Game of Housing: The Political Economy of Social Housing Provision in China, Evidence from Chongqing and Shanghai
Housing is central to and extends beyond welfare. For ordinary households in developed countries and many developing countries, housing is arguably the single, biggest consumption good. For stressed families, obtaining affordable housing prevents homelessness as well as its attendant risks, and can be fundamental to elevating them out of poverty. For state actors involved in social housing development, however, it may be a tool to achieve goals other than welfare. This dissertation studies the state provision of social housing in contemporary urban China, asking two particular questions: what makes Chinese housing welfare possible, and what determines regional differences as exemplified by two city cases—Chongqing and Shanghai. While Chongqing relies heavily on state involvement and ownership, Shanghai supplements government intervention with a more market-oriented approach. They exhibit differences in scale, coverage, state involvement, and program design. Existing research has highlighted national policy formation and central government motivations without identifying the precise factors that lead to this sub-national variation. The theory proposed in this dissertation portrays Chinese local officials, under the parameters of a central-local interactive framework, providing social housing to meet targets set by the central government, to relate social housing programs with non-tax revenue generation, and to provide housing assistance as a means to attract desirable labor forces for the local economy. In turn, elite politics, bureaucratic interests, and administrative structure are important political factors, and local economic structure and labor market preferences are strong economic motivations. The most important determinant, however, is local government’s land control. State ownership of urban land makes social housing provision in China possible, and to a large extent limits the transferability of the Chinese model to other countries. Extrapolating from the Chinese experience, this dissertation further conceptualizes the housing welfare state, hoping to transcend current understanding of welfare state from a regime-type based typology to a goods-and-services based one. Though this dissertation studies social housing provision, its findings invite further discussion beyond the welfare literature to broader questions in political economy.
- Political science