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Broken dreams, shattered families in China's unfinished apartments

Published September 15, 2023 Updated September 15, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

TONGCHUAN (China) — Construction worker Shi Tieniu bought a presale apartment in an industrial city in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province, billed as a “superior product” to be “passed down through generations”.

Eight years later, it is an unfinished shell, and every night he must climb 20 flights of stairs to sleep in a threadbare room without water, heating or electricity.

“I almost never drink water, wash my face or brush my teeth,” said Mr Shi, 39, who moved into the Gaotie Wellness City complex in May.

“I want this to be finished as soon as possible, so my elderly parents have somewhere to spend their final years… I have no money now, I’ve lost my family property and all that’s left is this unfinished building.”

In the communal living area, the phrases “strength in numbers” and “live in a new home soon” are scrawled on the windows.

“My life savings were spent here. My son is still unmarried. I’m already 60, after a few years I won’t be able to climb so many stairs,” said a resident and former coal miner surnamed Gao who paid 240,000 yuan for a flat in 2018.

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