High housing costs keeping divorced Chinese couples under the same roof

Updated 2017-04-11 10:00:49 Global Times

Pang Ting, a white-collar worker in her early 40s, ended her eight-year marriage several months ago. But although she and her ex-husband have parted ways, when it comes to their marriage, they still live in the same space.

According to Pang, they did the math, and living together as roommates just made good financial sense.

She and her ex-husband paid around 700,000 yuan (1,354) for their apartment in 2005, but the price has soared to nearly 4 million yuan.

“Neither of us can afford to buy out the other. Whoever keeps the apartment has to give the other as much as 2 million yuan, and neither of us can afford it,” she said.

Pang said selling the house was not a good idea either because, given the current housing market, it is highly unlikely that either party could find an apartment as big and convenient as the one they currently have with the 2 million yuan buyout.

Since they could not come up with a better solution and they were still friends, Pang and her ex-husband decided to continue living under the same roof.

The high housing price in Beijing is forcing many couples to live together after divorce, said Yin Xianglong, a matrimonial lawyer in Beijing. According to him, when couples divorce and do not want to involve the courts, they can either sell their home and share the money or one party buys the other half of the apartment from the other at a price that they both agree on.

Yin said ex-couples remaining in the same living space after divorce is an increasing phenomenon nowadays but said the arrangement usually does not last very long.

“It ends when one side starts dating again and wants to have a new family,” he said.

As the housing price in Beijing keeps growing, many ex-couples are resorting to cohabiting either for the sake of their children or financial reasons.

A recent article on hg.org, an online law and government information site, said although traditional wisdom suggests that the marital home goes when the marriage goes, the current economy is forcing more people to live together after divorce. It said many ex-couples find it difficult not only to sell the family home without taking a big loss but also to afford to live on their own without a second income.

Financial reasons

Pang confided that she had been thinking of getting a divorce for a long time but that the apartment was holding her back.

She knew that her ex-husband wanted out of the marriage as well, but like her, he was concerned about their apartment and what would become of it should they divorce.

She confided in a close friend about a year ago, and that was when she learned of a mutually beneficial fix: living together after divorce.

Surprised at first, Pang wondered about the practicality of such an arrangement. However, not wanting to be trapped in a loveless marriage because of an apartment, she decided it was worth a try.

“It is a good thing that we have three bedrooms,” she said. “We can simply be roomies. Maybe it will work out.”

After she had talked to her ex-husband about it, he welcomed the idea. So, they got the divorce certificates and started to live in different bedrooms.

Jack Su, 37, also understands how financial necessities can lead to such an arrangement.

He bought an apartment in Beijing with his then wife around five years ago. When they decided to divorce last summer, they realized that there was no way that they could handle the 10,000 yuan-a-month loan payment alone. Neither of their monthly salaries exceeds 10,000 yuan.

“Sharing the apartment, at least until we pay off the loan, seems to be the only way for us to go,” he said.

Su and his ex-wife own a one-bedroom apartment. After their split, he moved into the living room and gave her the bedroom. They plan to sell the apartment once they pay off the loan.

Finances also played a big role for 28-year-old secretary Xia Sheng (pseudonym) and her ex-husband. The couple divorced several months ago.

Xia and her ex-husband signed a five-year lease for a one-bedroom apartment when they got married over a year ago. She said it would be hard for either of them to find a roomie to share with because there is only one bedroom, and if they break the lease agreement, they would need to pay a penalty of tens of thousands of yuan.

“[So,] we figured that it might not be all that bad to live together until the lease term ends,” she said.

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