cho urban

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
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
• Interested in resolving the conflict of interest
between villagers, investors, and the
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.

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