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US$132b investment for low-income housing
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The central government plans to invest 900 billion yuan (US$131.71 billion) on low-income housing construction in the following three years, Qi Ji, vice-minister of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development told Xinhua on Wednesday.

Faced with the global financial crisis and economic downturn, the State Council, the country's cabinet, announced a 4-trillion-yuan investment package over the last weekend to spur domestic demand and boost the slowing economy. Eleven ministries, including the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, have been allocated with 100 billion yuan from the economic stimulus package and have to spend the amount before early next March, China Business News said yesterday.

The ministry plans to build over 2 million low-rent housing units, over 4 million economically affordable housing units, and reconstruct houses for over 2.2 million people in shantytowns in forest, farm and mining areas between 2009 and 2011, Qi said.

These construction projects will resolve housing problems of 10 million low-income households nationwide, as over 2 million have been built so far and 7.47 million are scheduled to be constructed in the next three years, Qi said.

"Increasing the construction of low-income housing will help low-income households, especially those receiving minimum subsistence allowances from the government. It will improve their housing conditions", said Qi.

Some 18 billion yuan had been allocated to construct 320,000 low-rent housing in the first three quarters of this year, and the construction of another 80,000 units is expected to start within this year. Both the central and local government budgets have stepped up their investment in low-rent housing construction since early this year. The central budget, for example, has subsidized 6.8 billion yuan to the mid-west regions and local budgets have financed about 40 billion yuan for low-rent housing construction.

Households that receive low-rent housing subsidies have amounted to 2.87 million accumulatively since the government started to build its housing security system in 1998.

In addition, the construction of over 90,000 economically affordable housing units has begun nationwide, and the number is estimated to surpass 1.2 million by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, more small- and medium-sized commercial housing with low and medium prices will be put on the market, said Qi. These houses will not only improve people’s housing conditions, but also stimulate related consumption to promote the steady and healthy development of both the real estate industry and national economic growth.

(Xinhua News Agency November 14, 2008)

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