People wait in line to apply for public rental homes in Beijing's Chaoyang district on Tuesday.Wang Zhuangfei / China Daily
Applicants without hukou spend hours in line for chance at low rent
As soaring property prices force many to consider leaving Beijing for cheaper cities, a pilot project offering subsidized housing in the capital to nonlocal residents has made some to think again.
Unsurprisingly, competition to land a subsidized apartment is fierce.
On Tuesday, more than 1,000 people braved a chilling spring wind to stand in line for at least four hours to apply for one of the 400 so-called public rental homes.
A total of 120 homes are reserved for people who do not hold Beijing hukou, or household registration, a major change from the policy of previous years.
The registration line in Maquanying - a suburb of Chaoyang district where 300 of the apartments are located (the rest are in Daxing district) - stretched more than 300 meters on Tuesday afternoon.
“The line was this long at 9 am, and it's still this long at 2 pm, even though we're handling 120 applications an hour,” said a community worker who declined to give his name.
He said the huge number of applicants was beyond expectations and that 30 extra workers had been added to the 20-strong team that worked on Monday, the first day for applications. The last day is Wednesday.
To qualify for a subsidized apartment, applicants without Beijing hukou must have paid social insurance or income tax in the capital for at least five years, be 18 to 45 years old and own no property. Applicants will then be selected at random.
On Monday, almost 60 percent of the applicants were non-Beijingers, the worker said.
On Tuesday, as the line moved slowly, many complained about the trouble created by on-site application and sighed over their slim chances.
Gao Yang, 30, from Henan province, has been working in Beijing for six years as an IT engineer in Chaoyang district.
“It's a long line and the chances are slim. But if I'm not in line, there is no hope of renting an apartment at half the market price,” Gao said.
The price of the public rental housing available this time is about 2,400 yuan (8) a month for a two-bedroom apartment. A similar property on the regular rental market can cost more than 5,000 yuan a month.
Gao Chao, who works as a designer in Fengtai district, said he has to live with his wife and two other couples in a three-bedroom apartment to save money, but the rent is about the same as at the public rental housing.
“It's like trying your luck buying a lottery ticket. But as long as there is hope, I want to try it,” the 30-year-old said.
The offering of the 400 public rental units is the first wave of a pilot project that aims to help people without Beijing household registration. In the pilot, 30 percent of public rental housing and price-fixed housing will be allocated to people without Beijing hukou.
So far, 10,300 tenants, or 13 percent, of these live in public rental housing in Beijing do not hold such registrations.
According to a survey by China Youth Daily published on Tuesday, 23 percent of 2,000 respondents had already left top-tier cities like Beijing, while 47 percent were considering leaving. The main reason given was soaring housing prices.