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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Community or commodity?: a study of Lilong housing in Shanghai Morris, Louise D.


Shanghai is currently undergoing a massive phase of redevelopment to its inner city. The major factors behind the spread and degree of this urban redevelopment is the concept of commodity value of land under the economic reform program, the commercialization of housing under the housing reform policy, and the physical condition of much of the inner city housing after decades of neglect. The result of such renewal is the demolition of vast amounts of lilong housing and the relocation of its dwellers to alternative housing in the periphery. However despite overcrowded conditions, and lack of services, the lilong neighbourhoods have maintained a high level of social stability, community cohesion, and economic viability for the dwellers. This research examines the factors which are affecting lilong dwellers in their access and quality of housing under the past delivery system based on public housing as a welfare privilege, and under the current climate of housing reform and ‘commercialization’. As the intention of the study is to determine those factors which both alleviate and contribute to housing problems, it is of primary concern to understand the relationship between the dwellers, their housing, and the inherent factors specific to the old neighbourhoods. To describe these pressures a holistic approach is required. The thesis links field research with recent Chinese and English publications on China. Basic data sources include in-depth interviews with a diverse group of stake holders which includes lilong dwellers, housing administrators, planners, policy makers and community workers; participant observations in the thong communities; and, primary and secondary documents which include policy statements, statistical publications, project proposals, and journal and newspaper articles. The study suggests that lilong dwellers will experience increased hardship in their ability to remain in the old neighbourhoods. Furthermore, as a result of the shift from a centralized welfare housing delivery system to a market-oriented system, dwellers may experience greater disparities in housing access and allocation due to their specific living circumstances. To address the local needs of dwellers, policies must be modified which consider both the community and the commodity value of inner city housing and neighbourhoods.

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