Stubborn Shanghai residents hold a line drawn in rubble

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Residents refuse to move for new housing in China
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Stubborn Shanghai residents hold a line drawn in rubble
A night view of the old houses surrounded by new apartment buildings at Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, April 10, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An old house is seen in front of new apartment buildings in Guangfuli neighbourhood, in Shanghai, China, April 18, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Bian Guohua stands outside his brother Bian Jianhua's place at Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, April 1, 2016. Bian Jianhua, 48, lives with his mother at an around 20-square-meter house in Guangfuli. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Yueyue is held by her grandfather in an empty area outside their house at Guangfuli neighbourhood, in Shanghai, China, April 1, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A boy rides a tricycle in between semi demolished houses in Guangfuli neighbourhood, in Shanghai, China, March 28, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Tao Weiren sits in front of his two-story house in Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, March 24, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Woman surnamed Xu watches TV at her eight-square-meter house where she lives with her husband at Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, April 19, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Old houses are seen in the Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, April 8, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A woman smokes as she starts her electric bike at Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, March 28, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A dog runs on the remains of old houses covered with a green net in Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai China, April 18, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A women surnamed Li walks her dog in Guangfuli neighbourhood, in Shanghai, China, April 8, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A view of old houses surrounded by new apartment buildings in Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, April 8, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man walks between houses at Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, April 19, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A sign board for a public toilet is seen attached to an electric pole in Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, March 28, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Women chat inside a store in Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, April 1, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Electric wires hang above a demolished old house at Guangfuli neighbourhood, in Shanghai, China, April 19, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man cleans the glass roof at the entrance of an apartment building constructed in 2004 after the demolition of old houses, at Guangfuli neighbourhood, in Shanghai, China, April 8, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man sits in an alley in Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, March 24, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man surnamed Xu, 50, walks past a house carrying the Chinese character "Chai", meaning "demolition", in Guangfuli neighbourhood, in Shanghai, China, April 8, 2016. Xu's whole family used to live under the same roof together in Guangfuli. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man shaves on the second floor of an old house in Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, April 1, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man surnamed Xu, 50, holds a family portrait, at his place in Guangfuli neighbourhood, in Shanghai, China, April 8, 2016. Xu's whole family used to live under the same roof together in Guangfuli. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Jiang Wei cooks dinner outside a six-square-meter house he rents with a friend, at Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, March 28, 2016. Jiang and his friend rent the house with a monthly rent of 450 yuan for two years. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A woman surnamed Li stands inside the house she shares with her husband as pictures of her mother-in-law and father-in-law are seen on the wall, in the Guangfuli neighbourhood, in Shanghai, China, April 8, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Li Guoqiang talks on his phone outside his house at Guangfuli neighbourhood, in Shanghai, China, April 1, 2016. Li, 38, is a deliveryman who rents a place at Guangfuli. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A vendor selling pork takes a nap at a half-demolished house at Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, March 24, 2016. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man surnamed Zeng looks into the camera as he sits on his bed, in Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, April 18, 2016. Zeng, 89, lives alone and keeps all his belongings within reach on his bed as he has difficulty walking. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Bian Jianhua poses for pictures at his home at Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, April 1, 2016. Bian Jianhua, 48, lives with his mother in an around 20-square-meter house in Guangfuli. In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage. On paper, the Guangfuli neighbourhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets. But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GUANGFULI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - In a corner of Shanghai, surrounded by a cement wall, lies one of the world's most valuable fields of debris and garbage.

On paper, the Guangfuli neighborhood is a real estate investor's dream: a plot in the middle of one of the world's most expensive and fast-rising property markets.

But the reality is more like a developer's nightmare, thanks to hundreds of people living there who have refused to budge from their ramshackle homes for nearly 16 years as the local authority sought to clear the land for new construction.

The stalemate highlights a fundamental and unresolved problem in China's half-liberalized property regime: who owns the land?

Even as the fields around Guangfuli have bloomed million-dollar condominium towers, the residents live a scrappy existence. The plot is ramshackle and looks bombed out. Residents grow vegetables in Styrofoam boxes wedged between rubble and refuse. They freeze in the winter and boil in the summer as many windows lack glass and the walls are perforated with holes.

Most houses have the Chinese character for "tear down" spray painted on them by demolition teams, although the paint has faded as the standoff between the residents and the developer dragged on.

Long-time resident Luo Baocheng lives with his brother and family in a small three-story apartment building, which he said he inherited from his mother.

Luo said the property developer, Xinhu Zhongbao, refuses to pay the 4.2 million yuan ($649,150) he says the house is worth.

"They told me, I don't have a property right certificate," he said. "I've lived here 32 years, does that or does that not mean it's my property?"

Local real estate agents say average prices in the area around Guangfuli are now closing on $12,000 per meter ($1,115 per sq ft). As Shanghai property prices accelerate – they rose 25 percent in March from a year earlier - the conflict over Guangfuli has intensified.

The residents said the developer has offered to swap their homes for new apartments in the distant Jiading district, but the catch is that they would have to pay.

Luo said he was asked to fork out 1.18 million yuan ($182,380) for two apartments for him and his brother; he wanted four apartments and balked at the price tag.

"Where are we going to find 1.18 million yuan? I'm retired and my brother is laid off," he said.

The local authority, the Putuo district government, said in response to faxed questions that it wanted to demolish the neighborhood and "make residents' lives better" by relocating them.

The developer, Xinhu Zhongbao, did not answer repeated calls requesting comment.

Meet China's most stubborn tenants

WHERE ARE YOU GOING?

As a rule, the average Chinese person's wealth is held in the form of cash and real estate. But real estate wealth in China rests on a tenuous definition of ownership, particularly so when it comes to the old houses granted to people by their work units in the days before a property market existed as such.

When China implemented property rights, these people were allowed to continue using the houses they lived in, with the caveat that the local government could relocate them later, with some sort of compensation.

But widespread dissatisfaction with the compensation offered by local governments led to protests by residents and engendered the "nail house" phenomenon: residents who refuse to accept the buyout offer and stay put, boarding up their homes to fend off attempts to remove them.

The result has often been architectural absurdities: small houses standing in the midst of freeways, pedestrian malls, perched on concrete islands in the middle of pits excavated for underground parking lots.

But time, the great bulldozer, has seen most "nail house" residents in China bought out, pushed out, or, given that many are elderly, carried out.

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