Business / Economy

Tianjin shantytown to get new year facelift

By Zheng Xin in Tianjin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-05 07:49

Having celebrated the Lunar New Year for half a century in Tianjin's impoverished Xiyuzhuang community, this year's Spring Festival was especially significant for Duan Yunhai.

"It might be the last time we celebrate the Spring Festival in the neighborhood, considering the whole community is expected to move out by the end of the year," said the 55-year-old butcher from a local supermarket, who was born and bred in the area.

"It's great news to move out of the area, yet it's also sad to say goodbye to a place where you have lived for decades.

"The whole neighborhood is filled with joy thanks to Premier Li Keqiang's recent visit, which brought hope to the area."

Li visited the community in December, and promised local residents such as Duan that they would be able to move into new apartments in the new year.

"We have been waiting for such a long time to get out of this rundown community, where five families share the same kitchen and thousands of households use the same toilet," said Wang Jinsheng, a resident of Xiyuzhuang in his late 50s.

"The premier's arrival realized my decades-long dream."

Xiyuzhuang is one of the oldest shantytowns in Tianjin. More than 20 percent of the area's residents are low-income households, with many people living under the same roof as their parents and grandparents.

Although plans to rebuild the area have been on the drawing board for a decade, work never commenced as property developers were hesitant to pay the large amount of compensation for the resettlement of the community, said Liu Qiuhua, head of the community committee.

Huang Xiaohu, a researcher from a consultancy center affiliated to the Ministry of Land and Resources, said during a previous interview with China Daily that the difficulty of the renovation of some shantytowns, such as Xiyuzhuang, lies in the complexity of the local population, the lack of financial support, and disagreements among residents on the relocation plan.

He said the only way to ensure the resettlement of these communities lies in providing them with low-cost housing with the government playing a dominant role by encouraging private capital and enterprises to invest in the transformation of shantytowns.

Duan, who shares his 50-square-meter home with seven members of his family, said his new year wish was to move into an apartment equipped with a toilet and central heating by next year.

"I hope my granddaughter can grow up in a neighborhood which is bright and spacious, and she doesn't need to worry about power cuts, thefts or a lack of toilets," he said.

Duan added that the Spring Festival was tinged with sorrow as resident who have been neighbors for decades may have to say goodbye to each other.

Liu Zili, head of the Tianjin Bureau of Land Resources and Housing Administration, said in an earlier interview with local media that the city will start building 60,000 low-cost and affordable apartments this year.

More than 75,000 such apartments will be completed in Tianjin by the end of this year, and they will be allocated on the basis of residents' incomes, he added.

The State Council has pledged to improve living conditions for people on low incomes and to accelerate urbanization by further promoting the redevelopment of shantytown areas

Around 2.18 million households were relocated from shantytown areas in China in 2013.

Zhang Min in Tianjin contributed to this story.

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