Chinese pin hopes on affordable housing pledge

Mon Mar 7, 2011 3:15am EST
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By Vivi Lin and Lucy Hornby

BEIJING (Reuters) - Owning a home is central to the Chinese dream, but for Beijing residents like 30-year-old Zhang Xinyuan, just getting an apartment seems like a dream that may never become reality.

A teacher at a prominent university in Beijing, Zhang is a member of the country's growing middle class. But her salary of 80,000 yuan ($12,179) a year has not kept up with the pace of rising property prices.

Rising discontent over housing prices among middle class as well as poorer urban Chinese has led the government to roll out a number of affordable housing schemes.

But the plans have been riddled with uncertainty, and have done little to soothe people like Zhang, who squeezes into a 5 square meter room while she saves for a down payment.

"The affordable housing scheme has given me some hope to be able to buy an apartment," Zhang said.

"But the chances of actually getting one are quite small, because the government has very strict standards on who should get them, and the procedures are just endless and complicated."

Indeed, a number of Beijingers declined requests to be named for this article, since they had fudged their financial circumstances in order to qualify for the scheme.

Chief among their complaints was that the income level required to qualify for affordable apartments is too low to qualify for bank loans to buy them.   Continued...