China says to double land for low cost housing

BEIJING, May 13, 2011 (AFP) - China has vowed to more than double land supply for low-cost housing this year, an apparent effort to ease social tensions over high home prices and atone for missing a similar target in 2010.

The Ministry of Land and Resources plans to provide 77,400 hectares (191,200 acres) of land for government-subsidised housing this year, nearly 140 percent more land than actually used for such projects in 2010.

If the goal is met it will comprise 35 percent of the total land supply planned for residential development this year, Liao Yonglin, a senior official with the ministry, said in a statement published Thursday.

Last year, 32,400 hectares of land was used for low-income housing projects, far below the government target of 65,800 hectares for the year, according to government data.

The 2011 plan aimed to "continue the central government's real estate policies to curb overly fast rises of property prices," Liao said.

The government has been struggling to rein in soaring real estate prices, which are often far beyond what average income earners can afford.

It has introduced a number of measures to cool the market since late 2009, including bans on buying second homes in some cities and introducing trial property taxes in Shanghai and Chongqing.

Despite the policies, the average home price in 67 out of the 70 major Chinese cities continued to soar year-on-year in March, latest official figures showed.

Chinese media has reported that low-cost houses often end up in the hands of the wealthy who falsify application forms or engage in other corrupt practices.

According to the China Daily, nearly 300 applicants for low-income housing in the south China boom town of Shenzhen were this week found to be well-paid government employees who were unqualified for such homes.