Tag Archives: urban village

What drives the spatial development of urban villages in China?

Pu Hao, Pieter Hooimeijer, Richard Sliuzas, Stan Geertman (2013), What drives the spatial development of urban villages in China? Urban studies May 16, 2013, doi: 10.1177/0042098013484534

China’s dramatic urban expansion has encompassed many peri-urban villages and turned them into so-called urban villages that provide a niche housing market for rural migrants for whom the formal housing market is unaffordable. Yet urban villages are very distinct from informal settlements elsewhere, because they are being developed by the original village community on collectively owned land. As these communities cannot sell their land and only build housing units for low-paid workers, the only way to make a higher return from their land is to increase its built intensity. This paper tests the hypothesis that the driving factors of this built intensity are analogous to factors that drive land prices in the formal city. Results of multivariate regression models of the built intensity of urban villages across the city of Shenzhen show a remarkable resemblance to hedonic models of land prices elsewhere. Location matters and access to employment, along with development constraints, are the most important determinants for the development of Shenzhen’s urban villages.

Read th full text of the article : http://usj.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/05/09/0042098013484534.full.pdf+html

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Conflicts between government and residents during the urbanisation process

In most areas in China, a dual system of land ownership exists between urban and rural areas: state-owned land and collectively-owned land1. When a certain level of urban development is reached, more land is required, and the rapid expansion of urban areas causes rural villages on the periphery of the city to be surrounded by high-rise buildings. Although, geographically speaking, this area belongs to the city, no unified urban planning and management measures have been established for these villages, thereby resulting in a perpetually unclean environment with overcrowded housing and incomplete infrastructures. This is the origin of a particular phenomenon that occurs during the urban development process in China: “the urban village”. The urban village is an agglomeration that is characterized by the presence of old, low-rise housing.

However, the urban village is not a phenomenon of the urbanisation process that is unique to China. Although the dual system of land ownership between urban and rural areas does not exist in Taiwan, the Huaguang community (華光社區), which is situated in the border area of the Zhongzheng and Daan Districts, just a five minute  walk from the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, is representative of the urban village in Taipei.

The Huaguang community, where the former Taihoku Prison (台北刑務所) was located, included three types of residents: “legitimate residents”, “illegal residents” and “residents in illegal construction”. Because the land belonged to the central government, the “legitimate residents” of the community were civil servants who worked for the Judicial Yuan. The community provided a facility that was similar to a public servants’ dormitory. Because there were an insufficient number of rooms for all the qualified residents, the government allowed the residents to build another public servants’ dormitory. “Illegal residents” were those civil servants who had worked for the Judicial Yuan, but had changed jobs, or the offspring who still lived in the dormitory after their civil servant parents had passed away. “Residents in illegal construction” were residents who did not have any family members working in the public service sector, but who had built houses and were living in the Huaguang community without permission. Among these residents, many had moved into the area because they could not afford the high real estate prices in Taipei. The proportions of these different types of residents in the Huaguang community were as follows: 21% were “legitimate residents”, 26% were “residents in illegal construction”, and 53% were “illegal residents” 2. However, although most of the residents living in the Huaguang community were “residents in illegal construction” and “illegally residents”, they all possessed a doorplate and household registration, and they paid taxes and water and electricity fees to the government. From the perspective of these residents, the government had indirectly accepted their residency.

Compared to most areas in Taipei city, the Huaguang community had many incomplete infrastructures and much old, overcrowded housing.  Many houses did not have a proper indoor toilet. Therefore, in the early 2000s, the government launched several development plans to renovate the Huaguang community, which was classified as an urban renewal area. In order to relocate the existing population, the central government presented the residents with two options for compensation: “sale by tender after evacuation (騰空標售) ” or “sale by tender in the present state (現狀標售) ”. “Sale by tender after evacuation” meant that the government offered residents NTD 1.5 to 2.2 million to move out of their house in the Huaguang community before the real estate auction. “Sale by tender in the present state” meant that the government carried out the real estate auction, and then the winning bidder was responsible for the relocation of the remaining residents Conflicts between government and residents: A case of the Huaguang community in Taiwan, Ai Chi-Han3. However, the compensation and relocation plan provided by the government for the residents applied only to “legitimate residents”. Although “illegal residents” and “residents in illegal construction” had valid doorplates and household registration, they did not qualify for the compensation plan. By March 2013, all 21% of the “legitimate residents” in the Huaguang community had been relocated. The number of “illegal residents” had decreased from 354 to 7 and the number of “residents in illegal construction” had decreased from 175 to 124. The remaining “illegal residents” and “residents in illegal construction” refused to move from the Huaguang community even after the central government recovered the land use rights.

After 2008, the residents were charged by the government for occupying state-owned land. In addition to seeing their houses demolished, these residents had to pay a fine. The government’s actions made the “Illegal residents” and “residents in illegal construction” feel that they were being unfairly forced out by the government and, starting in 2011, they organized a number of protests to demonstrate for their right of residence and to urge the government to establish a resettlement plan.

