Inside China's terrifying 'ghost cities' where millions of homes are abandoned

While the UK Government is urged to build more houses to shore up fledgling supply, China’s massive economic growth has led to the country having the exact opposite problem. “Ghost cities” litter the landscape of the enormous Asian country, where empty homes outnumber residents by 10 to 1 and millions of flats lie unused. Visitors to the cities have spoken of the eerie, apocalyptic feeling they convey as they walk among hundreds of deserted buildings.

Ordos, in the Kangbashi district, was constructed as part of a Chinese government plan to build 400 new cities in 20 years. It boasts an airport, schools, mosques and police stations – all of which stand empty.

The city, which was started during an economic boom, has not been properly finished as construction firms went bankrupt and pulled out of their projects.

Rows of post-apocalyptic housing estates tower over visitors, and impressive attractions and shopping malls gather dust without any residents or tourists stepping foot inside.

The side effect of China’s massive economic growth has been these metropolises that have yet to come to life – and a property market in freefall.

Self-styled “urban explorer”, Darmon Richter said after visiting Ordos: “The city felt truly post-apocalyptic – more so than anywhere I’ve ever been.

“Even in Chernobyl you tend to run into other tour groups, or see the furniture rearranged by the countless photographers who’ve visited before you.

“Kangbashi district was utterly untouched though, and walking through the silent streets was an unnerving experience.”

According to Insider, China had around 65 million homes standing empty in 2020 – enough properties to house the population of France.

And in one terrifying detail, many experts aren’t sure of just how many of these ghost cities there are.

Mr Richter explained that while he encountered a few residents, parts of the city were totally abandoned.

He said: “There were a few pedestrians in the central area, but as we walked further out into the suburbs we entered vast regions filled with deserted buildings and empty offices.

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“At first the silence was oppressive, alarming even, but after several hours of exploring, the city began to feel more and more liberating, almost as if humanity and its laws were extinct, to be replaced by one giant urban playground, devoid of life.

“I was hesitant to try doors at first – though I was purely driven by curiosity, I didn’t want to be mistaken for a looter. In time I grew more comfortable however, as I realised that there was simply no one about to say otherwise.”

Despite being designed to house a million people, the real population of Ordos is understood to be around 100,000 as of 2016.

The construction boom started in the late 1990s, during which large swathes of farmland were bought up by local officials for development – an easy way for them artificially boost economic growth and score political points.

But the huge number of homes has not led to a cheaper housing market, as reportedly nearly all the properties in these ghost cities are owned.

Real estate represents a safe investment opportunity for Chinese residents, enabling them to get around strict investment regulations by the government.

The millions of flats, therefore, become retirement pots for many citizens.

Max Woodworth, an expert in Chinese urbanisation, said China’s developers and buyers have “tremendous faith” that the value of their property will steadily creep up – and prices won’t crash.

He told the Sun: “Even people who purchased homes in so-called ghost cities, in my experience, rarely express regrets.

“They have come to believe time is on their side and these cities will fill out over time and keep the home values steadily rising.”