Building, Apart

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of Kelo v. City of New London.  The city was attempting to use its powers under the Fifth Amendment to take (with compensation) the home of Suzette Kelo, the plaintiff, and others — and turn it into an economic development area, much of which would be owned by the Pfizer Corporation. In a controversial 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court held in favor of the city.

In 2004, when local developers in Chongqing, China came for the house of Yang Wu and his wife, Wu Ping, they, like Ms. Kelo, held refused to move. But unlike Ms. Kelo, the Chinese couple came up with a much more aggressive solution: break into their condemed house and refuse to leave, as seen below.

With their power and water cut off — and their house surrounded on all sides by a 10 meter deep man-made dry moat — Yang and Wu needed to do the seemingly impossible to prevent demolition.  Yang, a local martial arts champion, built a staircase to their home using his nunchucks — and acted as one-man security team over the disputed home. Wu (pictured here) took to the airwaves, becoming a local television celebrity by shedding light on the couple’s battle against the government and developers.

After a three year struggle, the couple settled with the developers.  The couple received a new apartment in downtown Chongqing and an andisclosed lump sum payment, perhaps exceeding the equivalent of $500,000 in yuan.  The home, as seen here, was demolished in 2007.

Bonus fact: While Suzette Kelo lost at the Supreme Court, she probably got the last laugh. New London ended up paying her a “substantial” amount more than its first offer, per Wikipedia, and the developer of the would-be “economic development area” ended up running out of money.  The area in question is now a city dump.

From the ArchivesIf You Build It…: The second largest mall is in China — and it is 99% vacant.

Related: “Property Rights: Eminent Domain and Regulatory Takings Re-examined” by Bruce L. Benson, discussing in part the backlash from the Kelo case.

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