Stubborn Homeowners Who Refused to Move Out

Stubborn Homeowners Who Refused to Move Out

Jul 13, 2020Peter File

For a lot of people, a house is not just a place they live in - it's the embodiment of their heritage, of their livelihood, and they wouldn't move out and have their house demolished no matter how much you offer them. Often referred to as "nail houses" (especially from China), here are some of the owners who refused to move out, and the astonishing contrast with the buildings around them. 

What's a "nail house?"

Before we get into it, let's look at the term and where it came from. The term originated from the Chinese phrase "dingzihu," or "nail houses" in English, which was coined by Chinese media for house owners who refused to accept compensation from a property developer to move out of their property. Similar cases occur all over the world, where sometimes the term "holdouts" are used instead. The results are buildings standing in solitude amidst the new development around them. 

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Nanning, China

Nail houses are often a result of rapid urban developments in China. In this example in Nanning, China, an owner refused to accept the compensation from real estate developers (which is often meager, insufficient to relocate,) and therefore, with the new roads and residential buildings built around him, the house remains. 

Shanghai, China

Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China was met with massive construction projects, aimed to present a modern side of the country to the world. Along with the rapid constructions came the demolitions, making space for new, modern structures. Pictured here is 68-year-old Shi Yuji, posing in front of her house located inside the Expo parking lot. She was one of the very last to move out, as the house was finally demolished in April 2010. 

Beijing, China

Beijing also saw rapid developments in the last few decades - being the capital of the country, changes are imminent. Pictured here is a house located in Qianmen, Beijing, who refused to accept the offered compensation and relocate. On the side are slogans written in Chinese, voicing out their frustration towards the demolition and eventual relocation. 

Chongqing, China

This is perhaps a good illustration of why they are called "nail houses." This picture was taken in Chongqing, China, as the construction removed everything around the defiant house, standing out like a nail from the ground, not moved by the actions. However, they did come to an agreement in the end, and the house was being razed down by the bulldozer in this photo. 

Seattle, Washington

This is perhaps a more famous example outside of China - it even inspired the movie Up. In 2006, owner Edith Macefield refused to move out despite a $1 million compensation to make way for the commercial development in the area. In the end, buildings were built around the house, which eventually became a famous site. Not much is known about Macefield, and the house had been on sale since she passed away. 

Dongjiadu lu, Shanghai, China

Here's another "nail house" in Shanghai, waiting to be demolished to make way for modern developments back in 2010. The house depicted here belonged to an old neighborhood, as you can see from the architecture. Here a recycler is seen carrying bricks from the rubble as the demolition is underway. 

Melbourne, Australia

As the old joke goes, everything is upside down in Australia - while this time the buildings do not appear upside down, there's something queer about it - yes, another holdout. Again, an owner in Melbourne, Australia, refused to sell his/her house and ended up having skyscrapers built around it. Looks interesting though, isn't it? 

Toronto, Canada

Have you ever imagined what happens when you cut a house in half? Well, someone in Toronto did just that. It looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, an owner in Toronto refused to sell his house in the 50s when all the neighboring properties were bought out for redevelopment. 

Washington, DC

Another holdout house in America, this time in Washington, DC. Like many other stories, the owner refused to sell the house amidst a development project. The result is a small house jammed in between high rising apartment blocks. However, the owner changed his mind since then and decided to sell the house. 

Toronto, Canada

If you think holdouts are a modern thing, think again after seeing this - this picture was taken in the 1970s, in Toronto, Canada. Mrs. Francis Berghofer, the owner of the house, refused to sell the property at first despite the fact that all the neighboring properties have been sold. However, she gave up after all her neighbors moved out, and remarked upon selling her property, "Next place I move to will be the cemetery."

New York

Another holdout from the last century - this time in New York. New York underwent massive changes during the last century, so it isn't surprising to see cases like this, even back in the 60s. As Samuel Lefrak's University Park development was underway, Charles Torchio refused to sell his house. Pictured here is his house, with newly built apartment buildings looming over him. 

New York

If you walk around New York, you might find a lot of places like this if you're lucky. As the buildings get higher and higher, some people decided to stick to their property and heritage and refuse to sell them. As a result, it is common to see such houses in certain areas, retaining their charm amidst all the new changes around them. 

Portland, Oregon

Portland attorney Randal Acker owns this house, and it's called Figo House, named after his dog. In the 2000s, developers attained a permit to redevelop the area to make way for the Portland State University Residence Hall. However, Acker successfully argued that eminent domain power is limited and managed to retain his property. Good job there attorney.

Here are some of the holdouts around the world. Have you seen any yourself? Or perhaps you know someone who has a similar situation? If you enjoyed reading this, why not share it with your friends and family?