City defends policy to grab illegal property

Updated: 2011-05-13 10:19
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SHIJIAZHUANG - Housing authorities in Shijiazhuang, capital city of North China's Hebei province, said Thursday the policy they are mulling to confiscate illegally-built residential buildings and convert them into homes for low-income residents is mainly meant to regulate the property market.

The policy, the first of its kind in China, is not a hasty approach to meet affordable housing quotas, as some members of the public have said, according to Wang Wenxing, deputy director of the city's housing security and management bureau.

According to a city government document drafted in April, residential buildings built without the approval of construction authorities and violating regulations or urban plans, will be confiscated by local governments and used as houses for low-income homes. The ownership of these properties will be transferred to the government.

Non-residential buildings built in violation of regulations will be confiscated and auctioned by the government. The money from the auction will be used for the construction of affordable houses, according to the policy.

The ultimate goal of making this policy is to regulate the real east market by sending a warning to builders intent on violating housing construction regulations, Wang told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

Wang dismissed public criticism of the government rushing to make this policy just to meet quotas for affordable housing which the central government has set for the city.

The policy, which is still under discussion, has stirred public criticism after it was reported by the People's Daily on Monday.

The central government has required Hebei province to build 380,000 units for low-income homes in 2011. As the capital city, Shijiazhuang is expected to build 41,248 units for low-income homes this year, three times the 2010 quota.

Illegally constructed buildings have been occupying land and resources and are obstructing urban planners, noted officials.

Wang said that the government has been mulling a policy to punish those who build houses not in accordance with regulations and the affordable housing project has just speeded up the policy making process.

Construction of houses for low-income homes has never been easy in Shijiazhuang due to the lack of land and funds, he said.

However, the government does not expect that confiscating illegal buildings would significantly help in meeting the quota, Wang said.

Experts and media reports also doubt the legitimacy of the policy, saying the government has the authority to confiscate illegal buildings but has no right to legalize them by changing the ownership.

The lax government supervision should be blamed for the illegal buildings, and the government should stop developers before the buildings are built, not confiscate them afterwards, said Chen Baocun, assistant general secretary of the National Real Estate Manager Alliance, on his blog.

Also, illegal buildings include those that are substandard. Turning them into affordable housing will not change the fact that they do not meet quality standards, according to an online Nanfang Daily report.