'Cheapest' apartments beyond reach of HCMC workers

By Le Tuyet   April 27, 2022 | 02:29 am PT
'Cheapest' apartments beyond reach of HCMC workers
Le Thanh social housing apartment building in HCMC's Binh Tan District. Photo by VnExpress/Le Tuyet
Social housing remains beyond the reach of HCMC workers who are struggling with rising living costs and low incomes. Dwindling supply of "affordable" apartments doesn't help, either.

Ride-hailing bike rider Nguyen Thi Thu Phuong pays VND1.5 million ($65.27) a month to rent a room in District 7, which is around one-fifth of her VND7 million monthly income.

"I have to keep a very tight budget to make ends meet for my son and I. It is very difficult to save for a house in HCMC," she said at a Sunday meeting between HCMC authorities and 400 female workers to discuss housing issues.

Every district needs apartments designed for two to four people with prices suitable for low-income workers, either to buy or to rent, she added.

Ha Thi Trang, an employee of Daeyoung Electronics Vina, said that the minimum wage has not been increased for the last two years despite the fact that prices have been rising, and this is a major factor preventing limited income workers from buying a home.

The Covid-19 pandemic also reduced workers’ incomes and made it impossible to cover all living costs, she said, adding that more social housing projects were needed to ease their burdens.

The housing problem for low-income workers in HCMC has been a topic of frequent discussion for many years, but no viable solution has been implemented.

Around 1.3 million workers in the city need a home, but most of them are paying 10-15 percent of their income for rent, an average of 1.6 million a month, according to a recent survey by the HCMC Labor Union.

A social housing apartment in the city costs around VND25 million per square meter, which is among the lowest price tags in the biggest city of the country, but workers complain that they cannot afford it.

Another survey by the labor union this month showed that only 17 percent of 41,000 female workers in the city own a home, the rest renting or living with extended families.

Many immigrant workers only plan to work in the city for a while and will go back to their hometowns as they do not have enough money to cover their living costs, said union chairwoman Tran Thi Dieu Thuy.

This is because the number of social housing apartments in the city is too low and even workers who have saved VND300-500 million struggle to acquire a home, she said.

The city has 31 social housing projects with 18,800 apartments, and 16 workers’ residential buildings at industrial parks, according to the city’s department of construction.

"It is better to build apartments for rent than for sale as it solves the real demand of workers," Thuy said.

The municipal construction department has petitioned the administration to launch a support program for tenants and landlords, said deputy director Huynh Thanh Khiet.

The program would give tenants discounts in utilities and landlords the chance to access preferential three-year loans for constructing and maintaining houses. The landlord will also receive tax breaks.

The department will also propose that the approval period for social housing is reduced from one year to six months; as also a review of land funds and stalled projects in industrial hubs.

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