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New housing rules planned for migrants

China Daily

Workers to benefit from detailed central government guidelines

Detailed rules for migrant workers who want to apply for government-subsidized houses in cities will be released in eight months, the country's top housing authority said.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said on Tuesday that by the end of 2013, all cities above the prefecture level should accept working migrant workers into their affordable-housing systems and introduce supplemental measures with detailed regulations on the application requirements, process and waiting rules.

To give more residents the right to live in subsidized houses, city governments need to widen their economic threshold for families, covering families with relatively higher incomes, according to the annual plan on the subsidized housing program, released on April 3.

"We have stipulated that migrant workers who meet the requirements can apply for affordable houses in Hebei since 2012 and ordered the cities to release their own details," said Han Limin, an official from the provincial housing authority who was in charge of housing issues.

Like Hebei, many provinces and cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have released documents that say migrant workers have been among the families applying in the past year, yet few of the governments have released details.

"It's a strong signal released from the government that it will pay more attention to the people's livelihoods, especially for those in big cities who have to bear high property prices," said Yi Chengdong, an associate professor from the Real Estate Research Center of Central University of Finance and Economics.

"But it's not an easy task to release the details by the end of 2013," he said.

"The root of the difficulty lies in the imbalance of investment and revenue of government," he said, adding that the programs require large government financing, often more than some governments can afford.

In addition, governments are reluctant to release specifics of the program to migrant workers because they cannot get that amount of revenue from the migrant workers directly in return.

Chen Zhi, secretary-general of the Beijing Real Estate Association, agreed with him that the tough job for governments is to release details, adding that the first problem the government encounters is how to define the qualified migrant workers, including how long they have worked in the city and whether they have stable jobs.

Zhao Duo, 26, a new graduate from Xi'an, Shaanxi province, left Beijing after working there for a month because of the capital's high housing prices and rent.

"I cannot afford the high price to buy a house or pay most of my money on rent," he said, "So the public rental house is a better choice, but I don't how long it will take."

He said one of his colleagues handed in an application in 2012 after it was open to people like him without hukou, or household registration, yet hasn't heard back.

The current huge demand for these affordable houses from local residents is another problem, said Chen, also an expert for the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.

In Beijing, more than 100,000 families with hukou, a registered permanent residence, have been on the waiting list for two or even three years, he said.

"If the government cannot increase the supply, the guideline that allows migrant workers will not work well," he said.

The annual plan released by the top housing authority said 2013 will see the start of construction of about 6.3 million units of subsidized housing in China, while 4.7 million others will be completed.

More than 10 million units of housing in shantytowns will be improved in the next five years, the State Council said.