Beijing to keep limitations on house purchases

Updated: 2011-12-17 09:16

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Restrictions on housing purchases in this city will continue next year without relaxation despite expected falls in property prices so far, local officials said on Friday.

Even so, a property tax is unlikely to be put into effect for Beijing, they said.

This year, the average price of commercial housing units stopped rising in July and so far has been lowered by 6.3 percent below what it had been in the same period last year. Of all of those who bought property in the 11 months of the year, 90 percent were first-time buyers, said an announcement released by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.

"The restrictions worked well this year," said Wang Rongwu, with the commission, at a news conference on Friday morning. "But keeping the property market sound will require prolonged restrictions. Our specific goals for the purchase limits next year are still under discussion."

Chen Baocun, deputy secretary-general of the National Real Estate Manager Alliance, said property developers will be able to cope with an extension of the limits.

"Developers didn't expect a sudden drop of the purchase restrictions next year," he said. "They are prepared to accept the policies for a longer time."

In an attempt at tamping down property prices, the central government took time at the country's central economic work conference on Wednesday to encourage more cities to adopt a property tax. Such a tax is already being tried out in Shanghai and Chongqing.

Beijing, though, is not likely to look seriously at adopting one, "unless it is otherwise required to by the central government", Wang said.

Data show that the pace of housing-price increases is starting to slow. And properties are not being sold as quickly as they once had been.

In the first 11 months of the year, about 8.19 million square meters of commercial units were sold in Beijing. By the end of 2011, that number is expected to increase to about 9 million square meters, which will be the smallest total area recorded for annual Beijing property sales in the past 10 years, according to the city's official website on property sales.

Although a reduction in sales has been one of the government's goals, it has drawbacks.

"The reduction of sales has done some harm, leading to decreases in sales and contract taxes," Wang said. "We predict the revenue collected from these taxes will be 10 percent lower. Financial departments will release the exact official number later."

According to the website, the number of unsold residences in Beijing reached 130,000 on Dec 7, a record high in the past three years.

According to the current average property price, those properties are worth 341.5 billion yuan ($53.8 billion). That is about 90 billion yuan more than what the value of unsold properties had been when the property restrictions went into effect on May 1, 2010, according to Centaline China Property Research based in Beijing.

"If potential buyers would stop expecting property prices to keep decreasing and the developers would cut down their price, these units would be sold in a year," Chen said.

The buyers' interests will be protected as the government is supervising property companies that have faulty housing projects and helping the market function properly, said Wang Rongwu.