By Nat Shirley
Friday, Nov 23rd, 2012 @ 5:48 pm
 

Every once in a while, you're bound to drive past something unexpected in the middle of the road: crash debris, furniture dropped by a moving truck or even a utility pole. However, motorists in an eastern Chinese village will soon have a truly bizarre obstacle to contend with: a house sitting right in the center of a four-lane highway.

The strange situation came about after the government in Xiazhangyang, China, decided to demolish a local neighborhood to make way for a thoroughfare leading to a newly built railway station. A lone pair of homeowners, Luo Baogen and his wife, rejected the government's proposed compensation and elected to stay put.

Not willing to break the law - it's illegal in China to demolish a property by force without an agreement - but also uninterested in changing plans, the government simply poured asphalt around the Baogens' house and continued work on the highway. The road has since been completed but is not yet open to the public - once it is, the Baogens will face a barrage of road noise around the clock.

The Baogens' property is one of the more dramatic examples of the frequent disputes between Chinese homeowners and local governments accused of offering too little in the way of compensation to clear out neighborhoods ahead of redevelopment projects.

The lonely buildings that remain standing in otherwise demolished neighborhoods as their owners refuse to leave are known as "nail houses" - a term that relates to nails embedded deeply in wood that can't be hammered down.

Luo, 67, told the Associated Press that he spent 600,00 yuan ($95,000) to complete his house before the government decided to build the highway and offered him 220,000 yuan ($35,000) to relocate. The offer has since been raised to 260,000 yuan ($41,000), but Luo is holding out for enough to build a simple home on a two-unit lot.

"The Luo family is not rich,"said Xiayangzhang chief Chen Xuecai, recognizing that the homeowners will be hit hard by the loss they take on the building

"But the policy is what it is."