From God’s Home to People’s House

Yip, M., Lee, J., & Tang, W-S. (2020). From God’s home to people’s house: Property struggles of church redevelopment. Geoforum, 110, 14-24.

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Religious organizations participate in urban redevelopment in various ways including redeveloping their churches. While the literature has attempted to explain church redevelopment from different perspectives, what has often been forgotten is the fundamental characteristic of churches as property in cities. Drawing on the established scholarship of legal geography, this article argues that the lens of property relations offers an insightful framework to examine church redevelopment. By presenting a case study in Hong Kong, this article unpacks the property struggles of church redevelopment to examine how that resulted from the conflicting property claims and why these claims emerged. This article contrasts and analyzes the religious and market-driven values underlying these claims in the context of a property-led society like Hong Kong. To understand how urban churches transform from God’s home to people’s house, it is necessary to recognize the diverse readings of property. In so doing, this article invites scholars to re-conceptualize urban struggles from the property lens.