SHANGHAI: Nearly 300 senior citizens face an uncertain future after government officials mandated that their home will be relocated within a month, apparently to make way for a property development.
Zhang Minsheng, director of Shanghai Minsheng Home for the Elderly, told China Daily that Zhabei district government officials told him on Friday afternoon the home must be relocated.
He said officials told him the order was based on a court ruling that said Zhang's lease was invalid and that the government plans to use the land for development.
"I was told, if we relocate within one month, we will be compensated with 6 million yuan ($882,000). Otherwise, they will force the relocation of the home and we have to pay all the relocation fees," he said.
Zhang fears that the 6 million yuan compensation will be insufficient to rent another building. Typically, buildings of the size needed in that area rent for around 33 million yuan for 15 years, said Zhang.
Zhang believed his lease was valid for 15 more years. It was signed in 1993 at 40,000 yuan a year with a 10 percent increase every three years.
According to the verdict from the district court, the land that the building is on is collectively owned by local villagers and should not have been rented out in the first place. Therefore, the contract is illegal.
Two local government-run companies, Tangnan Warehouse Company Ltd and Tangnan Industry Company, now own the land and will compensate Zhang, the verdict said.
Du Yueping, a lawyer who has helped deal with property disputes for 20 years, said the rental agreement is likely illegal, just as the court ruled.
"According to Chinese law, a lease cannot be longer than 20 years," he said.
"But the compensation should be at least close to the market price."
Hu Changchun, deputy director of the district justice bureau, is in charge of the relocation talks. He confirmed that talks were ongoing but declined to give details.
Calls to the publicity department of the local government were not answered.
According to a notice on Zhabei district's official website, the home for the elderly is part of a 75,400 sq m parcel slated for development. No further details were offered.
By Friday, the two buildings comprising the seniors home were the only units left standing in the area.
Apartments in the north of Shanghai sell for between 18,000 yuan and 20,000 yuan per sq m.
Dao Shuqin, 53, whose 93-year-old mother lives at the home, wishes she could be left alone.
"We all work and she is paralyzed and needs care all the time," she said. "She came here three years ago and has finally adapted to the place. I don't think she will be able to adapt to another change because she is so old and weak."
Dao said people started to scramble to find new homes after the village government provided residents with a list of alternate retirement facilities.
"But they are all expensive and many of them don't take old people who are so sick and in need of 24-hour care," said Dao.
By the end of last year, Shanghai had 3 million people aged 60 or older, accounting for more than 20 percent of the city's population.