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Gov't to Buy More Rooms for Poor Families
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A district government in Shanghai is planning to buy 500 apartments to provide rooms for low-income earners.

A service center opened on Thursday to coordinate apartment purchases and approve residence applications. The center will spend 200 million yuan (US$26.3 million) on the project, a government employee surnamed Zhang said.

The apartments will be chosen from the existing crop in the central district as well as from newer buildings in the district's suburban areas. The rooms will be rented to low-income earners at discounted prices.

The service center will also be responsible for expanding the district's low-income housing system.

Families with specified per capita monthly incomes, which vary according to location, and per capita living space of less than 7 sq m are qualified to apply for low-income housing. Successful applicants are either given subsidies or reduced rental fees.

By the end of last year, 512 of the 657 cities in the country had set up such subsidy systems, which have benefited 547,000 poor families.

In Shanghai, the low income threshold is 320 yuan, and the subsidies range from 480 yuan to 1,000 yuan, said Zhang.

By the end of last year, nearly 80,000 poor families in Shanghai were covered by the system. About a tenth of them are in Pudong, the largest district in the city.

Shanghai Party chief Xi Jinping said in May that the city would expand its low-income housing stock to cover 100,000 more families by 2012.

As evidence of the push to add more such housing, Pudong New Area loosened its criteria for who is qualified to apply for low-income housing in two of its neighborhoods late last year. Families with per capita monthly incomes of less than 500 yuan for six consecutive months and per capita living space less than 7 sq m are able to apply.

As last Tuesday, 801 families had applied and 200 more were in the final stages before finally receiving their apartments.

These criteria will be applied to the whole district later this year. And at the end of this year, all districts in Shanghai are to adjust their criteria and include more people in their low-income housing systems, an employee with the municipal housing, land and resource administration bureau said. He gave his name as William.

(China Daily July 10, 2007)

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