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After Villa Collapse, Hanoi Will Examine All Colonial Buildings

Following the collapse of a 110-year-old villa in downtown Hanoi last week, officials in the capital are planning to launch a large-scale audit of the city's colonial buildings.

According to DTI, Hanoi is home to an estimated 1,600 villas and properties from the pre-independence era which range in age from 60 to 100 years. Of those buildings, there are 562 privately-owned residential properties, while the rest – approximately 1,100 structures – are owned by the government. 

After last Tuesday's collapse, which killed two and injured six, Deputy Minister of Construction Le Quang Hung stated that owners are responsible for regular building maintenance and will be liable, should anything happen to these structures.

The trouble, however, is two-fold: first, Hanoi's colonial villas are considered heritage buildings and protected by the local authorities, meaning the architecture cannot be repaired or changed in any form. For homeowners, this makes the renovation process extremely complicated and often deters people from making repairs.

Second, most of the ancient villas in the city are actually owned by the government. Seventy-one-year-old Ms Nga, who has lived in a government-owned heritage building since 1967, has never once seen it renovated or altered, reports VN Express.

“For 10 years now, no one has come to collect land taxes,” she told VN Express. “The people asked why, and the government's response was that if taxes are collected then they must protect the building. However, the taxes collected are not enough money, so no one collects them anymore.”

This is apparently a standard story for those who live in colonial housing. In another villa across town, it's common knowledge among building residents that the structure sits at about a 15-degree angle. In another Hanoi house, home to as many as 17 families, windows routinely fall down, injuring residents.

While the audit is a good first step toward ensuring the safety of families in Hanoi's colonial villas, it remains to be seen if, how and when action will be taken to improve the living conditions of the capital's residents.

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