The central government has vowed to get rid of all 'tin-and-timber houses' - common in slums - in three years in an effort to clean up mainland cities. Vice-minister of Construction Qi Ji told a meeting last week in Liaoning that Beijing would step up efforts to rehabilitate all such houses and relocate their impoverished occupants. Xinhua said the houses were a product of the planned economy, when government-run firms made production a priority rather than raising the living standards of their employees. Instead of building proper quarters, small dwellings made from tin sheets, canvas and bamboo sticks were built for workers and their families. Groups of the houses turned into slums, especially on the outskirts of cities and around factories. Slum residents usually had no running water or electricity and their homes were far from hospitals, schools and shops, Xinhua said. Wang Wenzhang , a miner and a former slum dweller in Fushun , Liaoning, told Xinhua that six members of his family had lived in a 20 square metre tin-and-timber house for more than five decades. The house was dark, wet and could not keep out the wind. Mr Qi was quoted by China Construction News as saying: 'Reforming the slums is necessary for building a well-off society and is an important step in building the relationship between the central government and the public.' He said local governments must take the lead in the relocation, hinting they should not rely on developers to build new homes. The slums are most common in the northeast, where a large number of state-owned enterprises and mines are located. They are not just eyesores, but often provide convenient hideouts for criminal gangs. Jilin province had spent 600 million yuan and borrowed 6 billion yuan from banks to demolish slums and relocate residents over the past two years, while in Liaoning, more than 12 million square metres of housing had been provided for 1.2 million low-income residents, Xinhua reported. Mr Qi urged more areas to establish slum reform schemes and to build more houses, especially small ones, to accommodate former slum residents.