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Hope arrives in Tianjin shantytown

Updated: 2013-12-29 22:18

Wang Jinsheng, who lives in a shanty area in downtown Tianjin, said Premier Li Keqiang’s promise of an apartment next year has “set his mind at ease”.

Wang has lived in the impoverished Xiyuzhuang community in Tianjin for over three decades. His family, which consists of a wife and son, lives in a room of about 10 square meters. They built another small room next to their own for when their son grows up and has a family of his own.

Li, who visited the community on Friday during his one-day trip to the city, promised Xiyuzhuang residents like Wang that they will be able to move into new apartments in the next year.

"We have been waiting and waiting and waiting for so many years. There were rumors about rebuilding but they never turned out to be true,” Wang, in his late 50s said.

"But I know the waiting will be over this time.”

In the courtyard where Wang lives, a single kitchen is shared by five families.

"At cooking time, we take turns using the stove. We dare not use an electric oven in case it triggers a fire or causes a power failure,” he said.

Cooking is still not the most annoying issue for Wang. He said his family must share two public toilets with hundreds of other Xiyuzhuang families, “no matter in freezing winter or scorching summertime”.

"My biggest hope is that my granddaughter can grow up in a bright and spacious home, not a place like this,” Wang said.

The Xiyuzhuang community, which covers 64 hectares, accommodates more than 9,500 households with 20,000 residents.

As one of the oldest shanty areas in the city, low-income households make up more than 20 percent of its residents.Many local people live with their parents and grandparents under one roof.

The rebuilding of Xiyuzhuang has been planned for at least a decade.

The work was never carried out, said Liu Qiuhua, head of the community committee, because there were no real estate developers willing to take on the project.

"It is more difficult than other shanty rebuilding project since Xiyuzhuang covers a relatively large area with many poor residents, so the developer has to pay a lot of compensation for the resettlement,” she said.

Li said government agencies will increase investment in the rebuilding of shanty areas in urban China because they are projects that provide social stability for the underprivileged. The premier also encouraged private companies to take part in the resettlement of residents.

The resettlement of Xiyuzhuang began in July and is expected to be completed next year.

Li Xiang in Tianjin contributed to this story.