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Officials should keep out of affordable housing supply

(Xinhua) Updated: 2013-01-06 15:51

BEIJING -- Government-subsidized residential projects designed for low-income groups have become another battlefield for the fight against corruption in China.

The latest case involves a former director of the housing administration bureau in a district of Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province. He and his family own 29 apartments, and 11 are said to fall into the affordable housing category.

Though most families in China's major cities are struggling to buy a single modest apartment, officials have easily amassed dozens and some have taken away housing units specifically intended for disadvantaged groups.

Affordable housing applicants have long outnumbered available units, which are usually sold at a fraction of the local market price, fanning suspicion and murmurs about corruption in the distribution process.

Given the public's high expectations that low-cost apartments will improve the living conditions of the poor, it has become increasingly urgent for discipline authorities to put more systematic measures in place to stop officials from taking slices of this pie.

Effectively curbing corruption in this field will help consolidate the image of a government resolute in its efforts to protect the people's well-being, as many Chinese have become extremely sensitive to skyrocketing housing prices and any mishandling of housing resources.

To achieve this goal, a much stricter system is needed to restrict the power of any single person in the distribution process of affordable housing units.

The distribution process includes working with local governments to make approvals mainly based on an applicants' family income, although other factors like employment status also factor into the process.

It is vital to disclose information on how many affordable units are available each year, who is applying and who is finally approved.

Some cities make the names of applicants a matter of public record, but more details regarding their income and jobs should be provided in the future so others can better gauge their qualifications.

Take the official in Zhengzhou for example. As a former government employee at quite high a level, the official's family would not meet the low-income requirements to obtain such apartments.

The 11 affordable housing units are registered under the name of the official's daughter who has two different identification cards, which shows how greatly a stricter ownership registration system is needed.

If a person already has an affordable apartment registered, let alone 10, he or she should be automatically eliminated from further registrations.

With many low-income citizens seeing such subsidized housing as their only chance of ever owning a home, any corruption is immoral. Tolerating it is equally unacceptable.

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