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August 20, 2019

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Fengxian rural folks relocating to new homes

As part of the city’s “rural revitalization” program, local governments are relocating farmers from old houses in poor condition to newly built communities.

Their former homes are then redeveloped into business and tourism projects to drive economic development and revitalize rural regions.

Construction for the first batch of new houses started in suburban Fengxian District in the south yesterday. The district plans to accommodate over 2,000 households by the end of 2019.

More than 6,000 households in the seven towns and a subdistrict in Fengxian will be relocated to modern residential high-rises by 2022, the district government said yesterday.

Rapid urbanization is encroaching on village land, leaving many farmers with no soil to cultivate and their living conditions are deteriorating. 

In Fengxian, for instance, farmers have been disturbed by newly erected high-voltage cables, expressways and railways running through their villages.

“Most of the young villagers have moved downtown to live and work, leaving their parents in those self-built two-story old houses,” said He Guofeng, 40, a villager from Haiwan Village in Fengxian’s Zhelin Town.

“We are looking forward to moving into the brand-new residential communities which are closer to the town center and have better facilities and environment,” He said.

Nanqiao Town initially began soliciting opinion from farmers in June and 74 percent have agreed to be relocated to the new communities, said Wang Zhen, Party secretary of Nanqiao.

Several major residential communities are being built to accommodate the farmers.

They can either replace their homesteads with new apartments of equal space or exchange their properties for cash or shares, said Tang Min, director with the district’s construction management commission.

A house owner can receive about 50,000 yuan (US$7,094) per year if the property they own is renovated into company headquarters or minsu (small guest houses), compared with only 20,000 yuan per year in rent, said Tang.

Several villages in Fengxian are converting residential houses into commercial properties for business use, agricultural parks, minsu and other tourism projects.

The companies and business operators are encouraged to hire the property owners to work for them. About a third of the taxes the companies pay will be given to the villages to improve infrastructure and the environment.

With the help of the national initiative, Fengxian aims to increase the average income of its residents by at least 10 percent by 2020. Over 50 “beautiful villages” will be developed by then.

The initial phase of a rural tourist attraction, developed from a local Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) village, has been completed and will soon receive tourists in a trial operation.

Wufang Village in Qingcun Town, dating back around 300 years, has restored its old houses, dredged waterways and improved the environment while preserving its rural ambiance.

The first phase of the project covers 240,000 square meters. Under the protective planning of the China Academy of Art and the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, the farm and garden complex features cafes, restaurants, art studios, exhibition halls and fishing ponds.


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