Housing Surge

China plans to build two million affordable housing units in 2017

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China aims to build two million affordable housing units this year. (Courtesy Ming Chen)
China aims to build two million affordable housing units this year. (Courtesy Ming Chen)

China is aiming to build two million affordable housing units this year in an effort to increase access to housing across the country, senior officials from that country report.

According to Reuters, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) vice minister Lu Kehua explained that access to affordable housing was becoming a top priority for the government, as housing affordability across China’s largest cities has plummeted in recent years. Many parts of the country are currently experiencing a property boom that has left China’s low-income residents—especially migrant workers who have moved to China’s bustling cities from the countryside—out in the cold.

The new units will be developed with an eye toward housing such populations, Lu explained. Official Chinese state publication Xinhua reports that the government has boosted investments and financing in public housing production in recent months to begin the process.

Confusingly, the so-called property bubble in major cities comes as many of China’s smaller cities suffer from housing overproduction, resulting in “ghost cities.” China’s unequal, helter-skelter housing growth is straining city residents and has the potential to end badly, economically speaking, as builders take on more and more debt to build housing where it is neither needed nor in high demand. Of course, the low-skilled workers most dependent on the booming building industry there are due to suffer most in the event of economic collapse.

Though two million new units is an impressive feat, the new affordable housing efforts are relatively paltry, considering China’s population currently stands at roughly 1.357 billion inhabitants, with roughly 70 million people living in poverty there. Overall, China provides affordable housing for roughly 11.3 million families. By comparison, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, administers roughly 4.8 million affordable units, according to a recent report. By one measure, China’s forthcoming affordable units, if developed proportionally in the United States, would result in over 466,000 new units.

That number, coincidentally, is close to the number of new units needed to begin to address California’s housing crisis

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