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Corruption threat to China housing plan: media

BEIJING--A high-profile effort by the Chinese government to build affordable houses for the millions priced-out of the country's property market is marred by official corruption, state run media said on Saturday.

China in 2010 launched a massive “affordable housing” drive as part of an effort to defuse widespread discontent about the country's house prices, which have skyrocketed over the last decade.

The program, which aims to build 36 million affordable units by 2015, was championed by Li Keqiang, who assumed the ruling Communist Party's second most powerful post in November and is set to succeed Wen Jiabao as premier in March.

China invested more than 820 billion yuan (US$129 billion) in the program last year, official media said.

But government officials have “easily amassed dozens” of newly-built affordable apartments, and “have taken away housing units specifically intended for disadvantaged groups,” according to state-run news agency Xinhua.

The outspoken editorial followed reports that a housing official has been placed under investigation after a local government confirmed online allegations that his family owned 29 apartments.

Of the apartments owned by the family of Zhai Zhengfeng, who previously worked as director of a housing bureau in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, “11 are said to fall into the affordable housing category,” Xinhua said.

The case, which provoked outrage on Chinese social networking websites, fanned “suspicion and murmurs about corruption in the distribution process” for affordable houses, Xinhua said.

Xinhua added that the need for measures to combat corruption in the program was “increasingly urgent,” and called for greater transparency, including full disclosure of who is approved for affordable housing.

“Many Chinese have become extremely sensitive to skyrocketing housing prices and any mishandling of housing resources,” the editorial said.

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