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Housing a basic right, says NPC

The country's top legislature said on Monday that the right of habitation is "one of the fundamental rights for residents" and should be guaranteed through legislation, as its bimonthly legislative session opened in Beijing.

The statement is seen as another major step after the central government introduced a slew of measures to curb rocketing housing prices in the country.

"To fundamentally solve the problem of the construction of economically affordable housing, we need to establish a national housing security system and to quicken the pace of legislation in this sector," Shi Xiushi, head of the Financial and Economic Committee of the National People's Congress, said while making a report to the legislature.
He said this year the central government allocated 79.2 billion yuan ($11.9 billion) to help local governments build economically affordable housing for the underprivileged.
China plans to build 5.8 million government-subsidized apartments this year, compared with 3.3 million apartments last year. By the end of September, construction had started on 90 percent of the apartments, according to the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.
However, Shi said that according to legislators' investigations, the money is still far from enough. He said the subsidy from the central government for each economically affordable apartment is only 23,700 yuan on average, or about 30 percent of the construction cost.
Many provincial governments fail to allocate a proper amount of money for such projects, leaving the burden to governments of cities, counties or districts, he said. "These grassroots-level governments complain that the pressure is too much."
Shi said some economically affordable housing projects lack basic facilities such as water or power supply, which makes it difficult for residents to move in. Some other projects are placed in city suburbs that are short of education, medical and traffic resources.
In early October, the quality of affordable houses sparked public concern as the first demolition of government-subsidized apartments took place in Beijing.
Six of the nine buildings in a project under construction for low-income housing were ordered to be demolished due to substandard concrete and two other buildings needed reinforcement, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said.
In face of so many problems, Shi said legislators suggest more subsidies should be directly given to low-income citizens to rent apartments, and a financial system that coordinates central and local government spending should be set up.
Chen Sixi, deputy chief of the Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, said the legislation process of a draft law on affordable housing should be quickened, too.
The draft law, though on this year's legislation agenda, has been put off to next year, he said.
"The draft law should specify the proportion of different types of housing, from luxury houses to economically affordable ones, so that local governments can better supply government-subsidized housing for the underprivileged and also work on local economic developments," Chen said.


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