Broken dreams, broken families in unfinished apartments in China

TONGQUAN, China (Reuters) – Construction worker Shi Tianuu bought an apartment for sale in an industrial city in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province, describing it as a “superior product” that has been “passed down through generations.”

Eight years later, the structure is incomplete, and every night he must climb 20 flights of stairs to sleep in a shabby room without water, heat or electricity.

“I almost never drink water, wash my face or brush my teeth,” said Shi, 39, who moved into the Gauti Wellness City complex in May.

“I want this to be finished as soon as possible, so that my elderly parents will have a place to spend their final years… I have no money now, I have lost my family’s belongings and all that is left is this unfinished building.”

Shi and dozens of desperate homebuyers are living in the building in the city of Tongchuan as part of a nationwide campaign to pressure authorities to address so-called “rotten” or unfinished homes that have become more common during a years-long real estate slump that has led to bankruptcies. Many developers and others were left saddled with debt.

There are still few signs of recovery, with UBS expecting property and construction sales to stabilize at just 50-60% of the peak reached in 2020-2021 due in part to declining population and slowing urbanization.

Booths build, and sales continue

Xi bought the apartment in 2015 for 276,000 yuan ($38,000), two years after Tongchuan New District Qianjinfang Properties began construction on the sprawling 12-building site, which was advertised as an upscale complex with “class-level service.” chief executive officer”. .

Residents say construction work has been halted repeatedly since 2015, but apartment sales continued until 2020. The names of the developer and project changed several times, according to multiple housing contracts seen by Reuters.

Buyers have staged several protests in front of the city government since 2019. Tongchuan officials said in 2020 that a committee had been set up to resolve the issue, but construction had not resumed.

When Reuters visited the site earlier this week, about 60 homebuyers gathered at the site to protest government inaction, halting their housing contracts and chanting: “We want our homes.”

The developer could not be reached for comment. The Tongchuan city government and China’s Ministry of Housing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

No home, no wife

Many of Xi’s neighbors are retirees who have bought apartments for their unmarried children, or workers who cannot afford to rent apartments elsewhere.

To enter the complex, residents make their way through an overgrown field, past abandoned construction machinery and up to a hole in the wall.

Inside, solar-powered lamps illuminate the bare concrete walls and floors covered in layers of dust and gravel. Residents cook in a shared kitchen on the first floor with a single gas stove, and the shared toilet is in a makeshift metal shed.

In the shared living area, the words “Strength in Numbers” and “Living in a New Home Soon” are written on the windows.

“I spent my life’s savings here. My son is still not married. I’m already 60 years old, and after a few years I won’t be able to climb so many stairs,” said a resident and former coal miner surnamed Gao, who paid 240,000 yuan. To get an apartment in 2018.

Since the mortgage debt crisis began in 2021, thousands of homeowners have faced similar situations nationwide as small developers face liquidity issues and industry giants like Country Garden narrowly avoid default.

Homebuyer Qi Xiaoxia, 65, said: “You can’t rely on these houses. Look how they have become now and how they have destroyed my family.”

“My son is now 36 years old. I have borrowed money from all my relatives and friends to pay for the house. In the past few years, we have tightened our belts to pay… but we still do not have a house and my son does not have a wife.” “.

(Reporting by Lori Chen and Xiaoyu Yin – Preparing by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Lincoln Feast

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Lori Chen is China correspondent in Reuters’ Beijing bureau, covering politics and general news. Before joining Reuters, she covered China for six years at AFP and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. She speaks Mandarin fluently.

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