The Shanghai neighborhood stand-off

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Shanghai, China cityscape overlooking the Financial District and Huangpu River.

Image: Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

Why the stand-off?

Residents of the Guangfuli neighborhood of Shanghai, China, refuse to leave their homes in spite of pressure from local government and Chinese property developers. Although surrounded by skyscrapers and crumbling debris, while often missing glass panes in windows and even entire walls, this area has remained home to hundreds of resistant residents for over sixteen years—regardless of worsening conditions.

See photos of the neighborhood here.

The land they live on, while visually deplorable at the moment, is actually a real estate gold mine. Smack in the center of one of the most expensive property areas in the world, developers have had their eye on the locale for quite some time. In fact, local demolition teams had already marked many of the buildings for tear-down years ago in preparation for clearing the land, but the paint has faded substantially since the residents stood their ground and continue to fight for their homes to this day.

The complicated part

The issue seems to be centered around the developers’ offers on the land being too low for the residents’ tastes. When residents point out average prices on land surrounding Guangfuli are close to £8,000 per square meter (or $9,000 per appx eleven square feet, and rising quickly), the developers generally respond with a claim that the residents don’t rightfully own the land, no matter how long they’ve lived there, and a refusal to up their offering price.

Property Developer Xinhu Zhongbao prefers to do a swap, a shiny new apartment for the residents in outlying Jiading district in exchange for their land worth likely millions. The biggest problem: the residents would still have to pay for the new apartments, although they claim they currently own their homes outright.

Who owns the land today?

The ultimate question becomes one of land ownership. When many Chinese were given houses by work units under previous government policies, new authorities do not necessarily recognize their ownership and subsequently refuse their compensation demands. However, residents have long since protested pressures to consent to the swap by boarding up their houses and staying in them – which has earned them the label of “nail houses.”

As time goes on, most of the residents have either been bought out or forced to leave as old age has set in for many. Perhaps time passing indeed provides the best solution to this situation.

Kristen lives in the Michiana area, where she enjoys lake-effect weather, apple orchards and occasional South Shore rides into Chicago. She can probably tell you more about apple cider vinegar than you'd ever want to know. You can reach her at:

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