Saigon locals lose homes as they purchased inexpensive land using handwritten documents.

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    Oct 27, 2023

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Families in HCMC's Binh Tan District lose homes as authorities enforce warnings about encroaching on public land.


Dang Van Mui, aged 56, experienced the devastating loss of his home three weeks ago. Once a humble abode spanning 100 square meters with a single floor, it now lies in ruins, reduced to a mere heap.

Due to its location on a land plot designated for a public park, the house had to be demolished.

In 2018, Mui and his spouse made a purchase of land amounting to VND518 million (equivalent to US$21,000).

Due to the absence of official ownership certificates, the previous landowners solely relied on hand-written documents to complete the purchase.

At the time, Mui believed he had made a lucrative deal by purchasing a parcel of land at a discounted price, considering the nearby 45-sq.m apartment was being sold for almost VND700 million. Following the purchase, Mui proceeded to construct a small house without obtaining a construction permit.

In 2019, he invested nearly VND1 billion in renovating and expanding his house. Despite a warning from local authorities at the time, it has taken until this year for them to take action.

Currently, the district authorities have compelled approximately 150 residents residing in unlawfully constructed homes to relocate.

Dang Van Mui is seen securing a canvas sheet over his family's refrigerator, a makeshift solution after losing their home in HCMC's Binh Tan District in October 2023. The photograph captures the challenging circumstances faced by individuals like Dang Van Mui during these times.

Mui expressed that they had been residing in this place for an extended period, but unfortunately, they are currently unable to afford relocating elsewhere. As a result, his family has resorted to seeking temporary refuge near their previous dwelling.

Pham Van Phuong, a 50-year-old man, finds himself in a similar predicament just around 20 meters away from his family's location.

Two weeks ago, Phuong's family faced the unfortunate event of having their house demolished, leaving them with no choice but to take up residence in tents.

In 2018, Phuong decided to purchase a 70 sq.m land plot for VND300 million. She obtained the necessary funds through a loan and proceeded with the purchase. Additionally, she documented the transaction using hand-written papers. Subsequently, Phuong went on to construct a house on the acquired land.

He expressed, "For nearly two decades, my spouse and I resided in rented apartments with an enduring desire to own a house in Saigon."

Phuong received a warning from the local authorities in 2019, however, it was only recently, a few months ago, that they finally issued a decision to have her house dismantled by mid-October.

Pham Van Phuong and his family find themselves residing in makeshift tents following the tragic loss of their home. Visual evidence captured by VnExpress/Dinh Van showcases their current living situation.

Phuong acknowledged his lack of understanding regarding the regulations, and simultaneously, the authorities did not intervene to prevent the construction of their house initially. Consequently, based on this premise, his family proceeded with building the house, anticipating a long-term residence.

It is imperative that the unlawfully constructed residences in Tan Tao Ward of Binh Tan District are dismantled, and the land restored to its initial condition as per the legal requirements.

According to the Tan Tao People's Committee, a majority of the residences were constructed towards the conclusion of 2019.

During that period, the lack of stringent local management resulted in numerous individuals constructing residential properties in zones specifically designated as farmland and parks.

As of now, approximately 60 homes have been successfully dismantled, with the remaining demolitions scheduled to be completed within the next month.

The photograph captured in October 2023 depicts the demolition of houses constructed on public lands in Tan Tao Ward, Binh Tan District, HCMC. The image was taken by VnExpress/Dinh Van.

When identifying the breaches, Chairman Nguyen Minh Nhut of Binh Tan District acknowledges that the local authorities merely issued warnings instead of taking strict actions to address them. Consequently, this leniency has inadvertently allowed these violations to persist over an extended period of time.

According to him, the management staff observed that the families were living in poverty and facing challenging circumstances. As a result, they chose to show leniency towards their encroachment.

He mentioned that once a few initial cases were accepted, others saw them as a model to emulate. Consequently, an increasing number of individuals arrived to purchase land and construct houses.

According to his statement, he advised that individuals must obtain a construction permit before building residential or commercial structures. Additionally, he strongly discouraged purchasing land with ambiguous origins in order to safeguard personal rights and interests.

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