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Soaring rents push people to quit Beijing

(Global Times)

08:54, August 16, 2011

Spiraling rent hikes are so out of proportion to local salaries that young out-of-towners may be forced to quit the capital.

With rents accounting for as much as half of workers' salaries, and non-residents forbidden to buy, many are priced out of the property market. While the local government's focus has been on cooling down overheated housing sales, they have yet to take action on soaring rents, despite discussions in May.

Average monthly rent was 3,160 yuan ($489) during the first seven months of 2011, a 13 percent growth over the same period last year, according to Beijing Statistics Bureau. However, per capita income of urban residents only rose 10 percent.

Wang Xiaochun, a 24-year-old IT engineer who lives near Huilongguan subway station, was asked to pay 400 yuan more per month from May and is thinking about seeking more roommates.

"Over 25 percent of my monthly income goes to my rent, and it may keep on rising while my salary keeps static," Wang said, "I don't see a long-term future here anymore."

Hu Yin, 29, who lives on Chaoyang Lu in a 40-square-meter apartment, also saw a rent rise of 700 yuan this year, and now her 2,700 yuan-monthly rent takes up half of her income.

"The rent increase is close to unbearable, so lately, I often think about going back home [Chengdu, Sichuan Province]," Hu said.

Hu and Wang are not alone. The Beijing Times Monday reported that nine out of 10 young employees had to pay 200 to 500 yuan more per month this year, their rent accounting for more than 25 percent of their income, which makes them reconsider developing a career in Beijing, especially as they are unable to buy.

Reports on the local rental market from 5i5j and Homelink Real Estate agencies in Beijing both noted that during the first six months of 2011, average rents increased 13 percent citywide, while they increased by 20 percent in desirable locations like the CBD and Zhongguancun.

Hu Jinghui, vice president of 5i5j Beijing Real Estate, said about 70 percent of employees working in the CBD and Zhongguancun do not have official Beijing residency, and at least half of them cannot produce the required documentation enabling them to buy a property.

"Current rent costs many over 25 percent of their monthly income, even going up to 40 percent for some," Hu Jinghui said, "so many residents share apartments with more people, or go further away from downtown for cheaper apartments."

Wang thinks there should be more punishment and supervision from the government to prohibit landlords increasing rents within the contract term.

Hu Yin also thinks the government could do more to help renters.

"I hope the authorities can provide a public platform between the landlords and renters, at least doing more to supervise the agencies in providing accurate rent information, and not just speculating on prices for more profits," she said.

The last time local government published an amendment to renting regulations on July 13, they said they would take temporary action if they sensed abnormal rises in the rental sector, without stating what form this would take.

However, Chen Zhi, deputy director of Beijing Real Estate Association, pointed out there has not so far been any direct regulations in the renting market except for building "10,000 units of public affordable housing to be completed this year to relieve some pressure on the rental market."

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