The rise of micro duplexes amidst soaring rental prices in Shanghai


18th April 2024 – (Shanghai) In Shanghai, where sky-high property prices often push the working populace to the peripheries, a new trend of ultra-compact living spaces, dubbed “micro duplexes”, is catching the eye of both desperate renters and curious netizens. A recent video released by a local real estate agency showcasing one such unit has sparked widespread discussion across social platforms.

The unit in question, concealed beneath a staircase in a nondescript building, was rented out for a mere 300 RMB per month immediately after the video was posted. The layout includes a minuscule kitchen equipped with a smoke extractor and an induction cooker, a tiny living area barely accommodating three to five people, and a bedroom that directly connects to a bathroom separated only by a low threshold.

This particular micro duplex, measuring around 5 square meters, epitomizes the lengths to which individuals are willing to go to secure affordable housing within the city’s core. The rental video, somewhat humorously, advises tenants not to turn the shower on too high to avoid soaking the adjacent bed, highlighting the cramped conditions.

The video quickly went viral, with many viewers expressing shock at the cramped conditions, some comparing it to living “under a bridge”. The agency responsible for the listing, however, noted that the unit was snapped up on the same day it was advertised by a local ride-sharing driver, underscoring the acute demand for affordable housing in Shanghai.

According to the agency, such micro duplexes are an anomaly but indicative of a broader trend where low-income workers are forced to accept dramatically downsized accommodations due to economic necessity. The agency also markets larger properties, with rents ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 RMB for spaces around 30 to 40 square meters, but it is the micro units that often disappear from listings as quickly as they appear.

This phenomenon is not isolated to Shanghai. Other major cities across China are seeing a rise in similar setups, where high living costs drive demand for smaller and more affordable housing options. These units, while providing a roof over one’s head, raise significant concerns about living standards and the psychological impact of such confined spaces.

The surge in interest for such properties also highlights the broader socio-economic issues facing China’s urban workforce, particularly the younger generation and migrant workers who move to cities like Shanghai in search of better opportunities but find themselves grappling with prohibitive living costs.