Public rental housing to cool property market
By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-06 07:41
BEIJING - Premier Wen Jiabao pledged on Saturday that the government will firmly curb excessive housing price growth and provide enough affordable houses for needy residents this year.
A new measure adopted by the government is to give priority to developing public rental housing, Wen said in his government work report at the opening of the annual full session of the country's top legislature on Saturday.
The development of public rental housing is expected to benefit many low- and middle-income families, who are not qualified to apply for low-rent public houses nor rich enough to buy commercial apartments.
The government plans to allocate 103 billion yuan ($15.68 billion) in this year's budget to support the measure, an increase of 26.5 billion yuan over last year, he said.
Public rental housing will gradually become the major form of affordable housing built from 2011 to 2015, according to the country's draft 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), which was submitted to the 11th National People's Congress on Saturday for discussion.
Local governments will be required to take more responsibility for stabilizing housing prices and guaranteeing the availability of affordable housing.
Those local governments that put insufficient effort into stabilizing housing prices and promoting the construction of low-income housing and thereby affect social development and stability "will be held accountable", Premier Wen said.
The issue of housing has caused widespread public concern in recent years. Premier Wen said in the report that the excessive rise in housing prices is one of the issues that "some people feel strongly about and that have not yet been solved". He pledged that continued efforts will be made to address the problems.
This year, more affordable housing will be built: the central government plans to start construction of 10 million units of affordable housing this year and renovate 1.5 million dilapidated rural houses. Emphasis will be placed on building more small- and medium-sized housing units.
The target is nearly double the 5.9 million units of affordable housing the country started building last year.
From 2011 to 2015, the country aims to build 36 million units of affordable housing, covering 20 percent of the country's households. To ensure the target is realized, Wen asked governments at all levels to raise funds to guarantee spending in these areas, and to give priority to land supply for affordable housing.
He also urged governments at all levels to strictly implement differentiated housing credit and tax policies and to tighten tax collection to curb speculative and investment purchases of housing.
The measures are the latest of several steps taken to cool the red-hot property market.
Observations by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development show the fast growth in home prices in some cities has slowed.
Jiang Weixin, minister of housing and urban-rural development, told China Daily on Saturday he is confident soaring home prices will be controlled this year. The ministry's work priority this year is to guarantee the construction of affordable housing, Jiang said.
Yan Qingmin, assistant to the chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission and a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told reporters on Saturday that the measures to curb home prices will not increase the risks to banks.
Xia Ji'en, a Sichuan deputy to the National People's Congress, told Xinhua that this sound policy needed strict implementation. He feared that some local governments might either fail to meet the target or build the low-income housing but not provide appropriate services.
Previously, a few localities built affordable housing in remote parts of cities without providing public transport, schools and hospitals. Xia urged local governments to avoid such mistakes.
To narrow the wealth gap, Premier Wen said that this year the government will put more effort into adjusting income distribution, and will focus on increasing the wages of low-income people in both urban and rural areas.
The government will increase the minimum wage for workers and basic pensions for enterprise retirees, and will raise the income tax threshold on salaries to reduce the tax burden on low- and middle-income people, he said, without providing details.
Efforts will also target excessively high incomes, especially those in senior management at State-owned enterprises and financial institutions.
The country's rural-urban wealth gap has widened in recent years, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Urban per capita annual income in 2010, which stood at 19,109 yuan, was more than three times the figure in rural areas.
(China Daily 03/06/2011 page3)
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