Tibetan Homes Get Makeover

Xinhua, 28 July 2002

LHASA, July 28 (Xinhua)—Seventy-seven-year-old Soi'nam finally has a new home—in the same building as her old house.

I have never thought my old house could be so clean and bright, and I even get tap water, says the excited Tibetan woman in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. The renovated house is so much better.

She moved back into her old house last week to find it had also been fitted with bigger windows and stronger pillars.

Living comfortably in the new house, Soi'nam paid nothing for the reconstruction apart from her regular 25 yuan (three US dollars) monthly rent for the two-room abode.

The government has covered all the facelift expenses. Our purpose is to improve the living conditions of the people in the old city zones, without adding to their financial burdens, said Dainzin Doje, district head of Chengguan District and deputy director of a leading panel in charge of housing renovations in Lhasa.

Before Tibet's democratic reform in 1959, over 80 percent people in the old city were servants, serfs or beggars, who had no homes of their own, he added.

It is the government that gave us houses to live in and paid for the maintenance, said Soi'nam. And we can easily afford the rent as we are getting better-off.

The population of the old city has boomed in recent years, and the housing bureau has readjusted its allocation method so that residents receive priority, says Yang Pei, director of the house property bureau.

He said that one or two people can rent a house of some 30 square meters, and move to a bigger home as their family grows.

If a native wants to buy property rights, this regulation is also in effect, he said. Those houses which face the street or are bought by incomers are more expensive.

Zhaxi Doje, Director of the Lhasa People's Congress, the local legislature, said that the congress had supervised the allocation and pricing of houses and apartments.

The per capita income of the people in the old city zones last year reached 4,000 yuan, said Zhaxi Doje, and they can afford to improve their living conditions.

Ragyai, a local resident, paid 225,000 yuan for an apartment in an business district recently. His family's annual income is over 50,000 yuan, and he thought it was worthwhile.

We are confident of getting the money back within several years if we use the house as a restaurant, because this area is promising for business, he said.