Urban land use and housing in China
Sustainable Growth


China’s urbanization and market economy have achieved remarkable results since its reform period began. Mass urban development and construction have transformed the appearance of the city. Land use has also undergone great change, due to the strategy of optimizing the use of stock land (land that has already been occupied or developed in contrast with new land), the transformation of urban villages and the renovation of shanty towns (in various forms emerging from various regions), and the construction of affordable housing.


This study will focus on land use and housing issues in Chinese cities. We will look at the development of land use policies and the related processes of urban village reconstruction, the perspectives of land development rights, land value-added income, land use efficiency, and social-spatial theories in order to contribute to issues such as land reuse, affordable, safe and secure, housing policies and projects, and urban village transformation.

This study will be divided into four parts, namely, 1) the reform of China’s land and housing systems, 2) secure and safe housing systems and affordable housing policies, programmes and projects, 3) urban villages in the process of urban development, and 4) the redevelopment and utilization of stock land in the process of urban renewal.

The research findings are expected to be used to provide policy recommendations that help to improve land use efficiency, improve urban infrastructure and public service supply, improve urban and rural governance structure, beautify the urban landscape, and realize SDG 11 for all its citizens.


The focus of the current affordable housing policy in China has shifted to advocating renting over buying. Chinese cities have been trying to develop the rental housing market for the past five years. The key question is where and who should be the target of the policy. While urban locals have a high level of homeownership of over 90%, roughly 60% of internal migrants rent to live. Therefore, we focus on internal migrants to provide solid suggestions to the above question.

The housing demand of internal migrants varies widely across cities and regions. To reflect different types of housing demand, we calculated the housing affordability, willingness to buy, and actual tenure choice of migrants and divided them into four groups: renters by constraint, renters by choice, temporary renters, and homeowners.

Our main findings include:

(1) In Chinese cities, 31.5% of migrants are renters by constraint and have strong demands for homeownership. 28.6% are renters by choice, which mean that they can’t afford to and are less willing to buy a home. 11.2% are temporary renters, which mean they have enough ability to buy a home but currently choose not to.

(2) The pattern of the four groups shows a strong spatial non-equilibrium. Renters by constraint are concentrated in the south-western corner and the central region, where many small cities are located. Renters by choice and temporary renters are more likely to be found in the most populated and developed urban agglomerations along the south-eastern coasts of China. In the north-eastern region, much of the migrants have become homeowners.

(3) The proportion of each group in a city is shaped jointly by individual-level factors (e.g. the hukou system, social integration, demographic and socio-economic characteristics) and city-level factors (e.g. population structure, economy, public service and local housing market).

Based on the above findings, we suggest that cities where have better public services, a less developed economy, a larger secondary sector, and a smaller stock of housing should provide more homes for sale rather than rental housing for their internal migrants who usually have stronger willingness for homeownership.