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As Burma’s economy begins its slow path to revival, one sector is already booming: the property market.
As the price of land skyrockets, many people find their incomes are not high enough to pay for respectable accommodation. The many migrant workers in Rangoon are among those who are hardest hit.
Moe Moe has brought her family to Rangoon from a village near the Irrawaddy delta. After 13 years in Rangoon she still lives in a slum outside the city borders.
“Even a really small plot of land here costs more than 100,000 kyat,” she told DVB. “How can we afford that? We sleep together and do everything together in a very small space. It is a real hardship for us here.”
The busy streets in downtown Rangoon are a draw for migrants like Moe Moe who come here to seek a better life, often fleeing persecution.
Even those who have managed the transition into the formal rental market live under difficult conditions. In the sprawling, low-rise housing estates that surround Rangoon, there are often several families to each dwelling.
“There is not really enough space for all of us,” said migrant worker Daw Lwin. “We huddle up close together. We share the apartment with my sister’s family, and our living situation is very crowded.”
Other cities in Asia have struggled for decades with the same issues, turning many of the largest cities into concrete jungles.
Urban planners say Rangoon needs to build up to 200,000 apartments to cope with the backlog of the population growth, yet only a tenth of this is actually being built.
Toe Aung from Rangoon’s Department of Human Settlement says there are projects underway that may one day make a difference.
“Our initial affordable housing project is expected to yield over 4,000 rooms, however there are 26,000 families moving in every year and there is not enough space,” he said. “Other countries have built skyscrapers, but we are reluctant to do that because of the high cost. Instead, we plan to expand the size of the city to open up more land for development.”