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House in middle of road has one week left

STANDING alone in the middle of a four-lane street and surrounded by high-rise apartments, the crumbling three-story Xu family house has long been out of kilter with its surroundings.

But come next Monday, this highly unusual sight, on Huting Road N. in Jiuting Town, suburban Songjiang District, will be gone.

Due to disagreements with the government on settlement deals, the Xus became the only household remaining in situ since 2011. All their neighbors were relocated to make way for a road infrastructure project, but now the Xus have finally agreed to move.

“We have no other choice because we’re tired,” said 70-year-old family member Zhang Xinguo.

To the Xus, the fate of being relocated from their “blood land,” as local farmers call their birth houses, was handed down in September 2003 when the local authority decided to entirely change the look of the street — which was then small and dirty and was prone to being flooded in heavy rain.

The project was ready to be implemented by the end of 2008 but its completion was delayed several times till the end of March 2011 due to disputes in the relocation process.

But the Xus constantly refused to move, with the result that the 600-meter-long four-lane street was squeezed into two lanes to weave round their house.

“I understood the necessity of the project and wanted to give way to it from the very beginning, but we just hoped to get our fair share of it,” said Zhang, who worked as a mixer truck driver before he retired.

He said he is proud to have taken part in several large infrastructure projects of the city over the years.

Zhang and his father-in-law, Xu Yongtao, had already agreed to move when Zhang’s son, Xu Jun, had another idea. The nine-member family was about to be compensated for relocation with a villa and money, but Xu Jun proposed that they should ask for apartments instead of a villa.

When the government agreed to give them four apartments, the family then argued that they should be given six, accusing the government of not taking into account the fact that the family was split into two households or hukous in the same house in 2001.

Negotiations between the Xus and the government have gone on — and sometimes off — since 2011, and for a few years it seemed to the Xus that the government had neglected their requests. Meanwhile, life in the house became “a pain.”

Overlooking a large street which gets busier by the day, the house would sometimes shake as a heavy truck passed, and the family had to cope with traffic noise at night.

Zhang said he had witnessed several traffic accidents from a window in the past few years, caused by drivers not being careful enough when driving on the twisted street.

Three years ago, Zhang’s mother-in-law died. He believes her deteriorating health was related to their living environment.

But what troubled the family the most were rumors on the Internet claiming they were seeking tens or hundreds of millions yuan of compensation from the government, which the family denied.

“We were simply given a bad name out there, and this somehow turned the government further away from us,” Zhang said.

A renewed effort from the government to relocate the Xus started from last year, and intensive negotiations finally brought the Xus to terms.

Zhang said they were “not satisfied” with the final deal in which the family receives four apartments and 2.3 million yuan (US$355,000) in cash, but they were “moved” by the positive attitude of the government to resolve the problem.

Since the new apartments are not yet available, the government has also promised to give the family 64,000 yuan every year for them to rent apartments.

Now the Xus have almost packed up all their belongings, ready to move out, and the house is scheduled to be demolished in the early morning of September 18.

“I’m getting old, and my father-in-law is already 87 years old,” Zhang said. “We simply can’t take more of this.”


 

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