Australia Markets open in 9 hrs 40 mins

Photos of Chinese micro-apartments reveal the terrifying scope of a housing crisis

Chris Weller

China's population is exploding: Government data predict some 3.4 billion people will occupy the country by 2030.

All those people will need somewhere to live.

Over the past several years, Chinese developers have coped with a shortage of affordable housing by downsizing many units to a couple hundred square feet at maximum.

In these micro-apartments, a cramped lifestyle becomes the norm. People have just enough room to sleep and eat. And without a viable income to buy more space, some people live out their remaining years there.

Here's what life is like on the inside.

Units 1

Micro-apartments have become a booming business for developers. They can divide an entire building into hundreds of units knowing there is no shortage of demand for cheap housing.

The country's largest developer, China Vanke, often showcases its line of micro-apartments at the Pearl River Delta Real Estate Fair, in the city of Guangzhou.

As in all tiny apartments, efficient storage keeps the room from feeling too constricting.

units 2

Programmers at the N-Wei Technology Company, in Beijing, often share rooms at their factory micro-apartments. The lifestyle prepares many young workers for a cramped middle-age.

It's also common for recent graduates to live in "youth housing," 200-square-foot units developed by China Vanke. With little money from their jobs, new tenants resign themselves to live in sparse, one-room units.

Some apartments are spacious enough for a personal kitchen and laundry service. But many still rely on communal toilets down the hall.

The most creative youth apartment tenants maximise their space through clever design.

By old age, little may have changed. In Hefei, patients who can't afford a bed at the local hospital receive treatment in one of the 86-square-foot rooms in a nearby apartment building.

The lucky ones retain at least some of their autonomy. Wang Cunchun, 92, lives with his 62-year-old son in a 107-square-foot apartment in Shanghai, China. In housing-poor China, the unit may become the most valuable heirloom.