Conflicts between government and residents: A case of the Huaguang community in Taiwan, Ai Chi-HanThroughout the process of urbanisation, illegal housing construction and shantytowns have been serious issues facing the government. The Taiwanese government has demanded that “illegal residents” and “residents in illegal construction” pay the required fine and move out. The residents who have remained in the Huaguang community argue that, because of their unique historical and geographical situation, the government should not issue lawsuits against the residents. In conclusion, both the Taiwanese government and the Huaguang community residents claim their respective rights, and conflicts continue to arise. It is clear that the Taiwanese government must improve its methods for the development of urban planning.

  1. Land in the cities is owned by the state, and land in the rural and suburban areas is owned by collectives []
  2. Shi fenzhong liaojie hua guang shequ 十分鐘了解華光社區, http://campaign.tw-npo.org/201302808594300/announce/201302808594300attachfile2.pdf, last accessed 1 April 2013 []
  3. Caiminzhen 蔡敏真 Xin ziyou zhuyi zhi xia de chouxiang renquan – cong taibei shi hua guang shequ de weilai yu xianzai tan qi 新自由主義之下的抽象人權—從台北市華光社區的未來與現在談起, Paper presented 2012 Taiwan shehui yanjiu xuehui nian hui “Kaimenjianshan” mian dui gongmin shehui de maodun yantao hui台灣社會研究學會年會「開門見山」面對公民社會的矛盾研討會 []

Chi-Han Ai

Ph.D. candidate of EHESS ( École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris) focusing on regional economic development in China and Taiwan.

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Urban villages and urban integration

This article written1by Liu Yuting (South China University of Technology), He Shenjing (Sun-Yatsen University), Wu Fulong Cardiff University) and Chris Webster (Cardiff University), analyses the phenomenon of urban villages in China and their physical and social integration into cities.

In China, the concept of urban villages should not be understood as in Western countries, where it refers to an urban planning project promoting pedestrian facilities and mixed use zoning. In China, urban villages (城中村: villages surrounded by city) are the unplanned results of an intensive urban sprawl. Chinese cities have been spreading into their rural surrounding for the last twenty years.  Many farmlands have been requisitioned by city governments; however in most cases, villagers have kept their housing lots. However, in the absence of farm lands, villagers have become landlords: they have constructed buildings on their housing lots and are renting to large numbers of migrants. These urban villages are often depicted by the media and by researchers as problem areas, suffering from poverty, social disorder and low quality housing.

The authors have deliberately chosen to look at the positive aspects of urban villages; the aim of their article is to study the dynamics of urban villages, based on several field trips conducted in 2006 and 2007 in eleven urban villages located in six major Chinese cities of different sizes and income levels (Guangzhou, Kunming, Nanjing, Wuhan, Xian and Harbin).

The authors first look at the residents in urban villages and the way they adapt to this rural-urban environment.

  • Because of urban sprawl, local villagers’ working activities have changed. Without farmland, they can no longer work in the fields. Furthermore, they lack the necessary working skills to find jobs in the city. By renting apartments or rooms to migrants on their housing lots, local villagers can expect a comfortable source of income, and thus gain a higher social status.
  • Another point is that local villagers have been empowered by their participation in collective organisations. Farm land that belongs to the village itself has not been requisitioned by city governments, but has been transformed into low-cost housing units for the migrants. Every local villager has become a shareholder of this organisation, and receives money from the tenants. The local villagers’ committee is also in charge of social welfare in urban villages and acts as a governing body.
  • Urban villages offer cheap accommodation to rural migrants. In their studies, the authors note that rental prices in urban villages are half of those in urban districts. Urban villages also offer a wide range of informal employment to the newly arrived migrants. According to the authors, urban villages facilitate migrants’ integration into cities.

Low quality housing in Shaoxing, Goulard SébastienSecondly, the authors argue that urban villages are not only physical places, located between cities and rural areas, but also represent a social transition between traditions and modernity. The authors note a vacuum of formal authority within the urban village. City governments do not wish to be responsible for management and social welfare in the urban villages, as this would demand large investments.   In the absence of city regulations, urban villages have kept their traditional forms of governance.  Because they are located in urban villages, rural settlements remain collective and the community still plays an important role. The article describes the villagers’ community as a patriarchal society with strong family connections.

The authors plead for more tolerance for urban villages. However, they also point out that the longer city governments wait to begin, the more costly urban redevelopment will be. They also call for the authorities to empower local grassroots organizations to deal with social issues, and advocate the introduction of market rules in the housing sector of urban villages.

This article depicts another facet of urban villages. However, we may raise objections concerning the sustainability of urban villages. The absence of formal regulations may create unsolvable issues in the long run. Moreover, promoting villagers’ committees may not be a sufficient remedy for the integration of urban villages, because villagers committees only represent local residents’ interests, while rural migrants living in those urban villages have little chance to defend their own interests.  A sustainable solution would involve large scale investments by city governments in public housing and a reform of the hukou system.

  1. Liu, Yuting, He, Shenjing, Wu, Fulong & Webster, Chris. 2010 “Urban villages under China’s rapid urbanization: unregulated assets and transitional neighbourhoods”. Habitat International, 34 (2), pp. 135-144, retrieved from 10.1016/j.habitatint.2009.08.003, []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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