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January 13, 2010

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Families homeward bound

NEW affordable housing is going up fast as the city improves living conditions and offers affordable housing to many people like those pictured below. Shanghai has come a long way in improving cramped, run-down living conditions in which neighbors frequently shared kitchens and toilets before the late 1990s.

The city's unremitting efforts to upgrade the housing stock will continue, Mayor Han Zheng reiterated last month. The housing issue was a priority for the government and the city would both improve living conditions for residents and boost its economy, he said.

Since the 1990s, the city has demolished more than 70 million square meters of dilapidated houses and relocated more than 1.32 million households to new apartments. Another 4.2 million square meters of shabby homes, where some 320,000 families are living, are on an "immediate" waiting list, according to Han.

Photographer Wang Juliang spent a whole day in a community in Hongkou District, talking with people living in their crowded rooms and recording their lives with his camera.

"There are still many people living in the shabby homes in Shanghai. To live in a bigger apartment is their New Year wish," says Wang.

The city has also been working hard on its affordable housing program, aimed to help mid- and low-income families. It mainly covers budget homes and low-rent houses.

By the end of last year, construction had begun on a total of 6.05 million square meters of budget homes, designated for those who can neither afford to buy their own houses on the market or are qualified to get low-rent apartments from the government, according to the Shanghai Housing Guarantee and Administration Bureau.

According to government blueprint, the city plans to build around 20 million square meters, or 300,000 units, of budget houses for needy families by 2012.

Moreover, as of October 2009, about 60,000 families had been covered by the low-rent housing program, an increase of 180 percent from three years ago, the bureau said.

Currently, the low-rent program is open to families with per capita monthly disposable income of no more than 960 yuan (US$140) and household financial assets totaling no more than 120,000 yuan. Families with per capita monthly disposable income of no more than 2,300 yuan and per capita financial assets up to 70,000 yuan qualify for budget houses.


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