RESIDENTS of an apartment building that has been identified as dangerous four times since 1993 are angry that little has been done to provide them with safe accommodation.
Although only 30 years old, the No. 67 Apartment Building of Zhaohui No. 6 Block, Xiacheng District is run-down. Exterior walls have cracks and mortar is crumbling, exposing bricks. There is also a 20-meter crack in the road outside the building.
The assessments were made in 1993, 2002, 2010 and this year. Past efforts to repair the building have failed and residents are afraid.
Professor Luo Guoxun, 71, and his wife Cheng Chuling have lived in a first floor apartment in the five-story building for 30 years.
“On rainy days we’re scared that the building will collapse suddenly,” Cheng said.
Their apartment has cracks on beams and ceilings. The building has tilted, resulting in uneven door and window frames. Luo said they have to push the balcony door hard to open it. A long crack in their bathroom runs from the ceiling almost to the floor.
“Several years ago, I heard a bang in the bathroom. And then I ran there and found this big crack,” Luo said.
The couple has good reason to be afraid.
On April 4, a residential building in Fenghua City in Zhejiang Province collapsed, causing one death and seven injuries.
That accident made residents at No. 67 Apartment Building, originally owned by the Zhejiang University of Technology, worry even more about the safety of their already-shabby homes.
“I wake up with a start at 3am every day. I am scared to death that the building is going to fall down,” said Yao Sufen, another resident.
The university sold the apartments to faculty at low prices in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, all of the residents are retired teachers and professors.
In 1993, the building was identified as partially dilapidated. In 2002, inspectors said the building had begun to tilt northward and met criteria to be listed as a dangerous house. The most recent inspections found the building is subsiding 1.8 to 2 millimeters per month.
The university paid for repairs in 2001, but the work produced little effect and the building didn’t stop deteriorating. In 2010, the university proposed further repairs but residents opposed this idea because they don’t believe it will work.
All 40 households in the building have since presented the university and government departments with a petition requiring the building to be demolished and a new one be erected in its place.
Most of the residents have lived in the building for more than 20 years. The building is in a good downtown location near the university, Zhejiang Provincial People’s Hospital and large supermarkets.
Cheng said they are opposed to relocation.
“If they rebuild in other places, we won’t agree,” she said. “We are old, so we have to be in an area with convenient infrastructure. Reinforcing this building is a total waste of taxpayers’ money because it won’t solve the essential problem.”
Luo said the residents think the university should foot the bill for a new apartment building.
“There are 11 apartment buildings in Zhaohui No. 6 Block belonging to the university, but only this one has such severe problems. When the construction team was building this batch of apartments, No. 67 was the last one. They jerry-built it to save time and money. The university sold low-quality apartments to us, so they are responsible for dealing with this issue,” Luo said.
The university said the reconstruction plan needs government support.
“The university has limited ability,” said Wang Lei, head of the house property section of Zhejiang University of Technology. “We cannot decide to construct a building without the government’s agreement and support.”
In the meantime, Wang has proposed another idea. He said the government could allow a real estate developer to build a high-rise on the site, allow the No. 67 residents to move in and then sell the remaining apartments.
While the idea seems plausible, it requires approval from several government departments.
Huang Jian, vice director general of Housing and Development Bureau of Xiacheng District, said: “Besides our department, the Urban Planning Bureau and Land and Resources Bureau should also join in this issue. At the same time, there is no specific law clearly stipulating how to resolve such an issue. It is a problem left over by history.”
Huang believed the residents need to move out as soon as possible for their own safety.
“Settling this issue might take a long time; therefore residents should cooperate with the government to move quickly. After all, life is the most important thing,” Huang said.
The residents said moving out is unfeasible unless the government provides apartments or a rental subsidy.
“We are the victims of this inferior building,” Luo said. “There is no reason to ask us to pay to relocate or rebuild.”
The residents do have more hope than before. On April 13, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development launched a national survey of dilapidated houses. Hangzhou government has already begun this task.
Xiacheng District government has been allocated 1 million yuan (US$160,411) to inspect dangerous houses. Professional home inspectors have been sent to inspect dangerous buildings by late May. A series of solutions are expected to be announced after they complete their inspections.
Source: Shanghai Daily