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More Housing for Low-income Families

More budget housing will soon become available to low-income earners in the capital, according to the authority of Beijing.


The Beijing Municipal Development Planning Commission said over the weekend they expected construction would begin on 3 million square meters of new budget housing a year.


Residents with an annual household income below 60,000 yuan (US$7,246) qualify for the low-cost units.


By the end of April this year, building work had started on 765,700 square meters of economical housing in Beijing -- 30 percent more than over the same period last year. By the end of 2003, this figure is expected to reach 4.28 million square meters for as many as 25 projects.


Wang Lin, a 26-year-old editor with a local newspaper, yesterday said the new policy was good news for people like her, who cannot afford expensive commercial housing.


Budget housing is sold at lower prices than comparable commercial housing because local governments charge developers of these projects fewer administrative fees. Charges such as transfer fees for land use rights are reduced or waived as a special subsidy for low-income residents.


"At least we won't have to hire people to queue several days in advance to buy an economical unit,'' she said.


Wang and her fiance earn an annual combined salary of no more than 50,000 yuan (US$6,038). She admitted having no apartment of their own is their biggest obstacle to marriage.


Since the demand for budget housing greatly exceeds the supply in Beijing, it is common to see Beijing people queue for days just before low-cost units go on sale. Some people now make a living queuing for people who want to buy into real estate.


"We were so afraid that the construction of budget housing would be stopped because of the problems involved,'' Wang said.


There were widespread rumors early this year that the country might stop budget housing projects because many units had been sold to high-income earners.


A commission official, who declined to be named, said developers would be allowed to continue building lower-cost housing. But the new policy limits the size of budget units to less than 80 square meters. At present, most such units are over 100 square meters.


Although most of these new projects will be located outside the fourth ring road, they are meant to have a full range of amenities, such as convenient public transport, kindergartens, dry cleaners and grocery stores.


(China Daily September 30, 2003)

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