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Beijing to Focus on Housing Prices, Olympics

Beijing' acting mayor Guo Jinlong said Sunday the municipal government will work to contain housing price hike and provide low-rent housing for poor residents.

He said the government would strengthen the macro control on the property market, adjust land provision and keep a tight housing credit policy, among others, to achieve the goal.

The government would spend 2.9 billion yuan (US$40 million) to build and purchase 500,000 square meters of houses and flats and rent them to low-income residents at affordable prices, he told about 770 lawmakers at the annual session of the legislature.

Beijing would also build a total of 7.5 million square meters of houses and flats with reasonable prices and sizes this year, as one of the measures to curb the price hike, Guo added.

The government planed to spend 580 million yuan to renovate the houses for 10,000 families that were in dangerous conditions.

The average property price in China's 70 and medium-sized cities in December were up 10.5 percent from the same month of the previous year, while in Beijing it was up 17.5 percent, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) earlier this week.

Officials with the Ministry of Construction have criticized that some developers were only interested in building large-sized luxurious apartments for high profit.

Some development companies hoarded land and apartments or spread false information to create public fear for housing shortages so they could drive up prices, Vice Minister of Construction Qi Ji said.

Earlier this month, the State Council, China's cabinet, made amendments to the Regulation on Administrative Punishment for Price Violations to allow more stringent penalties for illegal price manipulators.

Olympic preparations

The acting mayor also vowed to accomplish the preparations for the upcoming Olympic Games to a "high level", partly by addressing the concerns on traffic jams and pollution.

He put the preparations on the top of the municipal government's agenda for the year, saying "(We must) accomplish the preparations for the Olympic Games and provide services in high-level and high-caliber ways."

Guo made the remarks while delivering a government work report to about 770 deputies to the city's legislative body that kicked off its annual session on Sunday morning.

"Hosting the 2008 Olympic Games and Paralympics is a great event for the county, the people and the Chinese nation," Guo said.

He urged the National Stadium, nick-named the "Bird's Nest" due to the shape, and other venues and facilities to conclude construction according to schedule.

The expansion of the Beijing international airport and the Beijing South Railway would be completed this year, plus the construction of a subway linking the airport to the downtown and several other subways and expressways.

Guo said Beijing would enact the "strictest standards" for pollutant emission this year and curb the pollution by heavy trucks that work at night.

Beijing would also cooperate with neighboring provinces and cities in improving environment conditions.

However, he admitted that "the task to control pollution and traffic congestion is still arduous."

The government needed to provide better public services and improve the management of the city, he said.

(Xinhua News Agency January 21, 2008)

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