Beijing to spend 15b yuan to renew old houses

Beijing – The capital plans to spend more than 15 billion yuan ($2.32 billion) on a program to renovate old houses as part of major efforts to achieve its ambitious goal of providing more comfortable and affordable housing for residents.

As many as 40 million square meters of old buildings in the city will be targeted in the upcoming renovation works, which will improve the anti-earthquake and energy-efficient capabilities of old houses, the city’s housing and urban-rural development commission said at a news conference on Monday.

The municipal government will spend more than 15 billion yuan on the five-year renovation project, which will begin next month, according to the announcement.

“Houses built before 1980, as well as some public service facilities, such as kindergartens, hospitals and stadiums built between 1980 and 2002, were far below the current anti-seismic standards and need to be strengthened,” Zhang Nongke, deputy director of the committee said.

Also, people will be able to enlarge their houses by 5 to 15 sq m on average. Homeowners will be responsible for the costs, the announcement said.

A 45-year-old local resident surnamed Zou told China Daily on Tuesday that his small, old apartment had made him decide to save money and apply for an affordable house.

“But if my house can become bigger and more comfortable after renovation, I would still be willing to live there since it is close to the downtown and very convenient,” he said.

Analysts said the move is part of a new round of measures by the municipal government after it pledged to step up efforts to help more low-income residents settle in the city.

On June 30, the city set up a fund with registered capital of 10 billion yuan to help real estate developers get crucial financing to promote its affordable housing project.

Officials said the government will boost the fund’s capital each year.

China’s housing market is increasingly viewed as a political issue that influences social stability because skyrocketing prices have been blamed for widening the gap between the rich and poor and triggering widespread complaints from people who cannot afford housing in cities.

The country plans to build 36 million government-subsidized apartments in the next five years; 10 million of them are to be built in 2011.

Beijing will offer 1 million affordable apartments to the public by 2015, of which 200,000 will be completed this year, official figures showed.

“The city’s fund support policies will help to solve the financing problem, which has stifled such projects in recent years,” Li Chang’an, public policy professor at the Beijing-based University of International Business and Economics, said.

“Meanwhile, detailed regulations on fund distribution should be clarified as soon as possible, as that issue has always been a matter of great concern to the public,” he said.

Source: China Daily

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