The Chinese government will extend the low-rent housing system to cover medium-and low-income families nationwide this year, Minister of Construction Wang Guangtao announced Tuesday.
All cities and counties will come under the system's aegis by the end of 2007, Wang said at the national construction work conference.
His announcement comes amid government efforts to curb runaway housing prices although no exact figures were given about the low-rent houses to be built this year.
Low-income families have only limited access to affordable housing due to the over-reliance by local governments on the highly lucrative property industry for fiscal revenue, he said.
A report released by the China Society for Urban Studies revealed that China has an alarming 1.56 million urban families with no access to adequate affordable housing, many of whom are living in overcrowded and dilapidated homes.
He urged developers to allocate 70 percent of new housing to small-and medium-sized homes under 90 square meters, calling it one of 2007's top priorities.
All new houses should further be built following environmental and energy standards to ensure optimum water usage and waste disposal efficiency, he said.
Low-rent apartments are essential to China's housing security system. They are either built or commissioned by the government and provided to poor urban families at discounted rents.
The latest official figures show that the mechanism has so far covered 291 cities at or above prefecture level as of Dec. 20, 2006.
Despite curbing efforts, prices for new homes in 70 large and medium-sized cities in China grew 6.3 percent in December last year from 2005.
(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2007)