Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Shoddy "New Village" Housing Construction

Chongqing Municipality has often trumpeted its program of moving villagers into new urbanized housing. (An example from last year here.) Building "social housing" for low-income people is one of the Chinese government's big initiatives.

Last week, the Workers' Daily reported that some villagers refuse to move into their new houses because the construction is so shoddy. One villager told the Workers Daily reporter that last year the local government urged everyone to move to new buildings in the Yuanming "new village" and everyone was eager to do so. However, a year later the houses are nearly finished but prospective residents are unhappy with the poor quality of construction and refuse to take up residence in the new buildings.

On August 23, the reporter went to visit the new development. From a distance it looked quite nice, but close-up the slap-dash construction was evident. There were bent beams, crooked columns, doorways out of alignment, cracks in load-bearing walls, ground subsidence, girders of differing lengths, and walls with missing or cracked bricks. A worker said the buildings were nearly completed and ready for occupancy.

Villagers paid for the houses last year and were later asked to pay more to cover the rising cost of building materials. Ms. Liu paid 95,000 yuan (about $15,000) last year and was later asked to pay an additional 10,000 yuan ($1,560). Now she says, "I see so many quality problems, I certainly won't live here."

The town government claims it had no involvement. It claims villagers paid the contractor to build the houses and blames the poor quality on their low price.

Villagers said inspectors were seldom seen at the project during construction, causing them to worry. The reporter was presented with engineers' reports showing use of high quality construction materials. When asked if the reports could be verified there was no answer. The builder said the town government had just invited an inspector to come and said quality should not be a problem.

A district official admits that building the houses was a "political task" throughout Chongqing that had to be completed in a short time period. Many villages constructed houses in a similar manner without following regulations and procedures. The houses were built by developers working on behalf of villagers; the government only gave "guidance."

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