The cheapest housing in Shenzhen: cargo containers


Live report Shenzhen’s most awesome “snail living group” by 二肥卖

Shenzhen’s housing price is raising every day, depressed many people from buying homes.   But many families are “snail living” (蜗居: like a snail in its shell, living in a small home) in the cargo containers. At the Shenzhen 107 freeway entrance, many cargo containers appeared near the streets. The rent for each cargo container is 6 yuan ($0.90) per day. 

The cheap prices attracted many new migrants who are carving out their careers in Shenzhen to choose to live in them in order to save money. Cargo containers and the absurd “snail living group” (蜗居族) reflect the helplessness of the migrants in the city! The standard size of the cargo container is 3 by 6 meters (18 square meters). Most of them are occupied by construction workers; they are also bus driver’s resting stops or offices for small companies. There are number of them are even being sold or rented as apartments! Mr. Wang had 2 cargo containers and lived in them for almost 5 years. Plants grow in the open space in front of the “house”, and it also had a fence around the place. Birds sing, flowers give forth fragrances, vines intertwine with each other and trees are full of fruits. Behind him is the heavy trafficked freeway; not far away are the high priced high-rises homes. And this place is like a utopia, peaceful and happy…

(1:30) Interview with Ms. Liu

“Is this place purchased or rented?”


“Is it 6 yuan a day?”

“Yes, 6 yuan a day, but there is a deposit…”

“How much was the deposit?”

“deposit was 10,000 yuan.”

“So, deposit is 10,000, then each day’s rent is 6 yuan?”


“So you rented 2 of them, each day is 12 yuan?”

“Yes.  My daughter always says, dad when are you going to make money, then we can go buy a home!!! Don’t live here anymore, getting bark because of the sun… hehe…”

“Is it really hot in the summer?”

“Yes, summer is especially hot, really.”

“How old are your children?”

“One is in 6th grade, and one is in 2nd grade.”

“Is your whole family living here?”


“Did your child write this? or…”

“Yes, my child wrote this.”

“Not bad.”

“How long have you guys been living here?”

“Three, four years.”

“You guys lived in the cargo containers for 3 4 years?”

“Yes, anyway we would not live here anymore if we can afford to buy a home.”

“Do you want to buy a home in Shenzhen?”

“Of course I want to, but we don’t have money, Ha ha”

“Is it noisy at night?”

“Yes, very noisy, and it is very cold in the winter.”

“How about typhoon?”

“We are not scared of typhoon, because the cargo container is heavy.”

“How about rain?”

“In heavy rain we are afraid of leaks.”

“There are no leaks in the bedroom?”

“No there are no leaks.”

(3:09) Interview with cargo container worker

“How big is the cargo container?”

“The container is 6 meters in length and 3 meters in width.”

“Oh 3×8 = 18 square meters”


(3:30) Ms. Liu’s home:

Her child’s Chinese calligraphy

(3:39) A place for father and son to exercise

(3:43) Decorated like a home

(3:47) Swing

Children’s awards

(3:56) Restroom sink

(4:03) Kitchen

(4:15) Simple living room

Mini bed room

Range hood


Poor people have poor people’s happiness

Rich people have rich people’s sadness

– YOUKU 二肥卖

  1. In overcrowded places such as Amsterdam, containers are being used to accomodate students. Sometimes these temporary container villages hold more than 1000 containers stacked on top of each other. They are being used because they are cheap, and they can be quickly (dis)assembled and/or relocated. It might not be a perfect environment for children to grow up, yet otherwise it does not seem like such a bad ordeal. I suppose the risk of ‘getting dark’ (as in a tan) would be a consequence one could imagine to bare with some dignity.

  2. Nice report.. It seems that they have water and electricity.. that’s not too bad I would say..

  3. This reminds me of Gibson’s “Snowcrash” in which the main character lives in a do-it-yourself storage unit.

    As long as the thing doesn’t leak this is much better than just being under a bridge. But I have to wonder what do they do for bathroom facilities? The article doesn’t mention this vital detail!

    I might have to invest in some cargo containers to rent out – it will be the start of my real estate empire!

  4. Guangdong province has 31 million migrant workers who move in and out all the time. Its already put alot of pressure on housing and services. Hope the government takes the issue up and provide more housing or stimulate the housing construction in southern Guangdong province.

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