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Government should provide quality housing

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-10-12 07:58
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Housing for low-income residents - a good thing the government does - could turn out to be a bad thing, if not enough attention is paid to the quality of the buildings and not enough concern paid to the quality of life for residents.

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The demolition of six such buildings still under construction because of poor quality in Beijing's suburban Daxing county is an example. With investment from the government, these buildings were to be sold as affordable houses or low-rent ones for low-income residents.

However, inspection found that the concrete that was used was not up to the required standard and the overall quality of the buildings was seriously affected. The concrete provider, the real estate developer and the quality supervision department were all found to be responsible for the problem.

To the relief of the residents who were to live in these buildings, the Beijing Municipal Construction Commission took action and required that the buildings be torn down and rebuilt. However, not all local governments will do so with similar housing projects of poor quality.

Governments at all levels need to make clear that housing for low-income residents should never be shanty towns. Rather they should be properly constructed with enough thought given to their design that living conditions be made as comfortable as possible.

Housing sold to low-income residents for much cheaper prices, or leased to residents with very low rents, are usually termed "projects popular with the multitude", as they meet the needs of common people.

Yet, if they are poorly built, located in very inconvenient places and have not enough service facilities to meet the basic needs of residents, they will never be popular with residents. The concern the government has shown to the disadvantaged will then turn into a source of discontent.

Compared with commercial housing projects that produce huge profits for both developers and local governments, such housing projects hardly contribute anything to local finances and sometimes a local government may lose money.

However, a government should never place profits before the interest of the people. The central government has reiterated time and again "the people-first concept" in governance.

Local governments siding with real estate developers by giving them the best locations for commercial housing projects, but locating low-income residents in out-of-the-way places is against this principle.

The Beijing Municipal Construction Commission should be complimented for its tight control over the quality of housing for low-income residents. Other local governments should do the same with similar affordable and low-rent housing.