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Down and out in Ulaanbaatar: the battle for housing in a city in crisis

Down and out in Ulaanbaatar: the battle for housing in a city in crisis

ULAANBAATAR - In a damp, single room in a disused bathhouse in the Sansar area of eastern Ulaanbaatar, 90-year-old Yuule Vandan cares for her disabled son and worries how he will survive without her.

Yuule moved out of a shared flat in an old Soviet barracks over three years ago while it was redeveloped but the project was shelved and she now struggles to pay 100,000 tugrik ($42) rent from a state pension of 250,000 tugrik for their one room.

She is one of a rising number of Mongolians living in the nation's capital who have been cajoled or forced out of homes to allow for development to house a fast growing population and have been left in limbo, unable to afford suitable housing.

"They organised a beautiful event. I think they even cut a ribbon. They said they were going to build a new apartment building ... It was all lie," Vandan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Now we have nothing ... Having no place to call your own is the worst situation."

With the traditional herding life to on the steppes under threat from climate change and drought Ulaanbaatar has almost doubled in size in the last decade and is now home to about 1.4 million people - roughly half of the country's total population - creating a major shortage of affordable housing while luxury high-rises line upmarket areas.

Aware of the need to both regenerate old Soviet residential areas and to connect the ger districts to the gas supply, to stop pollution from fires, authorities have vowed to invest billions in affordable housing and utilities by 2030.

But campaigners say residents rights are not being protected and many of them are left homeless in the over-crowded city.

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