Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
As China works towards big housing goal, questions arise about who's benefitting.
The Chinese government wants to build 36 million units of affordable housing between 2011 and 2015. That's like building all of the households in California, Texas, Florida and Arizona and dropping them into China over the next few years. The country's vast population is certainly there to fill those new units, and skyrocketing home values have increased the need for affordably priced housing all across the country.
But according to a new report, the process of getting these units to the people who need them has major flaws. Though the push to build up the affordable housing stock is seen as a positive move, poor management has actually helped get that housing to the low income populations that it could benefit. The report was produced by the China Development Research Foundation, which operates under China's State Council, and is based on research in a number of cities, including Tangshan, Jiaozuo and Chongqing.
According to The Economic Observer, local governments are struggling to build enough affordable housing to help meet the central government's 36 million unit goal. In many of the places observed during the study, most of the so-called affordable housing being built was actually being constructed for the workers of state-owned enterprises or other companies. The study suggests that local governments simply don't have the capital to build the housing to meet the demands of low-income people.
And there are other reports of affordable hosing assistance not finding its way to those most in need of support.
Zhang Xueqin, the vice director of a bureau responsible for public housing under The Ministry of Housing and Urban-rural Development, was recently quoted as saying that 30 million households, close to 100 million people, had received assistance from the low-income housing by end of 2011. Zhang said that 26.5 million households had been offered housing and another 4.5 million households had been provided with financial support. But doubts have arisen as to whether all these 30 million households are really low-income households.
The goal of building such a large amount of affordable housing is commendable. But if it's not actually being built, or if it's not actually being used to house those most in need, the affordable housing push may be little more than a flashy goal to boast about.
Image credit: Reuters