shenzhen comes out in favor of new attitude toward urban villages

It’s been a long time coming. Or not. Roughly a decade after Shenzhen targeted urban villages as “dirty, chaotic, and substandard” and less than five years after Gangxia changed how we thought about compensation, the official Shenzhen press has indicated its time for the city to change how it thinks about urban villages.

For those who follow public debate in China, you are aware how important an official endorsement of a political position is: it indicates that the government has decided on a particular course. The announcement indicates an ideological orientation, rather than specific actions, allowing new kinds of interventions to take place. The vagueness of the announcement means that suddenly “interpretation” becomes the site of negotiating what should happen next. So, this announcement is not a fix-it; we won’t even know its effects until we see how variously positioned stakeholders “interpret” the new attitude.

Of particular relevance: does this mean that the redevelopment of Baishizhou can be reconsidered, even as demolition of the western industrial park has begun? Will the Tangtou row houses qualify as “historical” and “cultural”? These questions are pressing because labeling urban villages as “low cost housing” overlooks the extent to which they are also productive and creative spaces. However. Today, I’m happy because the article quite clearly states that the organized resistance to the demolition of Hubei Old Village influenced planning decisions taken during this year’s Municipal Plenary. Suddenly a small space has opened up for third parties to talk about alternatives to demolition and forced evictions in Shenzhen urban planning.

The article was published by Shenzhen’s Commercial Press (商报).

Thumbs Up for the New Regulations on Old Village Redevelopment

Commentator Miao Fansui

Thumbs up for several of the government’s new urban planning regulations, even if some seem old fashioned and ordinary. However, recently the urban planning commission website published “Draft of the Shenzhen Redevelopment ’13th Fifth’ Plan,” and the section on “urban village redevelopment new guidelines” not only has us feeling their insight into the city, but also their warmth for it.

With respect to those urban villages with historical and cultural relevance, “In principle, comprehensive improvement will repair ancestral halls, temples and other buildings of cultural historical value, emphasizing the heritage and continuity of historical context, under the protection of the premise, the development of cultural industry and tourism industry.”

Which urban villages are encouraged to demolish and redevelop? “It is encouraged to demolish and redevelop outer district urban villages that have old architecture and hidden dangers.”

Ten years ago, Shenzhen faced the “four things that are difficult to continue,” including continued access to land and space. In the Municipal Plenary that just finished, the session pointed out the of the “three challenges” to development in Shenzhen, the most pressing is the lack of space. Redevelopment of urban villages was once seen as a means to solve this problem. The new plan for the transformation of urban villages shows  restraint, and this  choice can be seen as making the difficult decision between different value orientations.

Since 2005, when Shenzhen redeveloped Fishing Village (渔民村), old style total demolition of urban villages has been controversial, and this newspaper has published more than one review to express different views on how transformation should take place. Urban villages have “urban wetlands” function. Their existence is in relation to operating costs of the entire city. The more developed a city is, the more you want in the city center to have low-cost living areas, to provide security, couriers, cleaners, restaurants attendants and other low-income people a place to live. In principle, in planning urban villages located within the area of the original special economic zone [the inner districts] will not be demolished and redeveloped, and the shrinking of Shenzhen’s “urban wetlands” will be halted. Such decisions, including the depth of insight of urban development is visionary.

At the same time, through the comprehensive improvement of villages, local transformation will be more in line with the actual development of Shenzhen. In 2009, this newspaper published debates about the lack of public rental housing in Shenzhen, urging the Government to change its thinking, and come up with material and financial resources to improve urban villages to meet public rental standards and allow the villages assume direct responsibility for public rental housing. We see that in the proposed plan, Futian District has clearly pointed out that we need to explore urban villages and renovation in order to create more affordable housing for young talents. Measures such as these have meaningful value to be discovered and to create upgrades.

With respect to the historical and cultural characteristics of ancient villages, under the premise of protection, development will be with respect to the cultural and tourist industries. Obviously, this kind of policy is not unrelated to the Hubei Old Village Incident that happened over a month ago. No matter what the prospects for Hubei Old Village are, in the future, similar villages will have to be renovated in new ways.

