Moving towards an Inclusive Housing Policy?
China is rapidly urbanizing with hundreds of millions of migrants leaving villages for cities. Due to the discriminatory Household Registration (Hukou) System, migrants have been denied urban welfare benefits such as subsidized housing and public education. The Chinese government has been promoting inclusive urbanization with significant policy changes in recent decade; yet its impact on migrants is not clear. Focusing on one key benefit – subsidized housing, this paper examines whether housing is becoming more inclusive to migrants in Chinese cities. A review of recent policy changes at both the central and local level shows that while housing policy is becoming more inclusive of migrants at the central level, local governments have largely remained exclusionary and exercised “selective inclusion” – allowing only qualified migrants meeting additional and strict requirements to access subsidized housing. An index is calculated based on local housing policies to measure cities’ policy barriers, which varies significantly across cities but does offer evidence for movement towards more inclusiveness of migrants. However, the empirical analyses using two waves of China Migrants Dynamic Survey reveal that few migrants actually have access to subsidized housing despite policy changes. Institutional barriers continue to exclude migrants from subsidized housing, although many of which have become less important over time. It is clear that housing discrimination persists, and housing inclusion is more rhetoric than reality, andit remains a distant dream for most migrants in China. This research highlights exclusion based on an important but uncommon birth scribed status defined by the government and provides a multi-scalar perspective on inclusion of domestic migrants in rapidly urbanizing China.