The Nail House Myth

The urban myth of the lone development hold-out, usually a sweet old lady in a diminutive early 20th century house who collects ceramic cows, continues with this story from the NY Times today.

But are these people really noble hold-outs of a simpler way of life when neighbors borrowed sugar from neighbors? More typically, hold-outs such as Ms. Macefield become symbols of property rights activists.

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Before construction began on neighboring buildings, Edith Macefield refused developers’ offer of $1 million to sell her house, which was built in 1900. She died in June; from Seattle Journal: A Holdout Against Developers Leaves a Legacy, New York Times, Sunday, December 28, 2008

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Illustration from The Little House, Virginia Lee Burton, 1942

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China’s censors have banned further stories about a Chongqing homeowner who refused to sell out to developers. China’s State Council Information Service issued an urgent notice to the domestic print press and online media on Saturday banning future coverage of the so-called “nail house.” The story of 51-year-old restaurateur and martial arts champion Wu Yang and his wife, who refused to sell their house to make way for a shopping development, was on its way to becoming a national media sensation. The builders have since excavated a 10-metre pit around Yang’s house, so he is holed up there without water or electricity, threatening to use his martial arts skills against anyone who tries to dislodge him. “Nail house” is a term used by developers to refer to homeowners who will not give up title to their property — because they are like a nail that keeps poking through even though it’s knocked down with a hammer. China’s State Council passed a law earlier this year formally entrenching property rights. About 200 residents in the area around Yang’s house agreed to move, but Yang turned down an offer equivalent to $525,000 for his 219-square-metre house. From CBC News, March 26, 2007

-Tim

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