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Homebuyers try to build on their own amid price surge

(Xinhua)

09:27, July 13, 2012

BEIJING, July 12 (Xinhua) -- A group is exploring a cooperative housing scheme which aims to make it possible for people to buy an apartment at cost price in land-scarce Beijing.

"Under this kind of model, home buyers raise funds, buy land and build apartments all by themselves without developers' participation," said Sun Zhiqun, the 39-year-old sponsor who has 20 years of experience in property development.

Sun said he plans to start with purchasing two tracts of land -- one in Tongzhou district, the other in Daxing district.

Sun expects apartments built on the two plots to be sold at 8,900 yuan (1,413 U.S. dollars) per square meter and 7,624 yuan per square meter, respectively.

"The scheme, if successful, will give participants a price that is 30-40 percent lower than buying commercial residential housing," Sun said.

In recent years, skyrocketing home prices in first- and second-tier cities have raised concerns over asset bubbles and has made apartment in big cities unaffordable to millions of people.

"That explains why our cooperative housing project won widespread support among mid- and low-income workers," Sun said.

Wang Xinlei, a 29-year-old sales assistant who has been sharing a two-bedroom with a couple for 6 years, said she'd like to join the project given the competitive price.

"I can't afford commercial residential apartments. It seems joining such cooperative housing schemes is my only chance to own an apartment in Beijing," she said.

"The scheme reflects that people's home-owning dreams have not faded," said Zhu Zhongyi, deputy head of China Real Estate Association.

Actually, Sun's idea is not entirely new. Former Lenovo engineer Yu Linggang and a Wenzhou businessman Zhao Zhiqiang have put forward similar proposals, but their efforts to build a cooperative housing project failed.

The biggest obstacle was the lack of funds to get land, as cooperative housing participants are at a disadvantage when competing with well-funded developers.

China adopted a bidding system for land sales in 2003, under which, the bidder offering the highest price gets the land parcel.

Sun said he is not sure whether he can obtain the two plots as some developers have also applied to attend the land auction.

"People who want to participate in this cooperative scheme must be united and move quickly, otherwise we'll lose the chance," he said.

However, analysts warned that apart from land bidding, the scheme still faces numerous challenges in other areas including housing design, construction and distribution.

"It may be a big challenge for hundreds of strangers to deal with issues like funds and credit together and come to an agreement," Zhu said.

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