Cities adjust housing rules

Updated: 2012-05-31 08:03

By Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)

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Despite overall strict curbs on the housing market, second- and third-tier cities are increasingly fine-tuning local rules to stimulate demand, especially among first-time buyers.

Hunan province, for example, has lowered payment requirements for first-time buyers, offered favorable interest rates and cut transaction taxes and fees, the China Securities Journal reported on Wednesday.

The publication, citing unidentified sources, said that Xu Shousheng, the governor of Hunan province, said at an investment work conference that though overall loosening of the property policy is impossible, the local government will ease some requirements.

Earlier this week, Chongqing municipality doubled the upper limit on low-interest provident fund loans for urban residents to 800,000 yuan ($125,900) per household.

The past year has seen nearly 40 second- and third-tier cities announce fine-tuning of property policies, the website of China News Service reported.

Analysts said these steps indicate that local governments want to stimulate non-speculative demand amid the economic slowdown.

Beginning in 2010, several first-tier cities imposed strict property policies to rein in surging housing prices, such as tougher down payment rules and limits on the number of homes a family may own. Many second- and third-tier cities followed suit.

The result, however, was a deep freeze for the property market in many areas.

"An overall loosening of (curbs on) the property market is not in sight and house prices are unlikely to rebound," said Zhang Dawei, marketing director of Beijing Zhongyuan Ltd. "But the chance of stricter policies coming out soon is zero."

Hu Jinghui, vice-president of 5i5j Real Estate, said fine-tuning policies are mainly aimed at the inelastic demand of first-time buyers.

But he warned that a rapid rebound in purchases by this group carries the risk of a renewed slump in turnover in the second half.

He called for a policy loosening for those seeking to trade up, which would bring more second-hand housing onto the market.

(China Daily 05/31/2012 page13)