China nearly meets 2012 cheap housing target

BEIJING, Oct 12 (Reuters) - China had started construction on 7.2 million affordable homes by the end of September, completing 97 percent of the full one-year target, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said.

China has finished building 4.8 million units of affordable housing as of the end of September with total investment of 960 billion yuan ($152.94 billion), the ministry said in a statement on its website, .

Construction of affordable housing for ordinary city dwellers is a crucial part of Beijing's policies to cool property prices and support the slowing economy.

China aims to start building over 7 million such homes and complete construction of 5 million in 2012, compared with actual starts of 10.4 million units and completion of 4.3 million in 2011.

The massive construction of state-subsidised homes helps offset the slowing investment by private developers and support demand for everything from cement and steel to furniture.

Official data showed China's real estate investment rose 15.6 percent in the first eight months of 2012 from a year earlier, quickening from an annual increase of 15.4 percent between January and July.

To relieve funding pressures of social housing, the Finance Ministry said on Monday that China would add 5 billion yuan of funding to help build public housing projects and revamp shanty towns. ($1 = 6.2770 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting By Xiaoyi Shao and Kevin Yao)