Nail Houses Hammer Home Feelings Of Disgruntled Owners

A growing problem for property developers in China is a growing trend in ‘nail houses’ – homes that block big developments that owners refuse to sell unless they get more money.

They are called ‘nail houses’ because they often stick out in a development and prove difficult to remove.

As many of China’s cities become increasingly urbanised, the situation is set to worsen.

Recently, one elderly couple in Zhejiang province refused to move as the Chinese government laid a four-lane highway almost touching the walls of their five-story home.

Developers had bought out their neighbours and cleared the homes for the highway to be built.

Road to ruin

But the couple claimed the compensation offered wasn’t enough to cover what they had spent building and renovating their property.

The highway was opened and within days the couple sold up and moved out. The property has now been demolished.

But it’s not just in the provinces where the ‘nail houses’ are increasingly appearing.

In Beijing, traditional Hutong courtyard homes have nearly all gone and the few that remain have the word ‘chai’, meaning demolish, on them.

Under Chinese law,  a house cannot be demolished without an agreement between the owners and the developers, which is increasingly leading to stand-offs and rows over money.

Developers try to encourage owners to leave by making the surroundings uninhabitable and cut off water and power to force homeowners to go.

Developers try new tack

China’s State Council replaced a previous law that allowed a local authority to enforce demolition, but the new regulation means an agreement must be in place before a home is flattened. If no agreement is reached, the issue is decided in a court.

It’s unlikely that the law will be changed in the near future to suit property developers since most Chinese citizens are increasingly happy to see ‘nail houses’ in the middle of developments, believing that the government is showing respect for private property owners.

However, there is increasing discontent across the country over how developers commandeer sites and then demolish buildings – often paying the minimum amount of compensation. In some cases, the evicted homeowner cannot afford to buy another home.

So-called ‘nail houses’ also exist in other countries, including the UK and USA and also Japan where, famously, farmers holding onto pockets of land have prevented the expansion of Tokyo airport since the 1970s.

In China, however, the continued growth of development will ensure the world will soon no doubt be witnessing another ‘nail house’ standing against demolition and development.