Housing help for poor families

China Perspective

IN AN effort to help low-income families, the government has moved to provide more low-rent housing units.  

The problem is a growing one, especially for poor urban families who sometimes find themselves living in out-of-date, low-quality homes, often without running water or bathrooms.  

“We plan to help poverty-stricken urbanities,” Xie Jiajin, who is in charge of real estate management with the Construction Ministry, said on Tuesday.  

Speaking at a conference on low-rent housing management, Xie said the government's plans would take effect on March 1.  

Under the new plan, every poor urban household will receive subsidised housing units which are up to 60% the size of the local average.  

Xie urged central and local governments to set aside enough funds to run the new housing system.  

The low-rent system became part of China's social security systems, along with medical insurance, pension insurance and the minimum income subsidy.  

The central government kicked off reforms of the housing system back in the mid-1980s by selling luxury houses at market prices, providing middle and low income families with cheaper housing and by finding low-rent apartments for poor residents.  

The average urban resident in China lives in an average space of 23 square metres.  

Frequently, the per capita living space is less than the national average in most western regions.  

The latest official survey shows that per-capita floor space in 21 major cities in the west averages 17 square metres. 

Poor families in western cities, which make up four per cent of urban residents, live in old or unsafe places, such as clay-tampered shelters or old buildings without kitchens and toilets, or simple plank cabins.  

Not all is bleak, however.  

Three major western cities, Chengdu, Xi'an and Kunming, have set up low-rent systems.  

In Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province in the north-west, 264 low-rent apartments were built at the end of last year.  

All are now occupied.  

Li Zhiyong, a laid-off worker in Xi'an, and his family were among the first group of families to move into new apartments.  

“The house is better than we expected, with simple interior decoration, a tiled floor and a decent toilet. We can finally live a secure life,” Li said. – China Daily

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