Housing prices top agenda at sessions (2)

08:15, March 04, 2010      

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A majority of online users who participated Wednesday in a sina.com.cn poll – 52.3 percent of the more than 30,000 respondents – claimed they were most concerned about housing issues, while 13.9 percent of respondents said they cared about income distribution most.

On sohu.com, as many as 35 percent of 107,620 participants claimed housing prices and real estate market control would grab their attention the most, while nearly 20 percent said they would focus on the government's anti-corruption campaign and the oversight of officials.

In reaction to widespread complaints, Premier Wen Jiabao said last week during an online chat with Netizens that he was determined to tame the "wild-horse" housing market and keep property prices at a reasonable level during his term as premier.

The Chinese government will build 5 million affordable houses this year, after building 2 million in 2009, and 2 million shanty houses would be reconstructed this year, according to Wen.

Yin Bocheng, director of the Real Estate Research Center of Fudan University, told the Global Times that the key to tackling the problem of high property prices lies in whether local governments can implement the decisions made by the central government.

"If local governments could allocate between 60 and 70 percent of lands to develop low-rent and affordable apartments and 20 percent to commercial housing, property prices would drop immediately," he said, admitting both the central and local governments are caught in a dilemma as a result of government expenditure.

Local governments earned 1.59 trillion yuan from the sale of 209,000 hectares of land in 2009. Of that, 103,000 hectares were sold to developers, up 36.7 percent year on year.

Yin suggested reforming the current taxation system to allow local governments to collect more tax revenue so they could have more money to develop affordable housing and encourage the private sector to invest through incentive measures.

CPPCC member Mao Yonghong voiced a different option, however, noting that people should change their traditional mindset about purchasing property after they graduate from college or before they get married.

"There's no reason for those who cannot afford apartments to blame the government, society and developers. China has invested a lot to implement housing reform," he said in an interview with the Yangtze Evening Post.

Song Shengxia contributed to this story

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