Rehousing Villagers in Chinas Urban Sprawl: Ningxia as a Case Study'

Project: Research project

Project Details


Despite China’s promotion of the free market since 1978, the land property system remains ambiguous and split between urban and rural areas, and villagers have collective claim to the use of the land for residential, farming and related purposes. The new national strategy to develop Western China has led to the revisit of arguments on how to compensate and relocate villagers after land expropriation. From the top-down zoning perspective, both local governments and developers have engaged in rehousing projects. For local governments, they have multiple goals in mind such as to obtain revenues from development projects, to construct the “harmonious society” and to balance the development of affordable and expensive housing. For developers, they participate in the zoning practice as the partner of local governments to invoke the requisition process, to overcome the problem of fragmented property rights, and to make a deal with a county or village. Previous studies emphasize the consequent economic loss and destructive effects on traditional rural life for former villagers, but do not examine in detail how they are relocated, which has complicated implications for property (re)distribution and community rebuilding.

From the bottom-up segregation perspective, some villagers and grassroots collectives have undertaken informal housing development when the urban expansion encroaches into surrounding villages. Furthermore, some “compensation land” was ceded back to villages by governments to smooth the development process. In a form of village corporatism, grassroots collectives colluded with local villagers to construct their own rehousing projects. The consequent bottom-up segregation constitutes a new means of property (re)distribution in which insiders’ rights are prioritized, and an alternative path of community rebuilding that may alter the living environment and restructure community governance.

The research site, a village in Ningxia, witnessed two pathways to rehouse villagers in the face of urbanization. In the first pathway, governments and developers have constructed and assigned housing communities for former villagers. In the second pathway, villagers and grassroots collectives managed to get a piece of “compensation land” and constructed a collective neighborhood of single-family houses to accommodate indigenous residents. This project will generate a qualitative dataset of 100 relocated village households and 10 local “planners” (officials and developers). Via a systematic examination of homeownership, housing values, living environment and community governance, this study will follow the evolution of different rehousing projects, examine their sustainability, and explore their implications for property (re)distribution and community rebuilding.
Effective start/end date1/07/1430/06/17

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.