After months of anxious waiting, Wang Jinxia finally obtained a coveted spot in Shanghai’s trial affordable-housing program, but now the former factory worker is scrambling to pay for it.
The 53-year-old divorcee, who took early retirement years ago, is desperate to move after living eight years in a 60m² Shanghai apartment with her octogenarian parents and two other relatives.
“I’ve been stressed out recently. I have many new grey hairs. I will have to pour all of my 70,000 yuan [US$10,300] savings into this,” Wang said outside a makeshift center for mortgage applications at a local school.
She is among the first batch of about 1,940 families selected to buy low-cost housing that is selling for about one-third of market prices, as part of a new affordable housing campaign.
However, Wang and others are finding even “affordable” housing out of reach because of limited financing options for low-income buyers.
Public housing programs have been neglected for years as local governments sought to cash in on spiraling property prices with more upmarket developments. However, a growing outcry over the past year has put affordable housing back on Beijing’s agenda.
Analysts estimate only 40 percent of the housing local governments pledged to build last year materialized, as they continued selling land to developers at market rates, and that amount might rise to 50 percent this year, at best.
To qualify for Shanghai’s trial project, the family’s average annual income per capita must be less than 27,600 yuan, while each member’s share of floor space in their current residence must be under 15m².
Some participants have likened the process to winning a lottery. To discourage fraud and corruption, the names and addresses of those selected are published online. Yet once chosen, participants must still find a way to pay for the home.
“No bank wants to do this. It’s not a profitable business,” said a mortgage officer at the mortgage outlet set up by state-controlled China Construction Bank, who gave only his surname, Tang.
“We are here because the government instructed us,” he said, punching a calculator to work out monthly repayments, the biggest concern for low-income families.
For Wang, a mortgage for the newly built 70m² home that she has won rights to would cost 2,200 yuan a month. That’s 43 percent of her and her parents’ combined pension, payable over 16 years, the longest period the bank offers.
“For me, a mortgage is out of the question. I just can’t afford the interest payments,” she said.
The keys are still out of reach for the retired factory worker. She persuaded the developer to give her three months to come up with cash to buy the apartment while she asks friends to lend her money. Success is still far from certain, she said.
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