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[BEIJING] People whose apartments were damaged in explosions in the northeastern Chinese port city of Tianjin can sell their homes to a group of property developers or choose to have the government renovate them, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Hundreds of residents had protested demanding compensation in the wake of the blasts that killed at least 150 people at a hazardous chemicals warehouse earlier in August.
Some apartment buildings were closer to the warehouse than allowed by Chinese regulations dealing with the storage of dangerous materials, and public anger surged among those who believed authorities neglected to properly police the firm that ran the facility, Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics Co Ltd.
Several property developers said they had formed an alliance to buy back homes from owners, Xinhua said on Sunday, citing the housing administration in Tianjin's Binhai area.
The "alliance's repurchase price will be the higher of the market price before the blast or the price at which residents bought their homes", Xinhua said, adding that homeowners would still be eligible for additional compensation.
An "independent third party agency" will determine the pre-blast market price of the homes and the value of damaged goods inside, Xinhua said. Those whose homes had not yet been delivered by developers can opt for a "resettlement allowance".
When asked for a comment, China Vanke Co Ltd, the country's largest property developer, said only homes not yet delivered to homeowners will be offered a buyback while those that have already been delivered will only get free renovation and compensation.
China Vanke had earlier said about 5,000 residential units at three of its developments were affected by the blasts and that it would work with the government to settle any compensation for homeowners.
Thousands of people had been evacuated from around the blast site in Tianjin as information emerged about the potentially deadly chemicals stored at the warehouse.
Many residents in buildings close to the blasts had expressed concern about potential long-term health effects, though government officials had repeatedly said environmental standards in the blast area were "basically guaranteed".
In a separate report, Xinhua said Chinese police had punished 197 people for spreading "online rumours" about recent incidents, including the Tianjin explosions, China's stock market slump, and "seditious" comments about upcoming 70-year commemorations of the end of World War Two.