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The Nail that Sticks Up Doesn’t Always Get Hammered…

…at least not right away.

Holdout properties—commonly referred to as “nail houses” in China—have been popping up with increasing frequency over the years amid the country’s prolonged urbanization efforts.

As expressways, shopping malls, train stations, and high-rise condominiums continue to be built with abandon, often overlapping into residential zones slated for demolition, there will invariably be home owners who don’t wish to leave and who have no interest in being bought out by the developer or by the government. And so these stalwarts stand their ground, even as large-scale construction projects encroach literally to their front door. Nothing seems to lessen their resolve (or perhaps stubbornness). Not the surrounding chaos, the growing inconvenience of it all, or even all-out threats. Nothing. And the result? Nail houses.

A recent example is smack in the middle of Shanghai. The barricaded two-story structure is supposedly in violation of building codes, and so it seems in this case that efforts are somewhat doomed. However, in an attempt to go down swinging, the owners covered the entire building with posters of dear leader Xi Jinping. Nice try, but the tactic did not seem to work, as police went in and removed the posters the very next day after. It did get a lot of attention, but not much else.

Other nail houses have gotten attention due to the extreme or utterly insane conditions that they find themselves in the middle of. Notable examples include structures that are precariously perched on top of narrow columns of land, surrounded by “moats” that have been dug by the developers, and even some homes which are literally in the middle of newly paved multi-lane roads. Most homeowners in these situations are said to be holding out for a better compensation package, and so they end up “stickin’ it to the man” by living among rubble, dust, and bulldozers … often without electricity or plumbing.

Nail house on newly paved road

Not all holdouts are due to negotiations for higher payments, however. A recent (and headline-making) nail house in Ningbo is causing quite a stir, as it stands in the way of a new street that is needed to service a cluster of empty high-rise condominiums. In this instance, the family simply cannot agree on where to relocate to or what to do with their compensation package. Netizens, insert the appropriate level of sympathy here.

For better or worse, whether it’s the fault of ambitious developers or homeowners who either want to voice their rights or simply a bigger payout, nail houses are in no short supply here in China.

Interested in seeing some of China’s more outrageous examples of developers vs. homeowners? Check out this slideshow.