Old residential buildings get a lift

The housing management department isn installing lifts, kitchens and bathrooms in old buildings. Some, too old or rundown, are being demolished and new homes built.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A bird’s-eye view of Pengsan in Jing’an District yesterday. On the left are new buildings from the earlier phase of the community’s renovation and on the right are the old residential warrens due for demolition.

The city housing management department has been working hard on renovations and new infrastructure to make old residential buildings more livable.

Lifts, kitchens and bathrooms are being installed or remodeled. Those buildings that are too old or rundown to be worth repairing are being demolished and new homes built in their place.

Stairs are one of the major problems for residents. In October, three buildings in Yichuan Ercun (No. 2 Yichuan Village) in Putuo District will start installing elevators. They have a good precedent in the community at building 184.

Dong Jianzhong, 94, lives on the fifth floor of building 184. Before an elevator was installed in July last year, the stairs were a miserable penance he had to endure on a daily basis.

“It took me at least 10 minutes to go up or down,” said Dong.

He was afraid that eventually he would become trapped at home, but with the elevator he now goes out two or three times a day.

Building 184 houses 15 families. In 2016, when residents first applied for an elevator, some (mostly those on the lower floors) were not interested. At the time, an elevator could only be installed if 90 percent of residents agreed to do so.

“I remember the four families on the second floor thought they didn’t need an elevator,” said Shen Miaofang who lived on the sixth floor. Together with the property manager Yao Xiaohong who was in charge of the installation, Shen took other residents to visit communities where elevators had already been installed.

More than half of the residents are over 70. Neighbors used to fight about trash piled up in the corridor because simply taking it to the garbage bin downstairs was a trial for many of them.

“An elevator would have put things right once and for all,” said Yao, whose company, Zhongshan Property Management, is qualified to maintain and repair elevators. The cost was shared among all residents with those on higher floors paying a little more. Only residents with a key card can use the elevator.

Regulations have been evolving and Yichuan community was among the first to enjoy a reduction of matters requiring approval from 46 to 15.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

An elevator shaft on a Yichuan Ercun building

Citywide, 204 old residential buildings have reached agreement to install elevators.

While some communities have problems with their stairs, others are troubled by toilets and kitchens.

Pengsan, part of Pengpu Xincun (Pengpu New Village) in Jing’an District, is in its fifth phase of bathroom and kitchen renovations.

Built in the 1950s and 1960s, Pengsan is the largest old residential warren in the district. It was designed to have separate bathrooms and kitchens for each family, but as too many people moved in, things got messy. In some extreme cases, one toilet was shared by 10 families.

“Some of the buildings are just beyond repair,” said Xu Bingrong from Pengpu Xincun subdistrict.

From the fourth phase of the renovation, some buildings have been demolished and new ones built to replace them.

Wu Zhongyi, 79, will move into his new flat in October.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Dong Jianzhong, 94, uses the elevator installed last year in the community yesterday.

“I used to live in a small room facing north on the ground floor,” said Wu. “Water would flood in every time it rained heavily.”

On August 28, remaining residents reached agreement with the local housing management department to move into brand-new houses with private bathrooms and kitchens, as well as elevators. The government has offered all residents waiting for a new home subsidies to find temporary places to stay.

Hu Zhixiong, in charge of the fifth phase, said: “More than 100 families have disabled people and another 100 have people aged over 80.”

Apart from workers’ residential complexes like Pengsan, other buildings, such as some shikumen, are in a similar situation.

Chun Yang Li neighborhood located on Dongyuhang Road in Hongkou was built between 1921 and 1936. It is a protected historic area that housed almost 1,200 families. These families had to share less than 300 kitchens and bathrooms. With so many people squeezed in, living conditions were worrying. Wooden stairs were rotten and residents lived with rats and bugs.

During the renovation, most illegal buildings were demolished and public spaces like kitchens and toilets were reworked to make more room for private bathrooms and kitchens.

Renovators were careful to preserve the external appearance of the buildings and installed surveillance cameras around the community.

Many other districts like Huangpu and Jing’an are considering following the successful experiences of Chun Yang Li.

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