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January 17, 2012

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Mayor puts house prices top of agenda for 2012

Affordable housing, increasing people's incomes, food safety, traffic improvements and stricter environmental protection are high on the city government agenda this year, Mayor Han Zheng told a press conference at the conclusion of the annual session of the Shanghai People's Congress yesterday.

Shanghai wouldn't be relaxing restrictive policies on house purchases, but the city would expand the affordable housing scheme to allow more people to benefit.

"Housing prices are really too high and it goes against sustainable development of the city's property market," Han said. "We should stick to the principle that a home is purchased for living, not for profit-making."

A total of 90,000 affordable homes are expected to be completed this year. The city will also begin construction of 11 million square meters of affordable housing.

The threshold will be lowered to make more people eligible for the scheme. At present, households earning 3,300 yuan (US$524) of disposable income per person are allowed to apply for budget homes. Han said that will rise to 5,000 yuan in the first quarter.

The city will also begin building public rental houses on group-owned farmland this year for out-of-town wage-earners and migrant workers.

Meanwhile, the city plans to renovate about 700,000 square meters of old buildings. The criteria for non-luxury housing will also be updated to make commercial housing more affordable.

To raise incomes, the mayor said the government will try to increase subsidies for public service workers. The city will also increase pensions by 15 percent, or 300 yuan per month on average, for 3.1 million people.

In April, Shanghai will announce another rise in the city's minimum wage.

At the same time, wages of people working in state-owned enterprises will be linked not only to the growth of their companies, but also to the income growth of company leaders, Han said.

On food safety, Han said Shanghai would continue to adopt the "strictest supervision measures" and carry out the "toughest punishments."

He said local watchdogs would continue to improve their system of tracing the origin of food.

Han also said the government was looking forward to achieving more timely and transparent releases of government policies using the new government weibo, Shanghaicity, on

Shanghai will continue to advance the construction of four new Metro lines to increase the city's overall public transport capacity, Han said.

"After the four new lines open to traffic in the next two years, local residents will enjoy better traffic convenience," he said.

However, he stressed that the city would spare no effort in improving Metro management and safety measures alongside the expansion of Metro services.

The mayor also called on city residents to abide by driving rules as frequent violations were worsening road congestion.

Han said the government was determined to increase investment in new technologies to advance anti-pollution measures.

They include a program to purify power-generation plants.


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