Ex-governor of Liaoning gets top housing post
China’s top legislature appointed a senior official with rich experience in housing reform as minister of housing and urban-rural development on Friday.
Chen Zhenggao, 62, got the post after members of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee convened for their bimonthly session.
The ministry is in charge of policymaking in areas such as China’s real estate market, the planning of urban-rural development and the regulation of affordable housing.
Chen was a colleague of Premier Li Keqiang’s between 2004 and 2007 when Li was the Party chief of Liaoning province. Chen was then mayor and Party secretary of Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning.
In April, Chen left his post as Liaoning provincial governor, which he had held since 2008, to become Party secretary of the housing ministry.
The nomination of Party officials is handled by various authorities of the Communist Party of China, while ministers are appointed by the National People’s Congress.
Chen’s predecessor, Jiang Weixin, who had served as minister since March 2008, reached the retirement age of 65. The retirement age is 60 for regular workers and 65 for ministerial-level officials.
Chen was known for the housing reforms he brought to Liaoning province since 2005. Official statistics show that from 2005 to 2011, the Liaoning provincial government improved residential conditions for 2.11 million people.
Liang Qidong, vice-director of the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, a think tank used by Chen when he was in the province, said Chen was very effective in his work.
Chen’s experience in housing reform will help him handle the job of minister in charge of the country’s housing policies, Liang said, adding that reforms of the affordable housing system are likely to be deepened.
Some challenges lie ahead for Chen. For example, he may face more restrictions from various interest groups on a national stage, which is different from a smaller provincial platform, Liang said.
Among other factors, the ministry faces a tough problem in dealing with the property market because of the overall economic downturn and emergence of a potential housing bubble, he added.
China’s property market has cooled since late last year after a decade of boom times. In May, new home prices in half of a sample of 70 major cities showed month-on-month drops, contrasting with just eight in April, according to official data released last week.
Meanwhile, home prices in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai remain unaffordable for many people.
On June 26 last year, the State Council set the goal of eliminating shantytowns for 10 million families in the next five years as a measure to improve people’s living conditions. Li said in March that the central government aims to improve housing for at least 4.7 million families this year.
On Thursday, the China Banking Regulatory Commission announced that it approved China Development Bank’s establishment of a housing finance department in an effort to support the renovation of rundown housing.
The commission said in a statement on its website that the move follows the decision by the State Council in April to speed up the renovation of shantytown areas.
Wang Juelin, former deputy director of the Housing and Urban Policy Research Center under the ministry, said that since the central government has listed shantytown renovation as one of its priorities, allocating more funds to those projects, Chen is likely to follow the lead, giving more attention to this effort and aiming to achieve better performance for it. Contact the writers at email@example.com and zhengjinran@chinadaily. com.cn
Chen Zhenggao, the newly appointed minister of housing and urban-rural development