Warning of social unrest over home costs on mainland

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2007, 12:00am

A top Ministry of Construction official has warned that as mainland property prices continue to climb, a decline in housing affordability among low- and middle-income families could lead to social instability.

Vice-Minister of Construction Liu Zhifeng said the capacity of low- and middle-income families to buy a home had dropped over the past few years as housing prices outstripped increases in urban household incomes, the Beijing News reported.

'If [we] don't make more affordable housing projects available, housing prices will continue to rise and affect social stability,' Mr Liu said on Wednesday at an industry-wide work conference in Beijing.

A 1998 central government initiative to build more subsidised housing for underprivileged families has largely gone awry because of a lack of enthusiasm among regional authorities and a lack of transparency.

It took Guangzhou's government until last September - eight years after the initiative was launched - to work out a five-year plan earmarking land for low-cost housing.

Guangzhou-based property analyst Han Shitong said local officials had long denied housing prices in the city were high and had let market forces play out.

'Now, the government seems to have shifted its stance and has started to heed the plight of the wider community,' Mr Han said.

There has been growing public discontent over national housing reforms and sky-rocketing prices since 2004, particularly among poor families denied access to government-subsidised housing.

Mr Liu admitted the property market had become a 'hot bed for corruption', and Mr Han said governments must hasten implementation of affordable housing initiatives and eligibility screening.