Where are the new apartments?

A while back the HCMC People’s Committee approved a plan to demolish 67 ancient blocks of flats and resettle their occupants in apartments to be built mostly in the outer suburbs. Nothing much has happened since.

Four of the condemned buildings in districts 1, 3 and 5 look like they could collapse at any moment, yet most of the residents are staying put for several reasons.

For one thing, they do not like the idea of moving far from the city center.

Take the case of 727 Tran Hung Dao Street in District 5. The local authorities and the property developer want some of them to move to the Ham Tu and Soai Kinh Lam apartment blocks in the same district, which is no real problem, and the others to two new buildings in Binh Tan District, which is quite far from District 5. Many of the residents refuse to move to Binh Tan so the plan is still merely a plan.

The second reason is the poor compensation on offer, which usually comes from the company that is planning to demolish the old building and erect an office or apartment block in its place.

The inhabitants of 192 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, District 3 have been subject to a clearance decision for over 10 years. Although many residents have accepted the compensation and had their former dwellings demolished, there are still 20 households who refuse to move unless they get more money.
An aging building needs to be rebuilt
A lack of housing to resettle these people is a major problem too. In District 3 alone, there are around 30 blocks of flats that should come down and more than 3,000 households who will need somewhere else to live, but the district does not have the wherewithal to build new homes for them.

That’s why the local authorities usually leave the compensation and resettlement to the property developers. What the question of compensation arises, the residents are understandably reluctant to accept a pittance so getting the two sides to agree on terms is tricky. That’s why these resettlement projects often get trapped in a vicious circle.

While 67 buildings have been approved for demolition once their occupants have been resettled, there are a further 138 aging blocks of flats in poor condition that need to come down or be repaired.

It’s a thorny problem for the authorities as they need a huge amount of money to resettle the 15,000 households who live in these crumbling edifices. 
Many times the city has advertised loudly for property developers to repair or replace the old dwellings. These potential investors are keen on doing the inner city jobs as they can be very lucrative, but they say they need more guarantees from the city government to protect their investment.

District 10 is full of old apartment buildings that must go. At a recent meeting with the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, the district’s leaders raised difficulties like their lack of money and new housing, and the absence of approved criteria for choosing investors to develop the old properties.

The city’s experts countered by pointing out that District 10 was ignoring three vacant areas of land they could use.

A proposal was aired to “swap land for construction projects”. In this system, the district would give the developers land nearby first, before the old building was vacated. They could build the apartments, move the occupants of the flats to their new homes, and only then repair or demolish the old place.

As soon as the investors handed over the new apartments to the district as agreed beforehand, they would receive a plot of vacant land to do with as they pleased.

Many developers seem to like the idea. If the local authorities give their approval, they will start replacing the decaying blocks of flats and rehousing their occupants, if “certain minor issues” are addressed first.

The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee has already made some friendly policy changes in this direction. Everything is in place and all that’s missing is the green light from the local authorities. 

By Hanh Nhung - Translated by Phuong Lan

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