A staff member with the Shanghai Luwan district government talks to people applying for affordable housing on Saturday. The interview is the start of the application process. [Photo/Xinhua]
BEIJING - China plans to build 36 million government-subsidized apartments in the coming five years, including 10 million in 2011, so more will be available for low-income residents, Premier Wen Jiabao said on Sunday.
He made the pledge while responding to netizens' comments about the soaring cost of housing during an online chat.
"We have to contain the excessive price growth and keep housing prices at a reasonable level," Wen said.
"If 36 million subsidized apartments, which accounts for 20 percent of the country's current total dwelling houses in urban areas, can be built, the pressure on housing could be relieved greatly."
Detailed supporting policies, such as funding and land supply policies, are under discussion, he said.
The country has introduced a slew of policies since last year to curb property speculation and excessive gains from housing transactions.
On Jan 26, the State Council announced its latest eight measures to curb rising housing prices.
It called for an increase in the supply of apartments for poor people, the introduction of rules preventing residents from buying more than a certain number of properties and the adoption of higher transaction taxes.
The country is also to accelerate its property tax pilot and gradually expand it to the national level, the General Office of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the top legislature, said on Sunday, citing a report from the National Development and Reform Commission.
The country has kicked off the long-awaited trial property taxation system in Shanghai and Chongqing to try to cool off the housing market.
However, 68 out of 70 cities still reported that the cost of local homes had risen from what they were a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Feb 18.
During the online chat, Wen admitted that curbing rising housing prices had been difficult.
"Some may think I would be dejected but I'm still confident that we will achieve the goal," he said.
The country last year started to construct 5.9 million government-subsidized apartments, exceeding its original target by 100,000.
This year, the number of subsidized apartments being built across the country will reach 10 million, up 72.4 percent year-on-year, according to official figures.
Li Chang'an, a public policy professor at the Beijing-based University of International Business and Economics, said on Sunday that the central government's determination will help cool the country's hot property market.
"Local governments will have to allocate more money for the construction of subsidized apartments, which had been ignored in the past, to fulfill their tasks," he said.
But the insufficient funding that had stifled such projects in recent years remains a significant obstacle, he said.
"More social funding should be encouraged to be used for the construction of subsidized apartments," he said.