of employment are associated with those living underground versus those living on the periphery. Having collected approximately a thousand rental ads for underground housing and geo-coded their location, she runs a hedonic price model to find the value of vertical urbanism and re-conceptualizes the subterranean city with alternative mapping. 

Complimentary lunch will be served at 12:05 pm in room 9-555; talk starts at 12:30 pm and ends by 2 pm in room 9-354.


Open to: the general public

Sponsor(s): Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Graduate Student Life Grants, China Urban Development

For more information, contact:

Shan Jiang 

[Image: By Dr. Annette M. Kim]