2018-02-28 15:40:33

Hangzhou, the capital of eastern China’s Zhejiang province, has proposed setting up reception desks in every neighborhood to better manage the comings and goings of the more than 4 million migrant residents who rent property in the city, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Wednesday.

The new real-name registry will cover all rental housing, including apartments, company dormitories, and villages under the city’s administration. The plan proposes the construction of a virtual front desk in every community — managed by the local administrative committee — at which residents would “check in” or “check out” when they moved. The municipal government has published a draft proposal soliciting public feedback until March 2.

By registering renters and mandating more regular public security and fire safety checks — a huge concern in the city, after four died in an apartment fire last year — the plan aims “to build a safe and stable social environment,” the municipal government said.

Every Chinese citizen has a residence record, or hukou — a system which local governments use to control who can and cannot permanently settle in certain cities. Current provincial regulations require migrants who don’t have local residence permits to register at a nearby police station when they sign a new lease — but with millions of itinerant residents who do not always sign formal rental agreements, such data can be outdated and inaccurate.

“The [new] policy standardizes housing management, which will help manage the residence permit system,” Ren Yuan, a professor at Fudan University’s School of Social Development and Public Policy, told Sixth Tone. He explained that most cities require migrants to show evidence of stable, legal housing in order to apply for residence permits — a demand many cannot meet if they rent in urban villages or through private contracts. In Hangzhou, migrants must provide proof of six months’ residency in the city to apply for a permit.

In 2017, China’s migrant population numbered nearly 245 million, driving the fast-growing rental housing market in major cities. Several cities have trialed the hotel-style management model since the eastern city of Taizhou pioneered it in 2015. Hangzhou began piloting the method in nearly 200 communities last year, and in this way has registered some 266,000 residents.

Zhou Lingang, a professor at Shenzhen University’s College of Management, called the method a “more refined management style” and an improvement on the grid management system that started in Beijing in 2004. By the end of 2013, more than 300 cities and counties in China had adopted the grid system, under which urban and rural areas are divided into small units and assigned supervisors.

Though the grid system has matured over the years, Zhou said, the growing costs and high supervisor turnover are concerning. By 2016, Guangzhou had recruited 16,356 supervisors, yet only 841 were full-time due to a lack of funding. “Grid supervisors are often low-paid and quit with little notice,” he told Sixth Tone. “This presents a challenge to city management.”

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: A man stands in front of a rental property in Foshan, Guangdong province, Oct. 31, 2013. Zheng Junbin/VCG)