Poor residents hit jackpot with land fever

By Duc Hung   March 28, 2022 | 08:15 pm PT
Poor residents hit jackpot with land fever
A new house is built in Phu Hoa Commune, Ha Tinh Province, where a land fever is being reported. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung
A land fever based on golf course rumors has transformed the lives of low-income residents for the better with prices going through the roof.

Tran Thi Lan had never imagined in her wildest dreams that she would receive VND1.9 billion ($83,065) from selling her family's land in a remote area in the central province of Ha Tinh.

As some of the poorest people in Phu Hoa Commune, Lan's six-member family lived in a home filled with patches and holes, with just one bed and a sheet on the floor for sitting. Her children’s wedding photos were placed on the ground because there was no shelf.

But two weeks ago, her 1.800-hectare land received an offer of VND1.9 billion that she accepted with alacrity.

"I never thought this piece of land would be priced that high. When I held the cash, my hands shook and I was crying."

Tran Thi Lan, who recently sells a piece of land amid surging prices, reacts to the camera. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung

Tran Thi Lan, who recently sells a piece of land in the central province of Ha Tinh amid surging prices, reacts to the camera. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung

Lan’s family is among over 100 low-income households in the communes of Phu Hoa and Bac Hoa who have jumped into middle class after selling their land when a land fever began raging in the middle of last year.

The price surge followed rumors started twirling about a private company’s plan to build a golf course and resort on a 480-hectare land near the two communes.

Although the project has only been approved for feasibility studies and not for construction, the rumors pushed nearby land prices up 20 times over 2019 levels to VND3-4 million per square meter.

Local say that before the 1980s, most of the land in the area was uninhabited, and people used it to farm casuarina trees and built houses with authorities’ approval.

After the government tightened land use rules in the late 1980s, local authorities stopped granting titles for land in the area.

Those who were lucky to secure titles to their land lots are now able to make billions of dong (VND1 billion = $43,735).

One of them, a 50-year-old fisherman in Bac Hoa, who asked to remain anonymous, said that his life has been turned upside down – from living hand to mouth every day to being able to build a new house and have enough cash left to make further investments.

Other houses have also popped up in the commune in the last few months, with some seen with new televisions, refrigerators and cars, as locals sold land lots ranging from 500 to 5,000 square meters.

The nouveau riche phenomenon has brought some adverse developments, too. Local officials have reported disputes in families with children returning from the south and asking for their inheritance; and some land owners deliberately expanding their land lots without official approval.

Land fevers have been a fairly frequent occurrence in recent years, according to the Department of Housing and Real Estate Market Management.

The price surges typically happen after rumors of a development in a particular area attract land speculators to buy lots from local farmers and sell them for large profits quickly after.

Officials have been warning that such speculative behavior "cause disruptions in the market" and prevent low-income people from being able to buy affordable homes.

Tran Hong Ha, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, said earlier this month that high taxes on property speculation was needed to prevent hoarding.

Dang Hung Vo, a former deputy minister of natural resources and environment, also said the current taxes and fees on real estate were too low and a new property tax was needed.

He also warned that people with many properties would try to delay imposition of the tax.

But for people like Lan, the price surge has opened a new chapter in their lives that most low-income people in Vietnam only dream of.

With the money she has got, she and her husband plan to build a new house, give some to their children, and deposit rest in the bank.

Lan said she was not troubled by the fact that the new owner of the land was selling it for nearly 60 percent higher than her selling price.

"My husband and I have suffered for half of our lives. We should be grateful for what God has given us and not be greedy," said Lan, who has continued to maintain her vocation as a fisherwoman.

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