Re-Purposed Bomb Shelters offer New Housing Options
The transformation of Beijing’s old Cold War bomb shelters into new housing has now become a topic of academic research. The first observations were made by researcher Annette M. Kim on March 13 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A recording of this conference (with rather poor sound quality) can found on the university’s website.
Yet this is certainly not a recent development: as soon as the Cold War ended, the government began re-purposing this city-wide underground maze and opening it up to new real estate ventures. According to Annette M. Kim, with the maddening rise of apartment prices, small underground rooms have become the only affordable accommodation in the city’s center for many migrant workers – especially significant when one considers that often, you apartment hunters need to look beyond the sixth ring road to find decent accommodations at similar prices.
Nevertheless, the government is not necessarily encouraging the development of this practice, which could potentially affects the city’s image. Since the 2008 Olympics Games, health risks have been invoked to justify repeated threats of expulsion from these new abodes. This did not escape the attention of international media. Although the scope and function of this market still remains to be determined, Annette M. Kim estimates that the number of people living in this underground world could rise to upwards of two million in the coming years.