Last week TheBlaze reported on the strange story of a home in China that was in the middle of a brand new highway. At the time we posted the story, the owner had not accepted the government’s offer to buy the house. He thought it was too low, and so the Chinese government simply simply paved a highway around it.
Luo Baogen and his wife are the lone holdouts from a neighborhood that was demolished to make way for the main thoroughfare heading to a newly built railway station on the outskirts of the city of Wenling in Zhejiang province.
Saturday morning brings an update to this curious story. The Times Live is reporting that Baogen has come to terms with the local authorities. An agreement was signed late this week and demolition of the house in the highway began on Saturday.
The Times Live story also added some comments from the holdout homeowner:
“It was never a final solution for us to live in a lone house in the middle of the road,” owner Luo Baogen told the Xinhua news agency. “After the government’s explanations, I finally decided to move.”
While investigating this story, TheBlaze discovered that the Chinese citizens are no stranger to these David vs. Goliath-like battles to save their homes from government and real estate developers pushing to modernize the country. Situations like the one involving Luo Baogen and the Zheixaing province are so common that they have a name. The Chinese people call these “nail houses.”
A “nail house” is typically a stand alone property in the middle of a new development project. Once all of the other properties around it have been knocked down, the hold out sticks out like a nail at a construction site — just waiting to be hammered down.
Some of the more famous “nail houses” have been memorialized on the Internet. The home below was a viral hit in 2008.
This one stands in the shadow of a bustling commercial development that includes a McDonald’s.
Two years ago, the issue became so popular that it was the storyline for a video game that pitted homeowners against developers.
The Wall Street Journal’s China blog summarized the plot of “Nail Household vs. Demolition Team.”
The goal? To defend your house against guards and gangsters brandishing knives and bouncing on jackhammers. The characters you can play include a woman in curlers who throws sandals at encroaching attackers, a pot-bellied man who drops dynamite from the roof, and an old man with a shotgun.
When you win a level, the woman appears, pointing a finger at the Forbidden City, the symbolic center of the government’s power. When you lose, the house collapses in a cloud of dust.
According to reports from the tens of thousands who have played the game online, even if you manage to defeat all challenges and get all the way to the end, the government still demolishes your home. A not so subtle message? Perhaps.
In 2010, China’s state-run Housing and Urban-Rural Development Administration let it be known that it believed over 50% of the country’s current homes will be demolished and rebuilt before 2030.
However, before you start thinking that “nail houses” are exclusive to China, there are myriad examples of people and even churches holding out against developers or governments. It happens all over the world. Japan’s Narita Airport’s expansion was held up for years in a battle with local farmers.
In San Antonio, TX, St Joseph’s Catholic Church has managed to hold off the creeping advances of progress for over 65 years. In 1945, Joske’s Department Store wanted to expand its downtown location and offered to buy the church built by German immigrants in 1868. No deal could be made so Joske’s built all around St. Joseph’s. (The locals have referred to St. Joseph’s as “St. Joske’s” for years.)
Joske’s was purchased by another Texas retailer in the late 1980. The new owners could not make a success from their purchase and the building that surrounds St. Joseph’s currently sits empty, awaiting a new developer. Conversely, The San Antonio Express-News reports that “St. Joske’s” continues to serve the community. The church claims more than 600 attend weekend masses. In Texas, “David” still appears to be able to hold off “Goliath.”