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Cabinet doubles renovation target

Xu Wei
Updated: Apr 21,2020 07:42 AM    China Daily

China plans to renovate twice as many old residential communities this year to improve living conditions, spur investment and shore up economic growth.

The State Council said after its executive meeting on April 14 that the country plans to renovate 39,000 aging urban residential communities this year-double last year's target-to benefit 7 million households.

The renovation projects will prioritize communities built before 2000, focus on improving supporting facilities and civic infrastructure, and improve the level of public services in communities such as aged care, infant day care and healthcare, the Cabinet said.

It said funding for the renovations will be shared by the authorities, residents and private capital. The central government will offer subsidies. Funds raised by local governments through the issuance of special bonds will give priority to the projects, and private capital will be given incentives to play a role.

There were 170,000 old residential communities across the nation that were home to over 100 million people in May last year, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said. The country renovated 19,000 aging communities last year, improving living conditions for 3.52 million people.

The Cabinet's decision followed a 6.8 percent contraction in economic activity in the first quarter due to the novel coronavirus pneumonia pandemic.

Fixed-asset investment, a key driver of growth that includes infrastructure and real estate investment, declined by 16.1 percent year-on-year during the first quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said. In the first two months of the year it plunged 24.5 percent.

A meeting of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on April 17 pinpointed the renovation of old residential communities as a way to bolster investment.

At the Cabinet meeting, Premier Li Keqiang said scaling up the renovation of old urban communities has immense potential for fueling domestic demand.
"There are various kinds of demand for residents living in communities, such as aged care, day care for infants, healthcare and domestic services," he said. "A large number of jobs can be created if we increase the supply of such services, which can also boost effective investment and improve the living quality of residents."

Huang Yan, vice-minister of housing and urban-rural development, told a news briefing on April 16 that residents' involvement is a prerequisite for the renovation projects.

"It's more like a window to mobilize residents and step up governance at the primary level, rather than a construction project in the traditional sense," she said.

The renovations would cover a range of aspects, from public utilities such as tap water, electricity, gas and roads to buildings, the environment and public services, she said, adding that the establishment of long-term operation and management mechanisms was also important.

Huang said building a consensus with residents would take a lot of time and effort by primary-level authorities, but good prototypes could serve as springboards for communities nearby to follow suit.

Government funding will cover basic services, she said, with residents to be encouraged to pay for the retrofitting of elevators, parking facilities and introduction of property management services.

Qiu Baoxing, former vice-minister of housing and urban-rural development and president of the Chinese Society for Urban Studies, said the renovation of aging residential communities could spur investment of 10 trillion yuan ($1.41 trillion) in the next five years.

The society estimates there are 10,000 square kilometers of old urban communities in China.

The investment plan could be laid out immediately and hedge against the decline in investment activities, Qiu said.

"The job market in the service sector has been among the hardest hit areas in the novel coronavirus outbreak, and the renovation of old residential communities can replenish the lost jobs," he said.

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