Ho Chi Minh City will use land revoked from suspended projects as well as State-owned land for which transfer-use permission has already been obtained to build more social housing projects, municipal officials have said.

Speaking at a talk show on Ho Chi Minh City Television on November 10, Nguyen Van Danh, deputy director of the city's Department of Construction, said demand for social housing among the State employees in the city is estimated to rise to at least 17,500 apartments by 2015.

"The city could now meet only 30 per cent of this demand," he said, adding that the pressure to build social housing will continue to increase as the number of people eligible for it has expanded under new regulations.

Nguyen Thi Quyet Tam, chairwoman of the Ho Chi Minh City People's Council, stated that situation regarding State-owned land in the city needs to be reviewed. She said there is no real shortage of State-owned land for social housing projects, but the problem is its management.

There are two additional land sources for social housing projects - land from 150 suspended investment projects; and 100 State-owned land lots which have been granted transfer-use permission.

The administration is reviewing the latter source, Huynh Van Thanh, head of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment's Land Use Management Division, said. In the first quarter of next year, the department will consult the municipal administration about land lots that can be used to build social housing projects, he said.

Nguyen Thanh Toan, deputy director of the city's Department of Planning and Architecture, said his department, in collaboration with other relevant agencies, will suggest that the People's Committee petitions the Government to order that all investment projects will have to use 20 per cent of their allotted land for building social housing.

Currently, this stipulation only applies to projects that have an area of more than 10ha. Ho Chi Minh City will also petition the Government to allow social housing projects to go beyond the current height of six floors, Toan said.

Participants in the discussion noted that current policies have not succeeded in attracting investment into social housing projects. Difficulties in accessing preferential credit and low profits were discouraging factors, they added.

They also noted that most people wanting to buy social housing units are not able to make a down payment of 20 percent of their apartments' value because they are not able to get long-term soft loans. Many participants petitioned the Government to reduce interest rates on loans for social housing projects to lower than the current 6 percent.

Tran Dinh Cuong, deputy director of the State Bank of Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City branch, said it was difficult to reduce the interest rate further because the central bank has carefully considered the issue before making its decision.

The southern hub plans to build more than 20,000 social housing apartments in 2013-15, according to the Department of Construction. This year, the target is to complete building 11 projects with a total of 3,000 apartments. In the 2006-10 five-year period, the city completed building 46 social ousing projects with a total of about 8,000 apartments, according to the municipal construction department.-VNA