Residents decline funding to save ancient homes

Despite an offer by the People’s Committee of Thua Thien-Hue Province to provide financial assistance to owners of ancient homes for refurbishment efforts, most have declined the help.

An ancient house in the former feudal capital of Hue has fallen into disrepair. Residents say that government subsidies are not enough to cover the cost of preservation efforts. (Photo: SGGP)

The houses, known as nha ruong, are built with artfully carved wooden pillars and bars in the former feudal capital of Hue in the central region. The residences have great cultural significance but are in danger of falling into disrepair and decay if renovations are not carried out.

The local government has offered funding for the upkeep of the ancient homes totaling VND100 million(US$5,400) each to homeowners for renovations and five-year loans of up to VND30 million to plant trees outside the houses.

Residents complain, however, that the actual cost of restoring the houses is much higher than the government subsidies. Due to strict regulations regarding the manner in which renovations are to be carried out on ancient homes, the owners say they would have to pay large sums out of their own pockets.

Mr. Vinh Khanh, an expert in the preservation of nha ruong, said large amounts of rare wood and skilled artists are needed to conduct renovations. Owners must therefore spend around VND300 million, three times higher than the government subsidies.

And while the homeowners are responsible for carrying out the work, they are prohibited from conducting business out of their homes to pay for the restorations.

In Kim Long-Phu Mong village, well-known for its many ancient homes and places of worship, nha ruong owner Hoang Xuan Bac complains he earned just VND400,000 after five years of offering tours of his home. Instead, Mr. Bac says he could be earning VND3 million a month if he turned the house into a coffee bar or restaurant.

Taxes for land use here have also risen higher than in other places. Ms. Pham Thi Tuy says she has paid VND2.6 million annually since 2007, compared to VND500,000 earlier.

But the government prohibits her from using the land to expand her home so when her children grow up and get married, they will have to live elsewhere, she says.

Researcher Nguyen Dac Xuan said of the many ancient houses in Hue, around 50 are considered heritage homes because of their unique, ancient architecture. They need recognition from UNESSCO, Xuan adds, in order to protect them from being lost forever.

By Vu Van Thang - Translated by Anh Quan

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