Public irate about villa subsidies for rich

By Li Xinzhu (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-09 08:00
Large Medium Small

SHANGHAI - A new policy in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province, that gives housing allowances to the rich and famous to attract and retain "talent" has come under fire.

Under the policy, which was first revealed by the 21st Century Business Herald on Tuesday, experts, artists and executives from leading State-owned and private companies can rent villas, each measuring about 300 square meters and offering scenic views, in the city's Xixi National Wetland Park and Baimahu Ecological Creation City.

Their rents will be waived for the first five years, and the leasing periods range from 10 to 20 years.

Such celebrities as TV hostess Yang Lan, writer Yu Hua, Taiwan drama director Stan Lai and cartoonist Zhu Deyong were among the Xixi villa tenants, the report said.

The city also subsidizes housing for professionals who "have made prominent contributions to the city's development" and turned out to be corporate leaders, by selling them houses at half the market price.

What most angered the public is the claim that the land is earmarked for the local government's affordable housing program intended to benefit low-income residents.

Xixi wetland's managing committee said the report was inaccurate.

"The 59 houses in the park are State-owned assets, rather than indemnificatory houses or houses for low- and medium-income earners," the committee said in a written response on Wednesday.

Yang Lan, co-owner of Sun Television Cybernetworks, also denied on her blog on Wednesday that she had ever rented a villa for residence on the wetland.

She instead claimed she had signed a contract with the Hangzhou government solely on behalf of her creative studio, a Sun Television Cybernetworks unit, which will be based in the city to boost its creative industry.

The Hangzhou city government refused to comment on Wednesday.

The plan has created a public sensation since media exposed it, generating heated discussion among locals and Web users.

"It is a universal truth that the government subsidized housing system is designed to offer low-rent houses to low-income families," netizen Yishaoyehaoshuai posted on

"But what is the purpose of subsidized housing if villas are given to the rich?"

About 85 percent of Chinese households who plan to buy new apartments cannot afford one, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said on Tuesday in its annual Blue Book of China's Economy.

China Daily