China plans two million new units of public housing for 2017: Xinhua

China's Vice Housing Minister Lu Kehua speaks at a news conference in Beijing, China, March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China plans to build two million units of public rental housing this year to provide affordable homes for low-income groups, the official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

The meteoric rise of house prices in China’s major cities and the country’s household registration or “hukou” regime have left many low-income families unable to afford or access to buy their own homes.

The plan is high on the agenda of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, vice minister Lu Kehua told Xinhua in an interview.

The ministry will work with the national economic planning body and the Ministry of Finance on the program, Lu noted.

He said local governments in some regions had been asked to lower the threshold for the public housing system, giving migrant workers access, Xinhua reported, with most regions heeding the call.

China has raised subsidies and credit support for public housing and at the end of last year, a total of 11.3 million families had been housed, Xinhua reported.

China’s property sales surged in the first two months of the year despite government measures to cool the market, though growth in real estate investment showed signs of easing, according to official data in March.

Reporting by Engen Than; Editing by Eric Meijer