In late 2017, a tragic fire in southern Beijing led to a massive eviction and demolition campaign that drove out tens of thousands of rural migrant workers in bleak winter weather. While the evictions were widely covered by the mass media, few analyses examined the gongyu 公寓 (apartment complex), a low-rent housing complex where the fire broke out. Based on fieldwork in Beijing's northern fringe, this article examines the spatial transformation of residences from cramped one-story farmhouses to gongyu and how it signals the social stratification of migrant tenants. The emergence of the better-equipped gongyu, as an alternative modernity, caters to the influx of young tenants and migrants working in the service sector. Meanwhile, the rise of the gongyu has propelled an increase in the subcontracting of property management. The rationalization and specialization of the fast-growing private rental housing market have further led to estranged living among migrant tenants and landlords, who experience different forms of displacement in urban villages. Gongyu is the outcome of low-end accumulation, which is intended primarily for constructing low-quality, low-cost rental projects for the “low-end population.” Despite its prevalence, the urban village gongyu represents an overlooked, unrecognized, and undesirable mode of urbanization, which is the target of the recurring housing crackdown in China's capital.

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