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More public housing needed

By Zhang Zhouxiang | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-26 09:56

More public housing needed

A new regulation, jointly released by several municipal government agencies on July 18, requires that every tenant in Beijing should have a living space of no less than 5 square meters, while no more than two persons can share one room. It is also forbidden to rent kitchens, restrooms, balconies or underground storage rooms to live in. Group renting has long been a problem in Beijing. There was a report in Beijing Daily recently about 25 tenants crowding into an 80-square-meter apartment in Jinsong zone; the distance between beds was only 30 centimeters and the tenants often had to wait in long queues to use the toilet. There have been many similar reports.

Safety can never be ensured in these apartments, and it will be difficult for people to escape if there is a fire. Worse, by dividing one apartment into an astonishing number of small units, the construction structure can be changed, thus threatening the safety of the whole building.

However, can the new regulation effectively put an end to the problem?

Nobody wants to live in a crowded space with nothing but a single bed; people do it because they have no choice facing the high rent. In other words, the tenants have less bargaining power in finding a place to sleep.

Much of the demand for rented accommodation is from fresh graduates, whose average starting salary in Beijing is 4,746 yuan ($773) a month, according to job-hunting website zhaopin.com. In comparison, the average rent for an apartment in Beijing in the first three months of 2013, according to a CCTV report, is 3,660 yuan. Zhang Xu, a market researcher from realty agency Homelink, said that the number in their deals is even higher than 4,000. For most graduates, renting an apartment of their own is beyond their reach, even sharing requires one-third to half of their income.

Zhang also said that the demand is roughly double the supply in rental market, while a survey of on-line agency cityhouse.cn shows that the gap between the price required by house owners and expected by tenants is narrowing; in other words, tenants have increasingly less bargaining power in the market. The rent for every square meter, as the website shows, has risen from 52.34 yuan from one year ago to 60.74 yuan this June.

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