Living space is at a premium in Beijing, and the cost of even a tiny apartment can be out of reach for many of the city’s 21 million residents, who need or want to live near the city center but cannot afford the rent. For years, the answer for many -- some estimate the number to be as high as one million people -- has been to find shelter under the city’s bustling streets, where bomb shelters and storage basements have become affordable residences.
More than 10,000 concrete bunkers were built below Beijing more than 40 years ago as part of Mao Zedong’s Cold War defense strategy. Subterranean residents, dubbed the “rat tribe” by media outlets, live in windowless concrete rooms that rent for about $70 USD a month, about a third of the price charged above ground.
Beijing's downwardly mobile: