In 2016 Hanh and her family, who used to live on the bank of the Tham Luong – Ben Cat – Nuoc Len Canal in Ho Chi Minh City’s outlying Binh Tan District, were relocated.
The city’s longest inland waterway (20 kilometers) flows through districts 12, Go Vap, Tan Binh, Binh Tan, and Binh Chanh, and thousands of families living along it were moved to clean it and its environs up.
Two million people living in its basin are expected to benefit.
Hanh’s family moved into a new, 40-square-meter condo in the Vinh Loc B resettlement area in Binh Chanh District around 12 km away from their old home and 20 km from downtown.
The Vinh Loc B resettlement area in Binh Chanh District, HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
Hanh, who had been hired to sew by several nearby garment factories, lost her job as a result of the relocation while her husband had to quit his security guard’s job at a bank after more than a decade. They had been earning VND15 million ($645) a month for years at their jobs.
“It is deserted here, and there are not many passers-by, so it is hard for us to run any business or look for a job nearby,” Hanh said.
They decided to get a pushcart and sell snack and drinks outside a school not far from their new home, and soon began to earn around VND200,000 a day.
But, shockingly, within just two years the new house started deteriorating: Plasters started peeling from the walls and the floors started to develop cracks. Worse still, every time people living above them used the bathroom, water would drip into their house.
Hanh has asked local authorities more than a few times to fix them, but has yet to receive any response.
People are already seeking to sell their houses and move out, and one can see many advertising leaflets.
A neighbor of Hanh’s recently moved out, renting out their condo and using that money to lease a house in their old neighborhood to resume their old life and job.
“My block has 44 condos, but just 18 are occupied. Many call this a ‘ghost neighborhood’ because it is desolate.”
The mammoth resettlement area has 45 blocks with 1,939 apartments, of which nearly 1,000 are still empty.
These days apartments on the ground floor are covered in wild growth while vines crawl across corridors where houses are closed behind rusted iron doors, some without locks.
An unoccupied block at the Vinh Loc B resettlement area in Binh Chanh District. Photo by VnExpress/Ha An.
To its east, 25 km away, thousands of condos at the Binh Khanh resettlement area in District 2 have suffered the same fate.
The 38-hectare area Binh Khanh has 12,500 condos of which more than 3,500 are unoccupied. Some parts are used as warehouses by people living nearby and even by scrap vendors.
The city has tried to auction the area twice but could not find buyers because the number of condos was too large, and it cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the Department of Construction.
Le Thanh Tam, 44, who lives in Binh Khanh Ward in District 2, said more than 15 years ago his house was on the list of those to be acquired for developing the Thu Thiem New Urban Area.
He was paid VND200 million ($8,585) for his 90 square meters of land, not enough to buy an apartment in the resettlement area. He moved to live with his parents and kept working hard to earn money. Finally he borrowed money from some friends and relatives to buy himself a house measuring 50 square meters in District 9 a decade ago.
“If I live in a house, I can at least open a grocery store or a coffee shop on the ground floor if I do not have a steady job. I do not know what to do to earn money in an apartment building.”
Many people think similarly and do not want to live in an apartment, while others cannot afford a resettlement condo.
Binh Khanh resettlement area in District 2 has 12,500 condos, and more than 3,500 are unoccupied. Photo by VnExpress/Ha An.
The Department of Construction’s Housing Management and Construction Inspection Center is managing 9,434 condos and more than 2,500 land parcels meant for resettlement plans related to 163 projects.
Of them, 4,800 condos are awaiting auctions, while more than 2,000 have been earmarked for resettling people living in places where future projects are proposed.
The construction department said it is expensive to maintain the nearly 10,000 unoccupied condos, and so over time their management agencies have had to cut back on the expenses, causing the houses to quickly degrade.
Huynh Thanh Khiet, deputy head of the department, said before the 2013 Land Law was enacted, the government offered people three compensation options: money, a condo or land.
“At that time, since the cash compensation was not even close to the market rate, most people opted for an apartment or land. But after the law came in 2013, the compensation rate has come close to the market price, and so people have begun to opt for money and for finding a new place to live on their own.”