BEIJING, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Xie Yun, a 24-year-old new graduate, felt excited when he opened the door of the 50-square-meter apartment he rented in Changzhou city of east China's Jiangsu Province.
Starting work in a computer company in July, Xie is one of the lucky few who enjoyed lower rents offered as part of the local government's affordable housing program. He pays 4.5 yuan per square meter for one month, around 10 percent of his monthly income.
Also, the apartment is equipped with an air conditioner, a TV set and automatic drying racks.
"I'm quite satisfied, and I prefer to rent such an apartment rather than buy one," said Xie.
Xie's home is one of 133 small-sized public-rent apartments purchased by the Changzhou government and rented to low-income families and the newly employed. Monthly rents varied from 3.5 yuan to 4.5 yuan per square meter, about 30 percent of the average price in Changzhou.
In the city's southern section, migrant workers pay even lower costs.
"I only need to pay one yuan per day for renting a bed in the dormitory-like apartment, sharing a balcony and a toilet with eight people," said Chen Ling, an 18-year-old worker in an electronic firm in Changzhou.
The 260,000-square-meter residential community provides 5,000 migrant workers with basic living facilities, including a supermarket, shopping mall, bank, Internet bar and dining hall.
The Changzhou government has so far built as well as bought 10,500 units of public-rent housing, and offered 11,400 units of low-rent homes to migrant workers.
Changzhou is not the only city to speed up construction of affordable housing for low-income residents. The Beijing government vowed to build or purchase 134,000 units of welfare housing in 2010, and the Shanghai government pledged to build 700,000 welfare apartments by 2012.
China's real estate market has undergone a substantial upswing in the past two years. A report released by the China Academy of Social Science showed average home prices in China rose 25.1 percent year on year in 2009, outpacing the annual income growth of urban residents by 15.3 percentage points.
Reckless property price surges have shattered many people's dream of owning a private residence, and limited access to affordable housing has worsened living conditions for the urban poor, including migrant workers, the newly employed, and low-income families, said Gao Bo, director with the Real Estate Research Center of Nanjing University.
TV dramas and news stories regarding home prices have always been eye-catching and triggered heated discussions, which reflects the public's great longing for affordable housing, Gao said.
At the beginning of this year, the central government set a target of building 5.8 million units of affordable housing in 2010, a move meant to dampen the red-hot real property markets while working to solve living problems for the urban poor.
In a bid to better finance the program, the central government has selected 28 cities, such as Beijing, Tianjin and Chongqing, to pilot low-income housing construction with loans supported by the housing public accumulation fund system.
According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, a total of 133 projects covering affordable housing, rebuilding shanty areas and public rental housing have been approved as pilot projects in this initiative, with the total amount of loans reaching around 49.3 billion yuan.
During an inspection tour to Changzhou city on Aug. 22, Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang urged officials to adopt a realistic approach to affordable housing construction, requiring local government to diversify fund raising channels, arrange for sufficient land supplies, and ensure transparency and fairness in the distribution of affordable housing.
According to a regulation released in July, public-rental housing in Jiangsu Province will be made available to be rented for 8 to 10 years, which will considerably alleviate living pressures for new graduates, said Changzhou Mayor Wang Weicheng.