Doubts raised over quality of housing projects

By Jin Zhu (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-04-25 09:14
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Beijing - Worries arose over the quality of the buildings put up as part of China's social housing program for the poor after substandard walls were found in a project for shantytown dwellers in Baotou city, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

The project, in the Binhe district and developed by the Shenhua Group Corp Ltd (Shenhua Group), was specially constructed for shantytown dwellers in Shiguai district, a main coalfield area in the city.

The 1,200,000-square-meter project contains 226 buildings, which can accommodate 39,000 people, as well as a school and a hospital, according to the company's website.

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Work on the project lasted for two years and finished in 2010. More than 5,000 families have since moved in.

Doubts began to form over the quality of the buildings when 451 families living there complained that the surface of their walls had cracked and peeled off in places, Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday.

"The walls easily peel when I touch them and small pieces of plaster from the walls break up very easily," Huang Shaoting, a local resident who moved in in September, told Xinhua.

"I spent all my savings and borrowed another 70,000 yuan ($10,756) from my relatives and my child for the apartment. I planned to live a happy life in the new house, and I never thought I would be faced with troubles arising from poor construction right after I had moved in.

"(The wall peels off) partly because of the use of too much mortar, an additive which helps cement become sticky, so it can easily be daubed on the wall," an insider in the building industry, who requested anonymity, told China Daily on Sunday.

Mortar is often used because it is cheap, he added.

By Saturday, crews had made repairs to substandard walls in 293 of the project's houses. The renovation work will be finished in the next few days, the developer told Xinhua.

In recent years, China has moved faster to build housing projects for poor residents.

In 2010, the country began putting up 5.9 million subsidized apartments for low-income residents and shantytown dwellers, building 100,000 more houses than it had first planned.

And the construction of a further 10 million apartments will begin this year, according to official figures.

With the progress have come concerns from the public about the projects' construction quality and about the living conditions inside them. Those have been bolstered by media reports saying that some houses have been shoddily constructed or built in remote places.

In December 2010, a 107,000-square-meter subsidized housing project in Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei province, was found to have been built on land polluted by a chemical plant that had once occupied the site.

In October, a building project, named Sunny Paradise, in Beijing, became the first government-subsidized apartments in the city to be demolished because they were built with substandard concrete.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has encouraged its branches at all levels to strengthen their supervision of construction quality and to pay special attention to public housing this year.

The ministry will begin a two-month special examination of the quality of buildings in August, concentrating on projects built using local government subsidies, according to an announcement on its website.