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More Flats for Low-income Families Urged

Vice-Minister of Construction Liu Zhifeng urged property developers to build more economic and affordable apartments for medium and low-income families.

"Their need for shelter is still a concern as real estate developers are willing to build more spacious houses," Liu said at a forum over the weekend. "But many families cannot afford it."

Labelling an apartment of more than 120 square meters as a "spacious house," Liu said nearly half of the apartments for sale in 16 major Chinese cities would fall into this category.

In nine cities out of the 16, apartments measuring above the benchmark of 120 square meters, have even accounted for 60 percent of houses for sale. In one city, which Liu did not name, nearly half of the apartments and houses for sale are above 180 square meters.

Conversely, less than 10 percent of apartments for sale are below 80 square meters in the 16 cities.

A real estate insider said China, with a huge population of 1.3 billion, cannot offer spacious houses for every family due to land constraints.

"What's more, the cost of such accommodation is beyond people's purchasing power," said Liu.

Liu said homebuyers are eager to purchase apartments with less space.

A survey in Shenyang, an industrial hub of Northeast China, indicated that nearly 16 percent homebuyers want to purchase apartments with space less than 60 square meters, but only 2.6 percent of those for sale are measured below that size.

In contrast, only 2 percent of high-end buyers can afford spacious houses with more than 150 square meters. But nearly 35 percent of the houses in the city's real estate market are measured above 150 square meters.

The survey also showed that most prospective homebuyers want to buy houses ranging from 60 to 100 square meters.

For urban Chinese, the average living space is 28 square meters.

"The survey has shown that we need to satisfy the real needs of those medium and small apartment buyers," said Liu.

He said he believes urban construction monitoring bodies at various levels should step up efforts to investigate homebuyers' need.

Last Friday, Minister of National Development and Reform Commission Ma Kai stressed that the government will support the building of more affordable housing and continue to curb rising of real estate prices.

He said investment in property had grown 23.5 percent by July, down 5.1 percentage points from the same period last year, after the government applied much stricter regulations to the real estate sector.

Liu said the government would not be introducing new policies, in the remaining months of the year, to cool down the property market.

A senior policy researcher with Liu's ministry said about 1 trillion yuan (US$124 billion), nearly one-10th of China's total economic output in 2004, was invested in the property sector last year.

"Nearly 20-30 percent of these investments have become bad assets and the bubbles in the real estate sector are serious," said Wang Yulin, deputy director of the ministry's Policy Research Center.

(China Daily August 29, 2005)

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