CHINA> National
Low-income housing plan under work
By Xie Yu (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-02-20 07:38

Authorities will introduce new guidelines this year to provide housing for lower- and middle-income Chinese who cannot afford private houses and do not qualify for low-rent and subsidized housing provided by the government, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said on its website yesterday.

The guidelines will be based on similar moves by the Shanghai and Guangdong authorities that include subsidized rental housing for relocated residents and short-term rental apartments for fresh graduates, the ministry said.

Earlier this year, Minister Jiang Weixin said the department would explore new measures in the housing market to provide homes for lower- and middle-income workers who could not afford private homes and were not eligible for subsidized government housing.

Since 1991, China has been building affordable houses to accommodate low-income residents. In provinces like Guangdong and Zhejiang, monthly rent for these houses is as low as 1 yuan per sq m.

According to regulations, only people suffering from abject poverty are eligible for the preferential policy. In Guangzhou, only families whose annual per capita disposable income falls below 7,680 yuan ($1,123) and average per capita living space is under 10 sq m can apply for the low-rent houses.

The average per capita disposable income in Guangzhou last year was 19,733 yuan.

Provinces and cities are trying to develop new ways to address the affordable housing problem, leading to the idea of "public rental houses".

The Department of Construction of Guangdong said on Monday that it will start a pilot public rental housing system this year. The government will buy and build some apartments and rent them to lower- and middle-income Chinese at comparatively low prices.

A month ago, Shanghai opened "youth apartments" to the young people working in its Zhangjiang Technology Park. People with college degrees or above who have signed contracts longer than one year with companies in the park could rent a room in the apartments for 880 yuan per month, but not for more than three years.

Lu Hongqing, chief of the Construction Department of Guangdong province, said: "We just came up with the idea to solve the housing problem but have not worked out the detailed policies. If the central government could provide a guideline, it can boost the realization of our new policy."

Chen Shu, 24, an editor from Shanghai, said it would be "good news" if she can rent a house for a lower price from the government. "Now only those in Zhangjiang Technology Park could enjoy the public rental house: If that mode could be expanded, I can save 800 yuan every month."

According to the ministry, 3.5 million low-rent houses had been provided through the end of 2008. The ministry vowed to build another 1.3 million by the end of this year.