Relocated families say goodbye to aging, cramped neighborhood

People living in old houses in downtown Jing'an District have finally said goodbye to the dilapidated and cramped living conditions as relocation started on Sunday.
Jiang Xiaowei

A former resident of Kangding Road is seen leaving her old home in a moving truck yesterday. She is among the 600 families who are moving out of a dilapidated, decades-old shikumen neighborhood on the street.

Yesterday morning, a group of families said goodbye to their cramped, decrepit quarters in downtown Jing’an District and set off for new homes in the suburbs.

Those who packed up their belongings are among the 600 or so families living in a decades-old shikumen neighborhood off Kangding Road. They include Ma Ruifen, 58.

“Finally, we can get relocated,” she said in a display of happiness.

Ma and her family, including her 91-year-old mother-in-law, had been squeezed into a 20-square-meter apartment for more than 30 years. The unit was originally a single room, which they partitioned into three separate areas: a kitchen, a bedroom for her mother-in-law, and a sleeping area for herself and two other family members.

“We cooked and used a chamber pot in the same room, and so did our neighbors. Many times, the family living upstairs accidentally knocked over their chamber pot, and... its contents just leaked through the ceiling and into our house,” Ma said. “It was also common to see mice and cockroaches running around.”

Another frustration for Ma was that her two-year-old grandson rarely visited her crowded apartment, which was too small for an active toddler.

At the community level, the neighborhood has faced a number of other issues. Weakening structures mean old homes often shake if heavy trucks drive past. Many residents also built cooking stoves in the community’s alleyways, creating a fire hazard for the entire area, according to officials from the Caojiadu Subdistrict.

Over recent years, the community has also witnessed rising tensions between low-income migrants and local seniors, officials added.

The neighborhood was zoned for urban renewal in December 2017, and officials began soliciting resident opinions on the matter in April. So far, officials say that more than 99 percent of residents have agreed to be relocated.

Subdistrict officials say experts will be invited to examine the condition of the shikumen buildings, and those will historic value will be preserved.

Plans for future development on the neighborhood’s land are still being discussed by authorities.


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