'Nail house' family defies the traffic, and officials, in battle for compensation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 April, 2011, 12:00am


The house of Xu Jun forces Huting North Road, a four-lane highway in Jiuting town of Shanghai municipality, to narrow to two lanes around the building. It is known as the city's most notorious 'nail house' but Xu doesn't like the nickname and feels embarrassed and helpless about his family's situation.

Why don't you want to move?

It's because the local government is offering me only one-tenth of the price of houses sold in the area. My family built and owns two buildings, one of three storeys and the other two storeys. We also have land-use rights on a 176-square-metre plot on which they stand. In rural areas, many farmers have the right to use the land owned by the collective to build their estates, and this kind of land is called zhaijidi (house foundation land). The Jiuting town government sent us a notice saying it will give us 800,000 yuan (HK$955,200) if we move out. We can't accept this. If you look around, you'll find that property prices have already shot up to 26,000 yuan per square metre. Officials from the demolition office have also offered to let us buy the rights to use a 132-square-metre plot for 100,000 yuan. We can't agree to this, either. Our zhaijidi is larger. Another fact they ignore is that the first floor of the houses were leased to small businesses. I can get 200,000 yuan from the rental. If I move, I will lose this important revenue source.

But your previous neighbours all agreed to leave

The government started to expand the road in 2009. In the beginning, the houses of 10 families were tagged for demolition. At the end of last year, two families were still holding out. I guess most other households agreed to move out because they have family members working in the government and can get a lucrative deal to move. In January, the owners of the next-to-last nail house, which stood next to mine, signed to leave because their son will marry soon, and they didn't want to live in such terrible conditions. As for my family, we are ordinary, grass-roots people and don't have a single relative who's an official. We told cadres who have visited us more than 30 times that their offer is below the current market price. They always respond that they have to obey a 2002 regulation issued by the Songjiang district government, which governs Jiuting town. We definitely want to leave as early as possible, but we can't accept their proposal.

How's your life in this house?

We have to tolerate, day and night, the deafening noise of passing vehicles. The movement of trucks also causes cracks in the walls. I remind my grandparents, who are in their 80s, and my parents, who are in their 60s, to be careful when going out. Sometimes I worry that cars or trucks driven by drunk or careless drivers will crash into my house.

Some internet users say you are too greedy

Many of those who have been evicted and fellow villagers support me and belittle the authorities' stingy offer. The people criticising me could be property owners living along the road. They squandered a lot of money in buying apartments here only to find a dirty and chaotic situation over the past two years. At least three accidents have happened near my home since 2009. I have become a scapegoat of the local government, but the reason for the poor quality of this newly built road is nothing but corruption.

Are you concerned about a forced eviction?

Not for my family, perhaps because my house will be replaced by infrastructure. But I heard that the properties of four households not far away from us were bulldozed last year for new property construction before they received any compensation. Now they are homeless and live miserable lives. Their petition efforts were quelled and the news of their experiences blacked out. This is why I don't trust the local government; I think they're conspiring with the developers. I feel confident because of a new regulation stipulating that compensation for evicted families must be on par with the market price. The central authorities are good at making these rules, but enforcement by local governments is the sticking point.