Almost Impossible to Own a Decent Home: Snail House

Similar to the history of many other emerging economies, the economic boom in China unfortunately did not lift all boats at its early stage. It is now almost impossible for a majority of its citizens making an ordinary income to own a decent home in the vast sprawling cities of the east coast. The phenomenon of the citizenry unable to afford decent housing is so acute that a television series titled “snail house” had been made to talk about the challenge. On average, housing prices have gone beyond the means of the average wage-earner. For someone making around RMB 2,000 a month, he would need to spend his entire income of 20 years in order to own 30 sq m in midtown Shanghai! For Chinese families, owning a home has been a traditional family aspiration so the entire family will chip in to help the young to own a home; parents will often give generously to their offsprings to help them build a nest.

The preoccupation to own a home yet challenged by high prices made one of the key pain of modern living for the Chinese. They dare not spend a cent more on living their lives as their commitment to pay the house mortgage affects their propensity to consume, their spending on healthcare or even on taking care of the elderly. The pressure to keep up with the payment puts the average salaried person perpetually under stress: they dare not spend money on leisure, afraid to lose or change their job, worry about bank interest rising, and worry about falling sick. In other words, they have become enslaved to their mortgages.

Buying a house is not a single individual’s business, but that of the entire family’s commitment. There is the “6-1 model“, six adults: the young couple and their parents joining their lifetime savings into owning a house for the young couple! Estimates show that 31% of home owners pay more than 50% of their monthly income towards repaying the mortgage, which is well above the 30% international standard of repayment. City governments are responding to this challenge by building low cost housing.


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