This blog post reports on my summer research trip to China as a Student Fellow of the India-China Institute at The New School. As a student of urban infrastructure, one of the first issues which I immediately noticed was the impressive amount of redevelopment going on in Chinese cities. I started to dig in into this issue by asking questions to my informants during our conversations. What I heard convinced me that a useful angle to start understanding this phenomenon is to look at it as a Chinese industry in its own right: the housing industry. I also forced myself to identify the social consequences of the workings of this industry and to look at it in a comparative way with Mexico City.
My conclusions so far are that 1) the governments in both cities are playing a very different role in the management of this alleged housing industry; 2) that there are key institutions in the urban institutional setting that can potentially explain the particular paths taken by both housing industries; and 3) that the distributional costs of policies are having an effect over what I call here as the transaction costs of the city, decreasing them for the wealthy but increasing them for the urban poor. In short, the policies and the workings of the housing industry in both cities are actually building inequality.