Village houses in eastern Beijing will be torn down to make way for municipal government agencies that are to be relocated from the centre of the capital in an attempt to ease traffic and population burdens. Local officials have given the nod for the demolition in Tongzhou district to start, a source with knowledge of the project told the Sunday Morning Post. Construction of the new buildings will begin by the end of the year if the demolition goes according to plan. Staff may be able to move in a year after that. The district government also hopes to attract state-owned enterprises to set up headquarters or branch offices in Tongzhou, which is near the boundary of Hebei province. Central government agencies, however, will remain in the city centre. About 11 villages were expected to be affected in the first phase of the demolition, the source said. Property ownership in the area had been frozen ahead of valuations and compensation. The projectt came as the integration of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, or "Jing-Jin-Ji", was declared by President Xi Jinping as a showcase project and included in the State Council's work report this year. Beijing's population grew 1.7 per cent to 21.5 million last year compared with 2013. More than half live outside the fifth ring, official statistics show. Tongzhou is in the sixth ring. The relocation of municipal government agencies had been discussed for years and should help reshape the capital into a "polycentric city" like other megacities in the developed world, Sheng Guangyao of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said. "But the municipal government staff constitute only a fraction of the city's population," Sheng said. "We should not depend solely on this relocation to mitigate traffic congestion." Tongzhou became the deputy political centre, he said, because city planners had long reserved an area in the district as back-up land for government buildings.