Photo by Joon Ho
If you’ve ever wanted to know the nitty gritty about preserving and/or buying one of those beautiful lane houses – or really, anything built before 1949 – still dotted along the city (especially before they get torn down and replaced by another skyscraper), Shanghai Scrap has an informative interview with Amy L. Sommers, who recently co-published “A Tragedy of the Common: Property Rights Issues in Shanghai Historic Residences” with Kara L. Phillips of the Seattle University Law Library.
The interview gets into the details of the conflicts surrounding getting one of these older homes, which for the most part were seized from private owners during the Cultural Revolution. Namely, not only do you have to consider the original holders of the land, you also have to consider the people who’ve been living in them since the late 60s – who technically hold no rights over their residences, but aren’t easy to move out either (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
Interestingly enough, this confusing blend of owners rights and usage rights may be responsible for the state of disrepair many of these houses have fallen into. After all, when you don’t know when the rug could be pulled out from under you, why would you spend the time and care needed to maintain a house?
The pieces are very much worth a read. Here’s Part 1 and here’s Part 2.