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Plan to ensure quality of low-rent housing

(China Daily)

09:23, September 21, 2011

BEIJING - National standards for low-rent housing projects will be released in the next few months, experts said, after the central government repeated its pledge to provide residents with more access to affordable housing.

The national standards will guarantee the quality of the housing and the living standards of residents.

The State Council on Monday ordered local governments to provide more support for the construction of low-income housing projects, especially low-rent public housing units.

An executive meeting, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, agreed on measures to promote the construction of low-income housing projects, especially low-rent government-owned apartments offered to urban low-income households, newly employed laborers and migrant workers.

The construction of low-income housing projects in recent years has provided low- and middle-income households with affordable housing options, contained the excessive and rapid increase of property prices and promoted appropriate development of the real estate industry, according to a statement issued after the meeting.

Ministries in charge of these projects have established a professional team to draft a host of national standards, which will provide indexes to gauge the quality of low-rent housing.

"The draft will be finished by the end of this year or the beginning of next year," Liu Dongwei, chief architect of the China Institute of Building Standard Design and Research, said on Tuesday.

However, reports about the poor quality of low-rent housing projects have frequently created headlines.

"Although several local standards have been released, a unified one is needed to provide details, such as those governing the designs and the quality," Liu said.

The central government will continue to increase its subsidies for low-income housing projects, but local governments should also devote more of their fiscal revenue to the construction of affordable housing, according to the statement.

Other measures to guarantee funding for government-subsidized housing construction include increased land sale premiums, bond issues and loans for qualified local government financing vehicles.

In 2011, governments will build about 2.2 million low-rent housing units that will be smaller than 60 square meters. The State Council said it will also encourage local governments to build low-rent units measuring about 40 square meters.

"It shows the central government wants to ensure the public can get decent living spaces, but also shows that there is not enough funding for these projects," said Gu Yunchang, vice-president of China Real Estate Association.

Government subsidies, bank loans, social security and pension funds have been invested in these low-rent housing projects in some cities, such as Shanghai, to broaden the financial sources, he added.

Xinhua contributedto this story.

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