Feedback
News
gallery

Dissatisfied With Compensation, Residents Refuse to Relocate

Dissatisfied with compensation, Shanghai residents stay put in old, ramshackle houses and fend off attempts to remove them.

In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lie old houses that are encircled by new high-rise apartment buildings in the Guangfuli neighborhood of Shanghai,, on April 8, 2016.

On the surface, Guangfuli appears to be a real estate investor's dream. It's a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. The reality is quite different though, thanks to hundreds of residents who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years.

ALY SONG / Reuters

Electric wires hang above a demolished house on April 19.

Residents are stuck with low wages and living in a scrappy existence. They freeze in the winter and boil in the summer as many windows lack glass and the walls are perforated with holes.

ALY SONG / Reuters

A man sits in an alley on March 24.

Real estate in China has a shaky legal definition of ownership. Individuals can own buildings, but they cannot own land. Individuals or business entities need to obtain renewable permits in order to use a piece of land.

ALY SONG / Reuters

A woman walks her dog on April 8.

Residents have rejected offers from real estate developers promising compensation or ownership of new apartments as they find these offers insufficient.

ALY SONG / Reuters

A boy rides a tricycle in between semi-demolished houses on March 28.

Some of the offers from developers included swapping residents' homes for new apartments in a different district but they would still require the residents to pay a substantial amount for the new homes.

ALY SONG / Reuters

Bian Guohua stands outside his brother's house on April 1.

The dissatisfaction with the compensation offered led to the "nail house" phenomenon. Where residents who refuse to accept the buyout offer and stay put, boarding up their homes to fend off attempts to remove them.

ALY SONG / Reuters

Zeng sits on a bed packed with his belongings on April 18.

The phenomenon prompted cramped living spaces and architectural absurdities leading to small houses in the middle of freeways, malls, parking lots.

ALY SONG / Reuters

A man walks past a wall marked with the Chinese character "Chai", meaning "demolition," on April 8.

The characters were spray painted in most of the houses by demolition teams as the standoff between the residents and the developer drags on.

ALY SONG / Reuters

Jiang Wei cooks dinner outside a 64-square-feet house he shares with a friend on March 28.

Circumstances like time and approved demolitions caused most of "nail house" residents in China to have been bought out, pushed out, or, given that many are elderly, carried out.

ALY SONG / Reuters

A vendor selling pork takes a nap at a half-demolished store on March 24, 2016.

ALY SONG / Reuters

A man walks between houses on April 19, 2016.

ALY SONG / Reuters