Building fair demolitions

(China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-20 07:56
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The State Council adopted the amended regulations on the requisition and compensation for buildings on State-owned land on Wednesday afternoon, two years after the amended draft was first discussed at the end of 2007.

The regulations attempt to balance the interests of residents, the State and real estate developers, which explains the long drawn-out process, involving numerous meetings, experts from various fields and investigations in various cities.

The two rounds of public opinion solicitation last year, the 45 seminars and investigations by experts in more than 40 cities, show the importance the central government has attached to the regulations and also the prudence it has employed in amending these rules.

The new regulations specify the compensation to be paid to those whose houses are to be requisitioned. This comprises the value of the property to be demolished, the cost of relocation, and any economic losses arising from a demolition. The compensation for the value of the property should not be less than the fair market price of comparable properties. These guarantee the interests of individual residents.

Another important specification concerns the properties to be requisitioned. These must be compatible with local planning for social development, overall land use, urban and rural development and for special purposes. Social security housing and urban renewal must be listed in the local government's economic and social development plan. In principle this provides residents with a legal weapon to sue a local government if they believe the requisition is not in line with the plan.

The regulations specify participation by the residents involved in the requisition and that public opinion must be solicited for requisition plans. A hearing must be held when the majority of residents are against a plan.

The stipulation that a local government must estimate the risk of social unrest before making a requisition plan sends the message that the central government attaches great importance to the relationship between residents and their local government. It also suggests that it considers some local governments have failed in this regard. But we are yet to know how local government leaders will be dealt with if they perform poorly.

The new regulations also shift the power to instigate forced demolitions from the administrative departments to the courts. Local governments may apply to a local court for a forced demotion if residents fail to move by the designated time.

Compared with the previous rules, the new regulations represent significant progress in balancing the interests of individuals, government and real estate developers, despite the inclusion of some vague definitions that need further interpretation.

China Daily