Chongqing (1937-1946) / Improvisation: Housing Crisis and Wartime Land Rental Contract

Chongqing (1937-1946) / Improvisation: Housing Crisis and Wartime Land Rental Contract

Following the moving in of the government institutions and the major factories, there was a great inflow of refugees from various parts of China. Naturally, there was a huge demand for housing, which, at the moment, was in absolute shortage in Chongqing. Because of this imbalance between the demand and supply, the price of the available houses for rent and sale skyrocketed and became unaffordable for the ordinary refugees.

The powerful government officials and the wealthy ones either bought or rented houses to live while the elites on the top of the society built their own houses in Gele Hill District. However, for the common people who cannot afford to rent an apartment or to build their own houses, it was a real difficulty to find a place to live. As a writer wrote in her diary:

“Walking along the street, if you pay any attention, you would see that in front of a lot of very shabby termporal shelters there were people hanging nice shirts and modern dresses for air dry. This sort of discrepency reflected the reality of the housing problem in Chongqing.”

Under such circumstances, a lot of former middle class families that moved into Chongqing would have to live in termporal shelters. This situation gave rise to a very special type of land rental contract that was specific to wartime Chongqing. The contract was like the following:

“the land owner would rent out the land and the related individuals would not have to pay anything during the rental period, which often was 5 to 8 years. After the period ended, the owner would take the land back with whatever that was built on it.”

This type of contracts played a crucial role in the evacuation during the bombard period. The large number of urban residents that was forced out of the old city started building temporal shelters in the suburb. For the land owners, this was beneficial because the residents will help develop the unused land into part of the residential district for free. For the individuals, they can find a place to live without spending anything else other than the construction cost. The temporal houses that was built were mostly made out of wood and bamboo. They were often colored in yellow as a protective measure against bombing (Figure 1).

Figure 1, Temporal Housing

Although the mass construction of temporal housing to some extents help alleviate the housing crisis, it also generated some problems. Becasue of the lack of planning, the environment residential district filled with temporal housing was often severe. There was no basic infrastructures like drainage or gabbage collection points. It was fortunate that no plague occurred under such terrible hygenic conditions.

 

  1. Zhang Gong, The History of Chongqing as Capital City of the National Government of China (Chongqing: The Xinan University Press, 1993).
  2. Xie Xuan, Study on the Urban Construction and Planning of Chongqnig (1947-1949), PhD diss, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, 2011, China Academic Journal Electronic Publishing House.
  3. Zhou Yong, The History of Wartime Chongqing 1931-1945 (Chongqing: Chongqing Press, 2013).
  4. Zhang Tao, The Issuance and Development of Building Laws in Provisional Capital Chongqing During the War of Resistance Against Japan, Architecture & Culture (2012) Issue 11, pp.67-69
  5. Chongqing Editing Committee on Wartime Matters, Chongqing Kang Zhan Da Shi Ji 重庆抗战大事记, (Chongqing: Chongqing Press, 1995).

3 Comments on “Chongqing (1937-1946) / Improvisation: Housing Crisis and Wartime Land Rental Contract

  1. Within this posts there are underlying ideas of temporality and of informality of the shelters, both of which are challenged.

    Contrary to the usual idea of informality of poor squatter settlements, these shelters are given a degree of recognition because of the special contract. I would contest that this informality is a way of urbanism. Following this line of thought, I always wonder if there is a way to design for the spontaneous, plan for the unplanned. Because this kind of informality was a positive one in the way that it was a response to the incapacity of the current government, but, as pointed out, the lack of basic infrastructure is problematic.

    Not mentioned above is who issued and enforced these land contracts, and how seriously were they taken (if it were possible to narrate that)(for example, after the lease of five to eight so years, was the land and subsequent property really given back, or did the tenants continue to rent the land, lease after lease, forming a community and reflecting a desire to stay for some reason). Another narrative I am then curious about would be the policies within these settlements following the development, which would reflect

    Implications of social issues stem from the phenomenon of informality and so-called temporal structures, one of which is the idea of the person’s right, the urban poor’s right, to the city.

    • EDIT

      Within this posts there are underlying ideas of temporality and of informality of the shelters, both of which are challenged.

      Contrary to the usual idea of informality of poor squatter settlements, these shelters are given a degree of recognition because of the special contract. I would contest that this informality is a way of urbanism. Following this line of thought, I always wonder if there is a way to design for the spontaneous, plan for the unplanned. Because this kind of informality was a positive one in the way that it was a response to the incapacity of the current government, but, as pointed out, the lack of basic infrastructure is problematic.

      Not mentioned above is who issued and enforced these land contracts, and how seriously were they taken (if it were possible to narrate that)(for example, after the lease of five to eight so years, was the land and subsequent property really given back, or did the tenants continue to rent the land, lease after lease, forming a community and reflecting a desire to stay for some reason). Another narrative I am then curious about would be the policies within these settlements following the development, which would perhaps be telling of ideas of eventual integration of either the shelters or the occupants into the better economy.

      Implications of social issues stem from the phenomenon of informality and so-called temporal structures, one of which is the idea of the person’s right, the urban poor’s right, to the city.

  2. Chongqing is hilly and the development mostly focused on the Yuzhong District Peninsula at that time, so the land left for residential use is limited. The theme of informal and formal housing is interesting, as well as your mention of land contract, because I think social approach is one important factors for the urban development. Certain recognition not only help solving the residential issue but also contributed to the building of city characteristics.

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