chapter  9
22 Pages

Residential redevelopment and social impacts in Beijing


The ongoing reform practices in mainland China have dictated profound socioeconomic and political changes, altering the way of living for many urbanites. Housing reform and urban redevelopment were at the center of these changes, governing urban residents’housing consumption practices and transforming dilapidated neighborhoods into a modern, commoditized space. In social terms, urban redevelopment focuses largely on those dilapidated neighborhoods where residents have been increasingly marginalized in the process of implementing housing reform. Since the 1980s, various reform measures were centered on the promotion of homeownership through the commodification of urban housing (Wang and Murie 1999a; Zhou and Logan 2002). These included subsidized sale of public rental dwellings and new commercial units. Employees in state enterprises and institutions that could maneuver their budgets for such expenditure mostly benefited from the sale. Those residents in dilapidated neighborhoods, however, were excluded from enjoying such benefits. Dwellings therein were often too run-down to be considered for any subsidized sales. Most dwellings were owned by municipal housing bureaus or work units that were financially too weak to provide their employees with dwellings of better standard. Dilapidated neighborhoods were often loci of urban poverty as residents “remained in a peripheral position in the state occupation-basedwelfare system” (Wu2004: 415). In short, those dilapidated neighborhoods have become the “space of marginality” in the midst of the reform process, eventually being subject to wholesale redevelopment and displacement. In terms of urban development, such neighborhoods illustrate a different picture.

They have been increasingly recognized by real estate developers for their valuable development potential (Wu 2002). This was possible with the implementation of urban land reform that allowed the transfer of land-use rights for commercial development (Zhang 1997). In Beijing, most redevelopment neighborhoods are

located in and around the inner city districts that have become the major loci of domestic and international business and financial activities (Gaubatz 2005). For those residents in dilapidated neighborhoods, residential redevelopment

seems to provide differing degree of opportunities and costs. How likely is it for the residents to find an affordable house in the market after their displacement? What constraints would they face when entering the housing market for the first time? Does the whole process of redevelopment and displacement shed any light on our understanding of the housing reform and spatial changes? Based on the findings from a case study of a redevelopment neighborhood, this chapter argues that residential redevelopment is successful in transforming dilapidated neighborhoods into a more profitable space; that the residents therein are effectively pushed towards the urban periphery upon displacement; that it is much less likely for future displacees to become owner-occupiers due to various policy and market constraints; and that their marginal position in both social and spatial terms is predicted to continue.