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Southern city makes real estate U-turn

By Fang Yunyu (Global Times)

08:31, July 16, 2012

Within hours, Zhuhai backed off its attempt to loosen curbs on the real estate industry, reaffirming its restrictions on house buying and pricing.

He Ningka, the mayor of Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, told local media Saturday the city has not canceled tightening measures on the property industry.

However, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported Saturday that an official at the Zhuhai Housing, Urban-Rural Planning and Development Bureau had said the city would cancel its price ceiling for residential property, and would narrow home buying restrictions.

"The Zhuhai government was trying to loosen property controls against the central government's determination to rein in the real estate market, which was doomed to failure," Yin Kunhua, a professor at the Real Estate Research Centre of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times Sunday.

The Zhuhai Housing, Urban-Rural Planning and Development Bureau could not be reached Sunday.

Zhuhai, located in the Pearl River Delta, became the first city in the country to impose a home price limit of 11,285 yuan ($1,775) a square meter, effective from November 2011.

Meanwhile the city also barred people unable to supply tax or social insurance certificates issued within Zhuhai from buying apartments in the downtown area for more than a year.

Zhang Yue, chief analyst at property brokerage Homelink, told the Global Times Sunday that many local governments including Zhuhai were under pressure to rein in the real estate market, under orders from Beijing.

The policy seems to be working: In the first quarter of this year, Zhuhai's economic growth rate stood at 4.1 percent, down 6.7 percentage points from the same period of last year, according to the Zhuhai Statistics Bureau.

Yin noted it makes sense local governments were trying to figure out ways to boost the property industry and local economies.

The government of Wuhu in East China's Anhui Province announced in February that it would offer purchase subsidies to revive the real estate sector. But four days later, Wuhu said it would suspend the plan.

"The real estate industry is an economic pillar for the country. And such a restrictive policy, which directly cuts local government income, will hurt economic development in the long run," Yin said.

A board director at a real estate enterprise, who prefer to be anonymous, told the Global Times Sunday that the domestic curb on the property industry is "a red line" that cannot be crossed, even as an economic slowdown becomes apparent in the world's second-largest economy.

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