With the rapid expansion of China’s cities since the 1978 economic reform, more and more villages have been swallowed up by urban sprawl. The retention of collective land ownership in chengzhongcun has, on the one hand, made low‐rent housing affordable for migrants; on the other hand, however, it has exposed chengzhongcun to many social, economic and environmental problems. Based on a case study of chengzhongcun in Guangzhou, and using an analytical framework of property rights, this article has found that maintaining collective land ownership in chengzhongcun has been socially and economically costly, but a redevelopment strategy without a complementary affordable housing scheme may be problematic. In order to solve the problems of chengzhongcun, an institutional reform of collective land is required.
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