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Loft-living under state-led financialisation: Adaptive reuse of industrial buildings for long-term rental apartments in Beijing, China
The conversion of industrial properties into trendy urban spaces for culture and creative industries and residential uses, known as loft-living, has transformed the urban landscapes and socioeconomic configurations of North American and European postindustrial cities since the 1970s. In recent years, a new wave of loft conversion is surging in post-industrial Chinese cities, especially such megacities as Beijing and Shanghai, mainly in the form of long-term rental apartments combined with co-working spaces for young professionals. Featuring an active state involvement and the financialisation of rental housing, this burgeoning loft-living dynamic in Chinese mega cities is closely linked with the ‘fifth wave’ gentrification, while deriving from a unique politico-economic context. Drawing on a pioneering loft-living project in Beijing operated by Longfor Properties, a leading real estate developer also a forerunner of long-term rental apartments in China, this research examines how a creative spatiotemporal fix was initiated by the national state and Beijing government through urban land market and financial (de)regulations, and subsequently enabled by corporate landlords’ thronging into the private rental market. Taking advantage of a policy loopholes to usher in a rapid process of financialisation of rental housing, corporate landlords accumulate financial capital through asset-backed securitisation, while young professionals have burdened higher housing cost and precarity.
Shenjing He is Professor of Urban Studies in the Department of Urban Planning and Design, and Director of the Social Infrastructure for Equity and Wellbeing (SIEW) Lab at Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong. She has published widely on various topics of urban and housing studies, including urban redevelopment/gentrification, enclave urbanism, urban governance, financialisation of housing, housing inequalities, and rural-urban interface. Shenjing recently launches a research project to investigate the emerging forms of neighbourhood order, including for example, gated communities featuring privileged access to education service and another project to examine multi-dimensional housing inequalities under financialisation in pandemic-stricken megacities.
Shenjing He, Department of Urban Planning and Design, the University of Hong Kong