This paper considers the urban village as a community of interest for urbanized villagers, a migrant settlement with low-rent housing, and an urban self-organized grassroots unit, respectively related to the ambiguous property rights, an informal rental market, and the vacuum of state regulation. The urban village is therefore viewed as an unregulated asset despite its unruliness and disorder. Meanwhile, the formation and dynamics of the urban village are understood from the perspectives of land use transformation and property rights redistribution, with an additional emphasis on the succession of traditional social norms and networks. In this sense, the urban village can be seen as a transitional neighbourhood, characterized by unstable land rights and a mixture of rural and urban society. Drawing from the empirical data of 11 urban villages from six large Chinese cities, this paper presents the general characteristics of urban villages. This study points out that the vacuum of state regulation in the urban village makes possible a means of subsistence for landless villagers and provides low-cost residential space for migrants. The transformation of the urban village under state regulation would produce complicated results.
Habitat International (2010) 34 (2) 135-144 [doi:10.1016/j.habitatint.2009.08.003]