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March 22, 2013

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Migrant families must leave as container 'village' unlawful

WHILE four migrant families living in a "container village" that has been their home for a decade in suburban Shanghai face relocation over the safety of the illegal buildings, a legal container community for young people is being considered for approval in another part of the city.

The legal community, with apartments, offices and even pubs converted from shipping containers, is planned by local entrepreneurs to open in June and is under consideration by the Baoshan District government as part of a pilot project.

In the case of the migrant workers, however, an official with the Sanlin Town government of the Pudong New Area rejected a "cooperation plan" proposed by Li Yanxin, one of the migrant families living in the containers. Li suggested that the government work with them to develop the area into a true container village offering free and safe shelters to migrant workers.

"The containers are not for people to live in," said a Sanlin Town official who declined to be named. "It is impossible that those containers be preserved. We will ask them to leave and turn the area into a greenbelt."

Shanghai Daily reported on Wednesday that some migrant workers worked out a cheaper way to live in the city by renting shipping containers and turning them into homes and stores.

On the side of a road in Sanlin, 17 cargo containers had been piled up and looked like a tiny community with several two and three-story buildings - all equipped with doors, windows, electricity and water.

But a local government official said the container village "attracted the attention of Pudong's senior officials" after pictures were spread online. The buildings are illegal and pose safety dangers, the official said.

Some "villagers" said they were very disappointed by the response.

"I earn a living by running a small store in the container, and my neighbor collects garbage. I earn 2,000 yuan to 3,000 yuan (US$322 to US$483) each month and my family is not able to afford to rent an apartment in this area," said Li.

"If they want us to relocate, I hope they can tell us 10 days in advance so I can have to time to pack up all my goods," he said.

Another said she was not worried about relocation since they can simply call a truck to pull the container away and settle down elsewhere.

Meanwhile, local entrepreneurs said they are working with Baoshan District officials to develop a pilot "container community," where they plan to set up well-decorated shipping containers as apartments, company offices and even pubs for young people.

Construction of the first batch of the containers is planned to start after a design plan comes forward by the end of this month, said Li Yi, head of the I Dreaming organization that initiated the project.

"In foreign counties, it is quite popular for people to live in containers. And some companies already have mature technology to ensure that those containers are totally safe and livable," said Li Yi.

In his project, each container is redesigned as a room equipped with water, electricity and an air conditioner. Fire-insulation materials will help preserve heat and reduce noise. Container apartments will have bedrooms and toilets while offices can be created combining several containers providing enough space for young entrepreneurs.

"The community will, like any other residential complex in Shanghai, have property management companies for maintenance and security guards for safety," said Li Yi. He said the community is quite different from illegal ones since they will be carefully examined by local government and will open only after approval. Rent is expected to be low, reportedly half the average cost of leasing an apartment in the area.


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