THUA THIEN-HUE –While many nha ruong owners in the town of Hue are becoming tired of preserving their traditional houses without financial support, collectors are snapping up the wooden houses for billions of dong.
A typical garden house in Hue has two main parts: the nha ruong (a house built from wooden beams and pillars) and the surrounding garden, designed according to fengshui stipulations and their owners' spiritual orientation.
The beams and pillars of nha ruong are made of precious, solid wood such as lim (iron wood), gu (sindora) or thong xanh (teranthera pine). The entire house stands on large pillars bedded on a round or square stone base.
A traditional house in the historic town is a combination of nha ruong and a large garden, and in 2006, the province decided to implement a preservation project to protect those houses that represent part of Hue's unique history.
Under the project, home owners are forbidden from separating their land for sale or making structural alterations.
But the price of land is rising, making selling an attractive proposition for many owners. "Land is ten times more expensive than 5 years ago, and many of us want to sell our land to improve our living conditions," said a resident in a preservation area in Kim Long Ward, where many of the traditional houses are located.
He went on to say that he has three sons who are married with children, so he wants to split up the land so they can set up their own homes, rather than having three generations living under the same roof.
Despite violating regulations, he has already sold some of his land without the necessary legal documents or certificates from local authorities. "I cannot follow regulations that do not allow me to support my family," he said.
According to Nguyen Anh Tuan, deputy chairman of Kim Long Ward, many home owners in the area have done the same, despite local restrictions.
Some owners have difficulty preserving their houses for cultural purposes, and are tempted by lucrative offers from collectors.
According to real estate agent Nguyen Ba Phat, it is not difficult to sell a nha ruong at the moment because rich buyers from the cities are making high offers.
"I recently bought a nha ruong complete with original wooden features for VND 5 billion(US$240,000), and I'm trying to persuade another owner to sell his house to me," said Phat
People can always build new nha ruong, but the originals dating hundreds of years are far more valuable, says Phat. They are also easy to dismantle and move, he added.
Tuan said he is unsure of the number of nha ruong that have been sold in the province, despite regulations designed to preserve Hue's traditional houses, but their numbers are dwindling.
In 2006, there were 150 listed houses in Hue, but that number fell to 52 at the end of last year. The last 98 houses were partly or fully sold and converted into new homes. – VNS.