Public Housing a Pressing Issue in HCMC

Demand for accommodation is rising in Ho Chi Minh City. In the next five years the city will need a minimum of 25,000 more apartments and 20,000 more dormitory rooms. So what are the authorities doing about it?

While more apartment buildings have been built in HCMC, they still fall short of meeting rising demands for accommodation (Photo: T.K.)

To accommodate 28,000 government employees and 220,000 workers in the industrial parks and export processing zones, the city needs to build, per annum, 5,000 apartments and 4,000 rooms, each of which can accommodate six to eight industrial workers.
Ho Chi Minh City is one of three places which have been approved by the Vietnamese government for the pilot construction of public housing in line with the Housing Law.

However, after one year, the city authorities have yet to complete their plans while Ha Noi and Binh Duong have already presented theirs to the Ministry of Construction.
The city’s Construction Department has come up with its own plans for three housing projects totaling 1,172 apartments in districts 7, 9 and 12 to be built this year and next. The projected cost is VND243.5 billion (about US$15 million).
But there’s an obstacle to the scheme in that the Housing Law limits the number of floors in such apartment buildings to six.
At a meeting to discuss the situation yesterday, Nguyen Minh Dung, director of the HCMC Construction Department, said that the HCMC People’s Committee should make an exception and allow taller buildings as land for more apartment blocks was scarce and expensive.
He suggested establishing a housing fund by constructing office buildings where old villas now stand and using the money from renting the offices to build public housing.
Another idea raised at the meeting is to convert run-down apartment buildings into shopping centers and office blocks. The city has 435 apartment buildings (the tallest has five floors) in districts 1, 5 and 10 which were built before 1975 and are now dilapidated.
The issue of dormitories for workers was also mentioned. There are few such dormitories in existence at the moment, and the workers spurn them anyway in the main.
Many workers pay steep rents to live in crummy apartments well away from their workplace even though they could pay just VND20,000 a month to stay in a modern, well-maintained dormitory, said an official of the HCMC Export Processing Zone and Industrial Park Authority.

At present, barely half of the workers in the industrial zones stay in the on-site dormitories because they don’t like the dorm rules, he added.
Not so, according to a representative of the Ho Chi Minh Labor Union, who says the dormitories are far from the workplace, not comfortable and don’t even have a kitchen.
At the meeting, HCMC chairman Le Hoang Quan ordered the relevant departments to start building more dormitories for workers, and told the Construction Department to complete the plans for its three apartment projects.
To make the best use of the space and lower costs, Mr. Quan said, the city would allow apartment buildings with up to 15 floors, and even more in areas where there were no height restrictions.
He added that the city would offer preferential policies to attract investors, and set up a steering board to implement the public housing program.

By Hanh Nhung – Translated by Yen Chuong

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