Citizenship Lab Research Project: “Unfinished Homes: Stalled Lives amid China’s Real Estate Crisis”

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Yutong Shi’s  Signature Work project.

Student: Yutong Shi

Mentor: Professor Mengqi Wang

In China’s ongoing real estate crisis, a significant number of contractors have abandoned construction, leaving apartment buildings unfinished. On social media, images of unfinished homes, known as lanwei lou/烂尾楼, proliferate. Many apartments in these buildings were already sold to families who are making mortgage payments to this day. Developed from my previous research, this project will explore how these families visit, decorate, and/or move into these unfinished apartments to make a home out of the bare concrete. The project explores how these families’ inflexible pursuit of a home has left them suspended in between being housed and homelessness. It aims to conduct a multi-sited ethnography on unfinished homes, using research methods including participant observation, semi-structured interviews, digital mapping, and visual documentation. To date, the researchers have located unfinished homes in Nanjing, Zhenzhou, Kunshan, Shanghai, and Wuhu. The next step is to visit these unfinished homes and conduct long-term and semi-structured interviews with owners/occupants of these homes, as well as other personnel involved (developers, government officials, lawyers, etc.) in these projects.