The participatory process of the urban village redevelopment : case study in Shenzhen, China



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Over the past thirty years, China’s transition to a semi-open market economy has manifested as a process of rapid urban development. Low-income, migrant populations who arrive in the city in search of better work opportunities are being integrated into a class of new urban poor and must contend with limited housing options. Urban villages, which are recognized as rural, collectively owned land located within the urban boundary, are now becoming targeted for government supported urban renewal. Because the urban villages’ land lies outside the regulatory reach of the municipal government, these areas tend to develop in an informal manner and attract low-income migrant tenants. However, urban village tenants are being excluded from the renewal process. The aim of this research is to examine these widely debated concerns within the case of the ongoing Caiwuwei urban village renewal project in Shenzhen. Through this research, I reconsider the functionality of power relations within China’s rapid economic growth, particularly between the urban development decision makers and the marginalized migrant tenant groups. These groups of migrant workers who rent housing units in urban villages have a stake in the urban renewal process because they participate in the urban village social network supporting the need of cheaper supply from the surrounding area. By applying theories of public participation to the process of giving avenue to speak up what they need, which is empowering from the urban village tenant groups, I identify challenges and possibilities for the inclusion of public voices in future government processes in China. I suggest that the project finance model of a public-private partnership could be structured around this collaborative process of renewal, in order to develop a platform for ongoing public participation, particularly in the provision of social services and institutions within the urban village community. Such an arrangement for urban redevelopment will facilitate the balancing of influence among disparate income groups.