They say “no good deed goes unpunished” and one Chinese billionaire learned that the hard way after spending tens of millions of dollars on hundreds of luxury villas for all the residents in his home village, only to see them remain deserted as greedy recipients continue to argue over who should own multiple houses.
Five years ago, Chen Sheng, the founder and chairman of drinks company Tiandi No 1 Beverage Inc, committed 200 million yuan (US$31.9 million) to the construction of 258 luxury villas on a plot of land offered by authorities in the village of Guanhu, China’s Guangdong province. Each property measures 280 square meters and the three-story villas feature five bedrooms, two reception rooms, a garage and a small garden. The new village also has a small stream passing through it, several pedestrian bridges, basketball and badminton courts and even a public stage for various cultural events, but even though everything was completed last year, the place remains deserted.
It’s not the prices of the homes keeping people away, as they were offered to the residents of Guanhu as gifts, but greed. You see, according to a 2013 census, the small village numbered 190 households, but Chen decided to build an extra 68 villas, to make sure that anyone who moved to the village before construction of the new homes was completed would also have a new villa. That turned out to be a big mistake.
As soon as the plan to build the luxury village was announced, people in Guanhu started fighting over who should get one or multiple villas. Some families claimed that they needed multiple homes, either for their extended families, or for their children when they get married. To make matters worse, farmers who had moved from the village suddenly expressed a desire to return and also staked claims to villas.
Chen Sheng told the Southern Metropolis Daily that he was so disappointed by the people he had been so generous to that he hasn’t even visited Guanhu in the last two years.
“As soon as I went back to the village, everyone started making all kinds of demands, so I don’t go back anymore” he said. “If I return, everyone would have all sorts of requests, so I’d rather not return.”
Apart from the free houses, Sheng was once quoted as saying that he planned to build a large pig farm and plant lychee orchards close to the new village, thus creating 100 new jobs for the community. The meat processing factory he owned would buy the pigs from the new farm, thus guaranteeing a market for them.
“Within four years, the villagers’ average income will be 200,000 yuan ($32,000) a year, so they won’t have to worry about houses or their children’s education,” the businessman said at the time.
But with people too busy fighting over who should receive a villa, or even two, these plans were put on hold indefinitely. A recent report said that the Guanhu village committee planned to convene soon to try and solve the bizarre problem.
In the meantime, the deserted luxury village has become the target of vandalism. Earlier this month, at least 10 windows were smashed with stones, and the whole place is already in need of repairs.