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Life inside Hanoi's old villas

By Pham Chieu, Vo Hai   April 26, 2022 | 05:30 am PT
Many century-old villas in downtown Hanoi where hundreds of people live reside are dilapidated and in need of renovation.
Life inside Hanoi's old villas

A three-story villa at 3 Dien Bien Phu Street in Hanoi's Ba Dinh District nestles behind a row of shops and is jointly owned by several households.
Its occupants are unsure of the year in which it was built, but they have lived there for three or four generations. While some households moved out because of the cramped space, many others are steadfast in their decision to remain.
The row of shops is where the villa's courtyard used to be.

Life inside Hanoi's old villas

Lam Tien Tai, 70, has been living here since he was a child.
His rent is around VND10 million ($435.40) a year.
"I can pay by the month or by the year," he says.

Life inside Hanoi's old villas

Though Tai and his wife ostensibly live in a villa, their house is a room that measures a mere 13 square meters. They have to mind the ceiling while moving around. Tai likens it to a slum because it does not get any sunlight.
A section of the room has a small mattress for sleeping, another is for daily use and a third is for washing dishes.

Life inside Hanoi's old villas

Outside his door is the staircase on top of which he keeps his dishes, pots and pans. One must stoop to enter and exit the room. During the rainy season, his family must mobilize all the pots and pans in the house to catch the leaks.

Life inside Hanoi's old villas

A 30-square-meter room on the top floor is partitioned into two.
Le Tuan Anh, 56, says there are four people in his 17-square-meter section, including his wife and two children.
The room is devoid of expensive items, and everything must be kept as simple as possible to maximize space. Anh says: "I've lived here since I was a baby. It's a little cramped, but I'm used to it."

Life inside Hanoi's old villas

His and another family share a corridor where they store buckets, washing machines, utensils, kitchenware, and stoves. The bathroom is also here, with a curtain serving as a door.
The roof of the building has deteriorated after years of disrepair.

Life inside Hanoi's old villas

Not far away is another old villa at 4 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan Street in Ba Dinh District, and under its roof are 12 households. It has a lovely setting right next to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Life inside Hanoi's old villas

People use the alley to dry clothes. On the land around the main villa, some people have built temporary homes.

Life inside Hanoi's old villas

The place is now in a state of disrepair.
Pham Ngo Kim Ngoc, one of the residents here, says she has been living there for more than 50 years during which time no renovation was done.
She says: "One day a door on the upper floor fell down to the first floor. Walls also fall on a regular basis. So the households below have had to make a roof".

Life inside Hanoi's old villas

Ngoc lives on the first floor. The government allotted the room to her grandmother in 1964. Ngoc moved in when her grandmother died, paying VND314,000 a month as rent, and has been taking care of the family altar.
She divided the space into two parts. She and her husband live on one side, and her child lives on the other. The altar takes up nearly half her room, and its bottom portion is used to store food and utensils.

Life inside Hanoi's old villas

Another room in the villa is 10 square meters in size. The owner only has a bed and a small table inside.
The government decided to relocate families living in the villa at 4 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan Street to an old apartment building on Chua Ha Street in Cau Giay District, but many people opposed the plan.

Life inside Hanoi's old villas

Some said they did not want to relocate because they had lived in the old villa for many years and it was not reasonable to move to another place, especially an old apartment. But most agree to move out if they are compensated with land or money.
The city currently has around 1,216 villas, 367 of them owned by the government, 117 by private individuals and some jointly owned by several households.

Officials have said that many of the villas have become decrepit over the years but the capital lacks the funds to repair and renovate them. The majority of the villas have been around for 100 years, they noted.
By 2025 the city aims to renovate 60 villas and some other structures managed by the city and government.

 
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