On June 19, Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council, presided over the State Council executive meeting to promote the transformation of old urban communities and discuss measures to meet the general publics’ expectations of their current standard of living. The meeting determined the following objectives:
- The object range and standards of the transformation should be specified as soon as possible. Pilot projects will be carried out this year to accumulate experience for further implementation.
- Guidance from the government should be enhanced, nevertheless the community should play the main role in this transformation process. At the same time, the wishes of the local residents should be respected, and the public should be mobilized to participate in the decision-making process. Emphasis should be placed on the renovation of residential water and electric systems as well as fiber optic networks and other supporting facilities. Elevators and parking facilities should be installed when possible.
- Financing and innovation mechanisms should be revived and modernised. Central subsidies will be arranged for the renovation of old urban communities this year. Financial institutions and municipalities are encouraged to explore sustainable ways to increase financial support for the renovation of old communities. In order to attract the participation of social forces, market-based methods should be used in this context.
- Based on the transformation of the communities, the government should guide the development of community pension, childcare, medical care, food support, cleaning, and other services, and promote the establishment of a long-term community management mechanism.
When the government report was released during the 13th National People’s Congress in March this year, the paper described a clear plan for the implementation of the transformation of old urban communities: because of the scale and multitude of old urban communities in China, transformation processes and upgrades are necessary. Facilities such as water and gas systems should be renovated, the installation of elevators and barrier-free environments should be enhanced, and general infrastructure such as convenience stores, pedestrian streets, and parking lots should be invested in. This new form of urbanisation needs to be people-oriented in order to improve the level of refined services effectively and eventually make the city more livable and inclusive.
In April 2019, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, together with the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Finance, issued the Notice on Transformation of the Old Communities in 2019. “To promote the transformation of old urban communities, we need to have a basic understanding of the situation of China’s old urban and rural communities and use methods in line with local circumstances. Innovative transformation methods and fund-raising mechanisms should be explored.”
According to preliminary statistics, China has nearly 160,000 old communities with a construction area of about 4 billion m2 where more than 42 million households and hundreds of millions of people live. At the end of 2017, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development launched several pilot projects in the context of old urban community transformation in 15 cities including Xiamen and Guangzhou. As of December 2018, the pilot cities have transformed 106 old communities, from which 59,000 households have benefitted. This practice of implementing projects in pilot cities proves that the renovation of old urban communities is not necessarily costly but beneficial. It not only helps residents improve their basic living conditions but also help to enhances people’s sense of well-being and security. It’s also an important measure to expand investment and to stimulate domestic demand.