‘Nail Houses’ and property rights… Can you or should you refuse to sell?

China's infrastructure is being built at a rapid rate. Large real estate developments are being constructed and enormous dam, road and rail projects are all necessary to meet the needs of their growing population/economy.

But what happens when a dam needs to be built right where a village of 170,000 people are living?

Due to China’s socialist era, there are some issues with the ownership of land. Requisitions or Resumptions of land laws can differ depending on whether it is urban or farming land.

In China land can be Requisitioned if it is in the “interest of the public”. But what does this mean? A dam might be for the public, but what about a large real estate development for a private developer that will provide lots of jobs. If the development or infrastructure is not for a public purpose, can a farmer or landowner stand their ground and refuse to move?

“Nail houses” is the term given to those landowners who refuse to move. The consequences of this decision can be quite striking.

Perhaps the most famous nail house is this one left stranded in the middle of a road in Wenling, in Zhejiang province. An elderly couple refused to sign an agreement to allow their house to be demolished. Photograph: China Daily/Reuters

A nail house sits in the middle of a road under construction in Nanning in April 2015. The owner of the house didn’t reach an agreement with the local authority about compensation for the demolition. Photograph: China Stringer Network/Reuters

Zheng Meiju outside her nail house in Rui’an, Zhejiang province, in July 2013. She has been living in the partially demolished home for nearly a year, even though the water and electricity supply were cut. Photograph: China Stringer Network/Reuters

Nail houses isolated by man-made ditches on a construction site in Yangji village in Guangzhou last year. The ditches were dug by relocated residents, forcing those remaining to move out. Photograph: Liu jiao/Imaginechina/AFP

Local effects

We can give an example of this situation in Central Queensland. The ADF announced that they wished to acquire multiple grazing properties in Marlborough and near Charters Towers late last year.

The purpose for the resumption is to accommodate increased training activities with the Singaporean armed forces. After much media attention and a commendable amount of media pressure the ADF announced that they would no longer acquire properties by “force”. They will acquire properties on a voluntary basis only from willing landowners.

But what happens to those that stand their ground and refuse to sell their land? What if those who stand their ground are surrounded by land that is acquired? What is the value to their land, their access routes and their use?

How will the ADF handle these?

Recent Articles