Transforming Urban Villages in Shenzhen, China Yinqing Tang & Erin Cho Design Strategies Parsons, The New School Urban Villages • Urban villages in developed countries – a well-planned development at the edge of an urban area characterized by medium-density housing, mixed use zoning, good public transit and public spaces (Aldous 1992). • Urban villages in China – Old villages sandwiched by new urban development projects. Urban Village in Shenzhen, China • Until 1979, Shenzhen was a remote border town in South China with a population of just 30,000. • In 1979, the geographical foundation of the export-oriented sector of reform -- the “open door policy” -- established a system of special economic zones (SEZs). • Shenzhen has become China's first and ultimately most successful SEZ. • Shenzhen has suffered from many problems associated with rapid urbanization which include urban villages. Finding Solutions • Exploratory study • Proposes ways to address identified issues and improve living conditions for urban villagers in Shenzhen without incurring exorbitant costs. Rise of Urban Villages • Rapid expansion of the city. – A considerable amount of farmland was urbanized, creating difficulties in balancing the different needs for multiple players. – In particular, the local farmers needed the place to stay at low costs, thus the government decided to take over only the farmland, not the land on which residents lived. – As time passed, the villages became surrounded by skyscrapers, and the price of the land rose ten thousand times. Rise of Urban Villages • The rise in the migrant, or floating population – High demand in low-rent housing. – The local government of Shenzhen has not provided a large quantity of low-rent housing. Rise of Urban Villages • Lack of government regulations – Particularly those located in the SEZ. • Unwillingness of local villagers to leave – No other means to support their living. Economic and Social Issues with Urban Villages • Many urban villages are located in the center of the city, and the land they stand on could provide higher economic value and efficiency. • Security problems and high crime rates associated with a highly mobile population. • The villagers’ heavy reliance on rent collection. • High building and population density which could create disasters in the case of fire or collapse. Seeking Solutions • To improve the economic, social and physical conditions of the villages in order to meet the national standards and requirements of the government's low-rental housing policy. In reality • High costs – Compensation for demolitions, resettlement of residents, accommodation for migrant workers. • Difficulty with implementing the set standards for renovation. • Demand from land developers and investors. Common Grounds for Solutions • Exploratory study • Methods – 25 interviews with urban villagers – 15 interviews with local government officials in the city planning bureau Perspectives of Urban Villagers • Mostly concerned about safety. • Highly interested in improving living conditions. • Discouraged by existing reform plans, most of which focus on resettling villagers to remote areas after taking over their land by paying out lump-sum compensation. • Different degree and willingness to renovate the building they own. • No incentives to turn it over to the local government. Perspectives of Government Officers • Sympathy toward the villagers. • Do not think that urban villages should be removed from the city. • Yet, integrated demolition and rebuilding are necessary. • Interested in resolving the conflict of interest between villagers, investors, and the government. Renovation driven by villagers • Believe that low-rental housing-oriented village reforms changed the pattern of the past, regulating and guaranteeing housing for the floating population. • Give the floating population a sense of security. • A solution to the resettlement and management of the floating population. • Admittance, cooperation, and Centralization – Need to be integrated into planning and rational arrangement at the city level. – Persuade and educate villagers to comply with the government’s supervision and management of the rental market. • Bilateral cooperation – Committee formed by villagers – Collective funds • Centralization of the management of the reformed villages.