According to an announcement from Beijing’s housing authority in July, the five trial projects aimed to provide affordable rental housing for low-income groups and professionals in startup companies.
Wang Haihua, 57, is one of the nearly 900 tenants to have moved into the new rental apartments in Tangjialing by mid-September. The whole area is slated to provide more than 2,100 apartments, the Beijing Daily reported in May. Wang lives alone in a 40-square meter studio apartment, with a bathroom and kitchen. It is clean and bright. He lives on a subsistence allowance, a cash handout by the government to households whose per capita income is below the local subsistence allowance standard, and this means he has subsidized rent. He told NewsChina that he pays no more than US$16 a month for the rent, plus utility bills. His contract lasts for three years, with renewal contingent on a new eligibility review.
The government of Haidian district, where the blocks are located, leased the apartments at market price from local villagers who own the land collectively. It then re-leased the apartments to eligible households at a discount. The shortfall is covered by subsidies. Applications for affordable rental housing are reviewed by standards of household income and existing living space, as well as record of working in Beijing if the applicant does not hold a Beijing hukou (residence permit).
The largest of the three trial projects is located in Chaoyang district in the east of Beijing. More than 3,200 apartments are already built, with 1,900 rented out, said He Jianfeng, vice general manager of the developer held by the local rural county called Pingfang. Tenants have to be low-income groups with no apartments. They can also apply for subsidies at different levels for their rents.
Another rental housing project on rural construction land is also in Haidian district, although the tenants in Wenquan Township are quite different from those in Tangjialing and Pingfang county. They are young professionals who have started their own businesses or work at other startups, and are similar to the previous “ant tribe” of college graduates. Tenancy contracts for 1,100 units have been signed so far. There are 2,772 units available, said Yin Luming, chief liaison officer of the company operating the Wenquan project, another collective held by local villagers. He explained that applicants have to submit their business licenses and business plans to the company. Their business has to be in at least one of the 10 hi-tech sectors that have been identified by Haidian district government, which can be in electronics, biotech and new pharmaceuticals, as well as aerospace and astronautics.
Tenants there also receive government subsidies, up to 50 percent of the rent. Besides, the company operating the project has forged cooperation with hundreds of service providers for hi-tech startups, including technology service suppliers, business startup investment institutions, business incubators and research institutes, according to Diao Jianming, chief marketing officer of the company. He told NewsChina their ambition is to position the town as a major base for hi-tech business startups in Zhongguancun, one of the cradles of research and hi-tech companies in China.
Tenants now have similar access to schools for their children as homeowners in the same area. This new policy also covers those living in rental housing on rural construction land approved by the government. Such measures to encourage a rental housing market on rural land have also been adopted in many other cities.