2020-07-23 11:09:54

Shenzhen is planning to introduce a new law that could accelerate the use of urban lands by granting the city more authority to implement redevelopment projects.

In a notice Monday, the southern metropolis said it will solicit public opinion on its urban renovation measures until August. According to the draft law, redevelopment projects can proceed if 95% of the homeowners agree to relocate rather than the 100% approval required under the current policy.

Urban renovation projects have become an important source of commercial housing in Shenzhen, but a lack of unanimous support from relocating families has often delayed the city’s urban renovation plans. In 2019, only 15% of Shenzhen’s 767 redevelopment projects broke ground on construction, according to domestic media reports.

The draft law has been hailed as a solution to ending the standoffs urban redevelopment projects often encounter. The change would also mark a significant shift in Shenzhen’s attitudes toward “nail households” — a term referring to those who refuse to leave their homes once they have been earmarked for redevelopment projects.

Experts told Sixth Tone that while the draft law may help improve the urban image of Shenzhen — now a key part of China’s Greater Bay Area connecting the southern Guangdong province with Hong Kong and Macao — it could also pose a threat to homeowners’ interests.

A Shenzhen-based urban planner who asked to be identified only by her surname, Wu, told Sixth Tone that some of the provisions in the draft law are a reversal of Shenzhen’s original policy, possibly to address the shortage of land for urbanization projects.

“There won’t be a single nail household from now on,” she said.

Wu added that under the current “relatively democratic” policy, homeowners can negotiate their compensation. According to the draft law, the minority opposition wouldn’t have much room to negotiate once the 95% majority agreed on relocation and compensation, though opponents would still be entitled to file court complaints.

As China urbanizes, cities often raze ramshackle neighborhoods to develop commercial projects, and this process has become a source of social conflict between homeowners, private developers, and authorities.

Although families are compensated with modern apartments or an equivalent sum of money — potentially bigger apartments or more money, if they’re having to move farther away — the negotiations can devolve into haggling between homeowners and developers, according to Mao Xiang, a Shenzhen-based lawyer specializing in redevelopment projects at Merits & Tree Law Offices. He added that Shenzhen’s provisions for nail households still lack details in the new draft law.

“It’s obvious why relocation projects are often difficult to push through, as people can ask for sky-high prices,” he told Sixth Tone.

To help ease tensions, China revised its home demolition and relocation law in 2011, vowing to provide more transparency and limit public authority in redevelopment processes, while promising market-based compensation standards. In particular, the revised law stipulated that renovation projects should have the public interest at their core.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A view of Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone, Shenzhen, Guangdong province, Nov. 30, 2019. People Visual)