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Low-cost homes remain top priority
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Ensuring the housing supply for low and middle-income families will remain a government priority next year, officials said.


Government leaders at the recent Central Economic Work Conference urged faster construction of low-rent housing, and improved and standardized economy housing to make it more affordable for urban low-income families.


Premier Wen Jiabao said earlier this month that construction of low-rent housing would be an important means to evaluate local government performance.


A source from the Ministry of Construction said it is currently working on a new housing rule.


"It will still take some time to finish the draft, but the framework is almost done," the source was quoted as saying by the 21st Century Business Herald. "The draft rule will be submitted to the State Council for approval next year."


According to Xu Zongwei, deputy director of the construction ministry's legal department, low-income families are the main concern of the new rule, which follows the guidelines of Circular 24.


The government issued the circular on August 13, aiming to make housing available at low rents or provide subsidies. The government plans to cover basic housing in large and medium-sized cities by the end of this year, then to tackle low-income families across the country by 2010.


The draft rule, experts said, will legalize the requirements of Circular 24 and make clear the responsibilities of government departments implementing it.


But the rule does not cover housing for middle-income families. As property prices climb there have been calls to address the difficulties of middle-income families, who believe they have been left out of the housing system.


Prices of new residential apartments in the country rose by 10.6 percent year-on-year in October, according to statistics from the National Development and Reform Commission.


"Buying a property in Beijing is an ambitious goal for me," said Liu Qi, a 30-year-old company executive with an annual income of around 40,000 yuan. "I am not entitled to economy housing, and I can't afford a commercial apartment."


According to Beijing's latest regulation, only families with annual incomes lower than 22,700 yuan can apply for economy housing. Meanwhile, it is almost impossible to find an apartment for less than 10,000 yuan per sq m within Beijing's Fifth Ring Road.


Tang Jun, secretary-general of the policy research center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said low-rent homes would not ease housing pressure for most people.


Statistics show that around 10 million low-income families are covered by Circular 24, accounting for 5.6 percent of all the families in China. Urban middle-income families make up 20 percent of the nation's total.


Premier Wen Jiabao said in Singapore last month that China's middle class would also be an important aspect of its affordable housing program.


(China Daily December 13, 2007)

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