by Hong Minh
Businessman Dang Ngoc Thang has been working very hard to save money to invest in his three beloved daughters.
He sends the girls to the most prestigious schools and accompanies them to their favourite piano and ballet classes on the weekends.
And to ensure the brightest future for his girls, Thang plans to buy one apartment for each before his retirement. In addition to the four-storey villa where the family currently lives in Hoang Quoc Viet Street, Thang is about to meet his plan to own another apartment and is registering to buy two others currently under construction in flashy urban areas in Ha Noi.
However, new draft amendments to the 2005 Law on Housing proposed by the Ministry of Construction will frustrate Thang's ambitions, calling for a limited ownership of residential apartment, to last for a term of 70 years.
"Ownership should be forever rather than within just 70 years," he said, expressing his concern that his daughters may lose ownership of property he hopes will be passed down to future generations of his family.
"I want to prepare the apartments for my daughters so that they can have a property in their hands and not worry about where they are going to live. They can concentrate on other things," he said.
"Psychologically speaking, people want permanent ownership to be ensured in accordance with the Vietnamese proverb An cu lac nghiep (to live and work in peace and contentment). I believe that such a regulation will be of concern to many," he added.
Indeed, the regulation has stirred many forums and social networks concerned about the future of apartment ownership.
Many of those who are already living in residential apartments have registered their concerns that properties they have bought using lifetime savings will be returned to the State after a fixed period.
Meanwhile, many who are about to buy apartments are now hesitant.
"From my understanding, the Ministry of Construction aims to decrease the price of apartments, now sky-high, so that more low-income people can access this kind of housing," said Pham Sy Liem, deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Federation of Civil Engineering Associations, to Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper.
"I think such a regulation will not solve this problem and will make investors hesitant to buy property," he said, adding that many buyers instead buy land houses, with no fixed period of ownership attached.
Liem claimed the regulation would discriminate against residential apartments, saying that the limited preiod of ownership, if approved, should also be applied to land houses.
"Even though the Government is encouraging people living in cities to live in residential buildings, this regulation will have the opposite effect," he said.
Liem added that the regulation may have emerged from difficulties in re-constructing old buildings, but said it should not cause more difficulties to the current real estate inventory.
Meanwhile, many have come out in support of the regulation.
Tran Dang Dinh, Director of the Ha Thanh Construction and Engineering Company, said the policy was reasonable, given the lifespan of apartment buildings was typically 70-80 years.
"Owning the apartment in 70 years in fact means you will pay money to buy ownership in 70 years," he said.
"After that time, such old buildings should be demolished to build new ones. And by doing so, we will not have to do site clearance one more time."
Dinh cited examples from old buildings in Ha Noi and HCM City, which were built between the 1960s and 1970s, and have become degraded and dangerous but are now difficult to close down.
"This is very common in the world, including in many neighbouring countries like China or Singapore, where the estimated longevity for buildings is normally 50 years," he said, adding that there are no longer old buildings from the 1960s.
Sharing the same opinion, former deputy minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dang Hung Vo agreed with the regulation, saying it was too late to question the changes to the longevity of apartment ownership.
"This is a measure to protect the rights of buyers, not to lessen their rights," he said, "It can help reduce the price of apartment, solving the housing issue for low-income people."
However, Vo urged that a detailed roadmap was needed for the regulation.
"The important thing is to change people's awareness and thinking about buying apartments," he said, "It's necessary to make them agree with owning the apartment in a certain time and the Government should have clear regulations on the rights of people after they return their old apartments."
I agree with him. I am currently living in a newly-built apartment which I acquired last year. This means I will have 69 years more of ownership if the regulation is approved.
After that, I will have to return it to the Government. I will be happy to do so if my rights and benefits are protected in future. — VNS