For a half century, retired miner Wang Wenzhang lived
in little more than a shack in a shanty town called Modigou, in
northeast China's Fushun, Liaoning Province. His one, long-cherished
dream was to live in a place where the roof didn't leak.
"We had six people crammed into a shed of less than 25
square meters. In summer we had to ladle out water after storms and
in winter the cold wind would blow in a thick layer of dust. We got
water from a well and had to queue up to use the public toilet in
the morning." said Wang, 79, recalling his life in
Wang's shed was a typical makeshift dwelling near
northeast China's coal mining industries. Sometimes the shacks were
home to three or four generations of poor miners.
In recent years, the central government has focused
its attention on housing problems of the poor. Adequate housing for
people with low income is the "Number One" proposal submitted to
this year's full session of the National Committee of the Chinese
People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) which began on March 3.
Fortunately for Wang, his dream of leaving the Modigou
slum came true just before last year's Chinese Lunar New Year. In
fact, the whole shanty town was replaced by 13 new apartment
buildings, providing decent dwellings for about 900
On February 16, two days before this year's Chinese
New Year's Spring Festival, Premier Wen Jiabao visited the low-income families in
Fushun city and was shown around the new Modigou housing
It was Wen's second trip to Fushun. After his first
visit in 2003, Wen, who was clearly moved by the people's plight,
issued a strong directive to the provincial government. He ordered
immediate measures to improve the lives of local miners. His order
triggered a mass reconstruction of the province's shanty
Although Wang's new flat is just 10 square meters
larger than the old shed, his family's life has been dramatically
improved. "We only paid 6,570 yuan (about US$900) to move in here
and we will never have to queue up for toilets again," Wang
In China's old industrial base of Liaoning Province,
governments have built 6,300 new residential buildings since 2005.
More than 1.2 million people like Wang have been relocated from
slums covering 50,000 square meters.
This year the central government says it will do more
to improve conditions in shanty towns, as Premier Wen promised on
March 5 in his annual work report.
The Premier vowed to help fix the housing problems of
all low-income families. "We will improve fiscal and tax policies
to increase support and establish a sound system of low-rent
housing. We will improve and standardize the system of affordable
housing." Wen pledged.
At the end of 2006, 512 of China's 657 cities had
initiated affordable housing strategies. The Ministry of
Construction is requiring all Chinese cities to fully implement a
plan to provide affordable housing by the end of this
However, Zheng Gongcheng, professor with prestigious
Renmin University and a deputy to this year's National People's
Congress (NPC), says China still has a long way to go
before its housing problems for low income people are
"China's affordable housing is only available to a
small percentage of households that classified as low-income. A
huge number of families don't fall into this category, yet they
can't afford to buy a flat and they don't get backup from
government policies," Zhang said.
(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2007)