Hanoi authorities say they are determined to wipe out a total 550 deformed and super-slim houses in the city this year.

Deputy Chairman of the municipal People's Committee Phi Thai Binh has asked districts to prepare plans to do this and submit them to city authorities for approval before April 30.

"With strong instructions from the committee, the city will have no more super-slim houses by October or not later than the end of this year," said Deputy Director of the Hanoi Construction Department Nguyen Khac Tho.

The decision to tackle the issue does not concern the tens of thousands of thin houses that have become a feature of Vietnamese architecture in recent years. While strange and unappealing to foreign eyes, these buildings have grown from three to four metre wide village houses.

The Law on Construction, which became effective in 2004, stipulated that land plots smaller than 15sq.m should not be built. But many small houses were built in preceding years, some of them so skinny it is hard to believe people live in them.

To promote the law, the city issued Decision 26 in 2005 on guidelines to eliminate deformed and super skinny houses - and pay compensation for those destroyed.

The decision permitted district People's Committees to withdraw land plots of under 20sq.m or plots above 20sq.m with odd or deformed shapes. It had the power to integrate them into a bigger block for public use.

However, the decision was not strictly executed. To make matters worse, the number of super-slim and deformed houses has risen to 553, of which 186 were built after Decision 26 was issued.

"The actual figure could be higher," said Tho. "This proves that district authorities haven't done their duty."

The weakness of local construction inspectors and authorities have been given as reasons for the problem. /.