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Affordable Housing Tops Govt's Agenda

Middle- and low-income families will enjoy better housing conditions in the next five years, the city's Mayor Han Zheng promised yesterday.

About 400,000 families will be given either their own home or a rent subsidy, he said at the first session of the 13th Shanghai Municipal People's Congress.

"A total of 300,000 economical housing units with a combined area of 20 million sq m will be built in the next five years," he said.

"By that time, the city will also have an extra 100,000 families included in the low-income housing system," he said.

The system currently helps about 30,000 families by providing either low-rent accommodation or housing subsidies of up to 1,000 yuan (US$138) a month.

Han said despite soaring property prices, the municipal government is committed to providing low- and middle-income families with affordable housing by 2012.

By that time, one-fifth of all residential properties built must be affordable to those middle- and low-income families who do not qualify for rental subsidies, he said.

The actual price of the homes has yet to be decided, officials said.

Over the past five years, Han said Shanghai has achieved much in terms of improving the welfare of its people.

More than 1.1 million jobs have been created, and last year, the unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent, he said.

Han said the authorities will continue to strive to improve people's welfare as Shanghai continues to grow.

Self-employment and entrepreneurship will be encouraged to create more employment opportunities, he said.

The authorities have also pledged to broaden the scope of the insurance system to provide better cover for migrant workers.

Ding Meizhen, a deputy to the congress, said she had seen many welfare improvements in recent years.

"One of my neighbors, an elderly woman who was not previously covered by the medical insurance system, recently showed me the false teeth she bought soon after receiving her first medical insurance payment," she said.

(China Daily January 25, 2008)

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