3. Housing; Ger district and transformation

Ulaanbaatar had faced the problem of rural migration and a huge influx of population to the capital city center. This phenomenon can be understood under two occasions of the country. First is that the rural nomads lost their livestock, which is the source of income of the earnings due to the harsh climatic hazard. They needed to find a new way of living, such that lead to the second major cause which is the transition of economic mode. Ulaanbaatar was under the influence of communism in the past, but gradually developed into market economy, mostly due to the discovery of natural mineral resources.

However, different from the urbanization or rural migration in other countries, most of the migrants in Ulaanbaatar were in fact nomads of a total different lifestyle compared to rural villagers. Therefore, the direct translation of Ger settlement to the city and the emergence of Ger district is in fact an interesting model.

Ger is a common housing type in the outskirt of the Ulaanbaatar city, for the poorer nomads to live at a lower cost. This round felt tent is a traditional settlement that provide a sheltered space. Most of the existing Ger nowadays are without services like fresh water and sewage draining and treatment. In terms of its construction, the Mongolian Ger has 2 central columns encircled by a lattice wall, where the columns and walls support the domed roof constructed with a series of beams.

Construction of Ger (photo by Rick Miller)
Construction of Ger (photo by Rick Miller)

In the past, the Mongolian society was mainly consisted of nomads. Therefore, in the Soviet times, built apartments were only selectively built in the capital. Due to the above mentioned changes in the society, the rural migrants moved to the surrounding area along with the increased job opportunities provided by the free economy. Recently, the capital area already hosted 45% of the total population, despite the fact that the area of Ulaanbaatar city is only 0.3% of Mongolia (Caldieron & Miller, 2010).

Traditionally in Mongolia, the land is of state own and can be used by all inhabitants. However, since 2002, the government allocated a one-time plot of free land to every citizen. Such that citizens could settle in the area thereafter. This provided secure place of shelter and also less burden on household income. Regarding the composition of residents, approximately 48% of the Ger district population were nomads in the rural area before moving into the district, implying that those people were not living near to the capital before. This is a key indicator for a nomadic rural society transforming to an urbanized society (Caldieron & Miller, 2010).

Although the densely-populated but unplanned Ger district temporarily solved the housing and settlement problem, the condition of the area is still problematic in terms living standard and the negative impact posed to the environment. The plan of the district is generated out of competition of space, such that there is no formally planned network to ensure the accessibility and convenience of circulation. Therefore, vehicles often create disturbance to the neighbourhood. Moreover, Ger district do not include services and sanitation, such that health and environmental pollution problems like the excessive burning of coal in harsh winters, became an issue when the nomad housing style was introduced to a crowded urban setting.

As the Ger district was designed as temporary way of settling the large influx of rural migrants, a permanent way of resolving the mentioned problems were still yet to be planned. However, according to the people’s will, the Gers are likely to be gradually changed to permanent structures, which is one of the long term solution that tackles long term problems of the continuous development (Otgonenkh, 2015).




Caldieron, J., & Miller, R. (2010). Residential Satisfaction in the Informal Neighbourhoods of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. ARCC Journal, 7(1), 12-18.

Otgonenkh, U. (2015). Building modern Mongolia, a review on the Ulaanbaatar City Master Plan 2020. Chinese Culture University.

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