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One woman's experience with improved housing
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16:18, September 11, 2009

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Housing conditions in China have improved dramatically over the past several decades along with the country's rapid economic development.

The case of Wang Jiangfang, a 90-year-old Shanghai old lady, can well illustrate how housing conditions in Shanghai have improved over the years.

Wang told Xinhua News Agency that 70 years ago she lived in a self-built, 24-square-meter one-storey home in downtown Xujiahui district of Shanghai just after she got married. The house was too small for the couple to install pipes and had no tap water, electricity or a washroom. She and her husband had to continue to live in the small house even after they had two children.

"We had to partition the small yet crowded room to create a kitchen and a bedroom," Wang said.

Wang said it was heartrending for her to recall such hard times.

"When my son and daughter grew up, we had to build an attic, whose roof leaked water when it rained," she said. "We had to use all the basins and try to stop the leakage."

Whenever it rained, Wang said she usually climbed onto the roof and repaired it by covering the holes with some pieces of asphalt felt and tiles.

But significant changes have taken place in Shanghai's housing scene over the last three decades since China adopted its reform and opening-up policy in 1978.
After the municipal government put in place a plan in the 1990s to rebuild the old part of Shanghai, which covered her old home venue, Wang's family was in return allocated two new fully-equipped apartments in the fast developing Xuhui district, which has become one of the commercial centers of Shanghai today. Each of her two apartments had a living room and two bedrooms, and of course, a kitchen and a washroom for each. They moved into the apartments during the Spring Festival in 1996, and Wang still lives in one of her apartment homes today.

"The residential community is so good that I can smell the fragrance of the flowers outside from the window," Wang said. "Walking around, listening to the birds singing, I feel so comfortable living here."

In addition to the general improvements in housing conditions, Shanghai also adopted a major housing reform policy when it started allowing property purchases in 1980. Since then, China has seen the end of its welfare system of housing allocation and the birth of housing commercialization. The real estate industry has entered a new stage of development. The Chinese are enjoying better living conditions today than they did decades ago.

"You can see for yourself how nice the surroundings of our residential community are," Wang felt quite satisfied when talking about her current home. "This is the best house I have ever lived in during my 90 years."

Wang said she now has not much time to live in her own house because all her sons, daughters and grandchildren have bought their own houses and vie with each other to invite her to live with them.

"Their houses are bigger, and the surroundings are more beautiful," Wang said. "The place in which my old house was located has prospered so much that I even can't recognize it."


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