Shenzhen’s urban villages are valuable assets, and this value cannot be determined by the value of demolition and redevelopment. When our government revealed the “13th Five-year” plan it showed a far-sighted and warm public police that will benefit the people in urban villages, which in turn will allow the urban villages to continue to provide even greater feedback to the city.

Here’s a link to the original editorial, 为城中村旧改新规点个赞. The article in Chinese follows the slideshow of a recent walk in Baishizhou, including a shot of the beginning of demolition of Shahe’s industrial park, shops that were holding “demolition sales,” the rapidly aging Tangtou row houses, and the wall between Baishizhou and OCT,  as well as a picture of the Fulin School, which once long ago illegally educated migrant children who had come to the Special Economic Zone with their parents.

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本报评论员 苗凡卒

为政府的某个规划点赞,看起来很有些老套和俗套。可是,面对市规土委网站近日登出的《深圳市城市更新“十三五”规划〉(征求意见稿)》,其中“城中村更新指引”一节,不仅让人感受到对城市的洞察,也感受到了包容的温度。
在这份征求意见稿中,对城中村的更新有这样的指引, “以综合整治为主,拆除重建为辅。”原特区内的城中村“原则上以综合整治为主,通过改善沿街立面、完善配套设施、增加公共空间、美化环境景观,提升城中村生活环境品质”。
对于那些具有历史文化特色的城中村,“原则上以综合整治为主,修缮祠堂、庙宇等具有文化历史价值的建筑群,强调历史文脉的传承与延续,在保护的前提下,发展特色文化产业与旅游产业。”
哪些城中村鼓励拆除重建呢?“位于原特区外一般区位且建筑老化、隐患严重的城中村,鼓励拆除重建。”对于原特区外城市中心区域和地铁沿线的城中村,“适度考虑拆除重建,加大保障性住房配建力度。”
十多年前,深圳就曾面临“四个难以为继”,其中第一条就是土地、空间难以为继。在刚刚结束的市委全会上,全会提出的深圳未来发展的“三大挑战”之首就是发展空间不足。要解决这个问题,城中村改造曾被视为重要手段。新的规划却对于城中村改造极其克制审慎,这样的选择,可以看出,深圳在不同的发展价值取向之间进行了一次艰难取舍。
自从深圳2005年渔农村旧改开始,整村拆除式的旧改始终存在争议,本报曾刊发多篇评论,表达对城中村改造的不同看法。城中村具有“城市湿地”功能,它的存在其实关乎整个城市的营商成本,越是发达都市,越是要在城市中心地带有低成本生活区,提供给保安、快递员、清洁工、餐馆服务员等中低收入人员居住。此次规划,原特区内的城中村原则上将不考虑拆除重建,深圳“城市湿地”不断萎缩的局面从此打住。这样的决策,包含着对城市发展的深度洞察,极具远见。
同时,城中村通过综合整治,就地转型,也更加符合深圳发展的实际。本报曾在2009年针对深圳公租房空置现象发表评论,呼吁政府应转换思路,拿出物力财力,按照公共租赁的标准,对城中村进行一些改造,让城中村直接承担起公共租赁房的职责。我们看到,此次规划提出后,福田区就明确提出,要探索将城中村提质改造后转做人才公寓,提供更多保障性住房。这样的措施,是对城中村真正有意义的价值发现和功能升级。
而对于具有历史文化特色的旧村,在保护的前提下,发展特色文化产业和旅游产业。显然,这样的决策,和一个多月以前湖贝旧村改造引发的争议不无关系。不管湖贝旧改的前景如何,从今以后,在类似的村落,应该很难再有那种推倒重来的旧改了。
城中村是深圳的宝贵财富,它的价值不是拆除重建才能兑现。当我们的政府拿出城市更新“十三五”规划这样有远见、有温度的公共政策来善待城中村和住在城中村的人,城中村肯定会给城市更大的回馈。

 

 

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