Dr. Yu-Hung Hong Discusses "Land Readjustment: Urban Development, Planning and Regeneration" at Peking University

On June 22, 2016, Dr. Yu-Hung Hong, Director of the STL Lab and Lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, visited the School of Urban Planning and Design in Peking University. He gave a lecture to Nanyan students and scholars, entitled "Reinventing Land Readjustment: Implications for Urban Development, Planning and Regeneration." The lecture was hosted by Professor Changchun Feng. 

Dr. Hong introduced the concept of land readjustment, misconceptions and facts, etc. In layman's terms, Dr. Hong explained the nuances of urban development, planning, and land governance in relation to land readjustment. First, Dr. Hong clarified the concept. Suppose a community has several landowners (or users), and they are willing to participate in land readjustment projects that are led by the municipal authority. The first step to carry out land readjustment is to assemble the land from landowners. There are two ways to assemble the land. First, landowners may transfer their right to own or use the land to the municipal authority. As an exchange, the municipal authority has to return the original land to the original landowner after land readjustment. This approach is usually called “becoming a land shareholder.” Second, the land-owner temporarily forgoes the right of the land, allowing the municipal authority to re-plan the land to accommodate the larger roads and local infrastructure. This approach does not involve the transfer of legal rights, and it is usually called land readjustment. 

In addition, Dr. Yu-Hung Hong concisely summarized the advantages of land readjustment: (1) land readjustment may increase development density, facilitate urban expansion, acquire infrastructure investment and service including opening up green areas; (2) land readjustment may create opportunities for the local government to implement its updated master plan; (3) land readjustment gives landowners the right to make decisions about the re-planning process and outcomes; (4) land readjustment helps with community building and collective collaboration; and (5) land readjustment may reduce the cost of urban regeneration. After that, Dr. Yu-Hung Hong illustrated land readjustment cases home and abroad, including the Yumin Village of Guangdong, China, and Bangkok, Thailand, etc.

Next, Dr. Yu-Hung Hong critically analyzed the misconceptions and facts in land readjustment. The first misconception is that some scholars think promoting land readjustment requires legislation, but in fact, laws are not blindly created. The land readjustment cases prove that the absence of laws will not seriously impede the land readjustment process. However, it is not a bad idea to gradually work out a law in accordance to the local situation during the implementation of land readjustment. The second misconception is that land reform requires delimiting of property boundaries, but in fact, the case in Thailand and other regions show that property boundaries are not the determinant factors that hinder land readjustment. The third misconception is that a perfect real estate market is the basis for land readjustment, but in fact, the real estate market sometimes does not favor the interests of the poor and overinvestment may cause a real estate bubble. The fourth misconception is that land readjustment usually requires consensus from most of landowners and their joint efforts in design, implementation, and supervision. However, the key issue that land readjustment faces is how to orderly organize these landowners. The fifth misconception is that the stakeholders have to trust one another.  This is rather difficult, especially in developing and underdeveloped countries and regions. A lack of this condition does not mean these countries cannot carry out land readjustment. Actually, the implementation of land readjustment can bring opportunities for stakeholders to communicate and understand one another, and thus gradually cultivate a mutual trust for one another.

After that, Dr. Yu-Hung Hong concisely described how to construct the prerequisites for land readjustment. It mainly included attention to the interests of landowners, financial assistance for the government, and the government's commitment to legislation based on the experience.

Finally, students and faculty from the Harbin Institute of Technology and Peking University (Shenzhen Graduate School) engaged in a discussion with Dr. Yu-Hung Hong, based on China's current situations. Through this lecture, ideas about the real estate market home and abroad, especially socially responsible real estate and development practices, was clarified.