Boost in spending planned for low-income public housing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 March, 2009, 12:00am

The central government plans to step up spending on public housing for low-income families as part of its drive to improve people's well-being.

Qi Ji, vice-minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said yesterday that 33 billion yuan (HK$37 billion) had been earmarked - almost five times last year's total - to build low-rent flats this year in an effort to address housing problems for 2.6 million families.

Beijing's outlay on the same sector was 6.8 billion yuan last year and 5.1 billion yuan in 2007.

'Last year we built 630,000 low-rent houses, a significant increase over the previous year. This year we plan to solve the housing difficulty of 2.6 million low-income families across the country, about 70 per cent of whom will move into houses provided by the government,' Mr Qi said. 'The other 30 per cent will get a subsidy for housing.'

The announcement echoed Premier Wen Jiabao's pledge in his annual work report a week ago that Beijing would speed up implementation of policies and measures to promote low-income housing projects. It also reflected changes to the country's stimulus package outlined in the National Development and Reform Commission's draft plan for national economic and social development.

The commission has suggested spending less on big infrastructure projects and more on social development by trimming money for transport infrastructure construction projects from 1.8 trillion yuan to 1.5 trillion yuan and boosting allocations for health, education, culture and other social development from 40 billion yuan to 150 billion yuan. Spending on low-income housing has been increased to 120 billion yuan.

Guo Songhai, director of the real estate research centre under the Shandong Institute of Economics, said the increased spending was long overdue and reflected the central government's increased focus on improving well-being, especially for low-income families.

'Low-income families comprise around 20 per cent of the whole population, but low-rent housing and affordable housing was mainly just talk because it accounted for less than 10 per cent of the whole property supply from 2002 to 2007,' Professor Guo said. 'The great leap in spending shows the government really means to enforce the policy well this time.'

Mr Qi said the houses would be no bigger than 50 square metres each and were meant for low-income urban families whose accommodation now amounted to less than 10 square metres per person.

About 10 million households across the country fell into this category in 2005, but by last year conditions had eased for 2.5 million households because of the low-rent housing programme and slum-reconstruction projects.

A further 2.29 million households received subsidies in that period, according to Mr Qi. He said that for those medium- and low-income families and fresh college and university graduates who did not meet the subsidy criteria or could not buy affordable housing, local governments were encouraged to develop public lease housing. This would gradually cover migrants.

Housing help

Some 33 billion yuan will be spent this year on flats for low-income families

The number of families across the country who will be helped: 2.6m