Beijing city officials are studying plans to acquire low-cost housing from developers before the apartments are put on the market in order to cut speculation and corruption in the welfare property sector, local media reported. The mainland's affordable housing policy was introduced in the early 1990s to provide housing for low-income households by offering developers discounts on land leases and concessions in construction costs in return for building and selling housing according to government specifications. But lax government supervision, which has seen the sale of some of the properties to wealthy buyers, has led to criticism in the past few years that the policy has failed to benefit those who need it amid surging property prices. The Beijing News yesterday quoted Beijing's urban planning authority as saying the capital city would set up a new mechanism to 'ban affordable housing apartments from being sold directly to the market, but should be bought back by government first'. '[The new mechanism] could strengthen the management of the distribution of the affordable housing, and deter speculation and other behaviour relating to illegitimate profits,' the report said. But the report did not offer a timetable or any other details of the mechanism because the authority was 'researching the plan'. It is also not clear whether the buy-back requirement would apply only to new apartments or all low-cost properties. The report also said the authority would set a maximum floor space limit of 90 square metres on the size of the city's affordable apartments in order to prevent developers from building large apartments for the rich. According to the report, the authority would also try to lease out more welfare housing rather than selling it, as another means to curb speculation. Professor Feng Ke , director of the Peking University's Real Estate Research Centre, warned the against pinning too many hopes on the changes because irregular deals would also be possible in government-controlled distribution.