Even as its economy slows, China’s investment in real estate and infrastructure has lost little steam. A common problem for developers, though, is that especially in and around major cities plum land parcels are often already occupied. The solution? Evict the residents. Sometimes developers or local governments compensate or relocate those they kick out, usually offering less than the original property’s value. Sometimes they don’t.
But occasionally this combo of force and pay-out doesn’t work. The result is what is popularly called “nail houses” or “nail households,” referring both to their residents’ stubbornness and how they protrude on the skyline of already razed land.
The term’s common use dates back to a 2007 incident in Chongqing, when a kung-fu master and his charismatic wife became national heroes for refusing to leave land zoned for a new shopping mall. But nail houses have an enduring popularity in the Chinese media. That’s probably because the social theme they embody—underdogs standing up to power and money—has only gained in importance as government cronyism widens the gap between rich and everyone else.
However inspiring their stories may be, most nail houses eventually suffer the same fate: demolition, as either the owners back down or their homes are illegally bulldozed.
Here’s a look at some nail households from 2007 to the present.