Various localities in China have been exploring region-specific approaches to push urban village renovations to better meet people's demands for a better life and improve public services.
Shanghai, the country's financial hub, rolled out a three-year roadmap last month. The plan laid out 30 renovation projects in villages and in old residential communities covering an area of at least 4 million square meters. The projects, which will occur from 2023 to 2025, are expected to benefit some 13,000 households.
Data from the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development showed that as many as 679 such projects are being planned in urban villages, involving about 107,000 households.
Zhuanqiao township is one area of Shanghai that is successfully undergoing urban renewal.
The township in Shanghai's Minhang district used to be an urban village, where over 7,000 migrant workers lived. Since renovation projects began there in 2015, tremendous changes have taken place.
Besides the customary tearing down of hazardous buildings and the development of new residential communities that all urban villages are undertaking, an ecological park is also being constructed in Zhuanqiao.
Xie Wei, deputy head of the township, said that the park, scheduled to be completed by 2026, will seamlessly blend Zhuanqiao's historic architecture and cultural facilities and contribute to the township's economy, which will be driven by sightseeing, homestays and leisure activities that will enable more people to work close to their homes.
"Residents have been living here for generations. Retaining old buildings can serve as an important way to feed their sense of nostalgia," Xie said, adding that the construction of roads, schools and other infrastructure will greatly raise their living standards.
To meet the pressing need for capital, the city has put in place urban renewal funds jointly financed by property developers and insurance companies to support the renovations.
Moreover, Shanghai has been attracting investments from the private sector through multiple channels, including construction contractors and commercial banks. By the end of 2022, the city's 62 approved urban village renovation projects had attracted private investments amounting to more than 550 billion yuan ($76.5 billion).
Guangzhou, the provincial capital of East China's Guangdong province, has also been exploring urban village renovation projects that best suit its local conditions. Compared with other super-large and mega cities across the country, Guangzhou has seen more villages mushroom in its urban areas rather than in the outskirts. Among 1,000 administrative villages in Guangzhou, 272 have been deemed urban villages, according to Tang Yixing, chief engineer at the Guangzhou Municipal Housing and Urban-Rural Development Bureau.
Urban villages in the provincial capital cover 743 square kilometers, accounting for one-tenth of the city total area. They are home to more than 1.1 million permanent residents as well as over one-third of the city's total migrant population, Tang added.
As urban village renovations involve a variety of stakeholders, including local governments, real estate developers and urban village landowners and residents, the city issued a draft version of the Regulations on Rebuilding Villages in Guangzhou in mid-July to solicit public opinion. The regulations will become the first to focus on urban village renewal in the city.
Shenzhen, the southern Guangdong metropolis known as China's Silicon Valley, has been working to align its plans for the renovation of its urban villages with government-subsidized rental housing to address the difficulties that new urban residents and young people have with finding affordable accommodations.
Shenzhen plans to upgrade 49,000 units of government-subsidized housing in urban villages throughout this year, with rents remaining basically unchanged, according to the Shenzhen Municipal Housing and Urban-Rural Development Bureau. In the long run, it is expected that government-subsidized housing will accommodate 5 million people by 2035, accounting for about 26 percent of the city's permanent residents, the bureau said.
Xu Hongcai, deputy director of the economic policy committee of the China Association of Policy Science, said renovations of urban villages is a complex and long-term task. Localities should share their experiences with other regions so that they can avoid making costly errors and succeed in their efforts.