Concern over speculation persists as sector undergoes structural shift
Cities across China are still announcing policies to crack down on real estate speculation, but experts said they sense that changes are coming, especially when it comes to "one-size-fits-all" regulations.
Beijing will persist with housing regulation in 2018 to prevent property speculation, the Beijing Daily reported on Sunday, citing Xu Jianyun, director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.
Also on Sunday, the Xinhua News Agency reported that Beijing had closed more than 1,000 illegal property agencies since it rolled out house purchasing limits in March 2017.
The government of Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality has said that it will not relax its real estate regulations, which will be "continuous and stable" this year, chinanews.com reported on Friday.
Chongqing will also deepen reforms to meet first-time buyers' demand while suppressing property speculation, the report noted.
Song Ding, a research fellow at the China Development Institute, said that the property regulations announced around the nation since 2016 were not meant just to lower prices or cool the market. They were all part of a larger supply-side reform in the real estate sector.
According to Song, commercial residential buildings have made up most of China's housing supply in recent years, but that situation has also led to problems such as surging prices. The government wants to multiply housing supply channels by measures such as developing the public housing sector. But this can hardly be achieved if capital is tied up in housing speculation.
"As long as the government wants reforms to take root, it will continue cracking down on housing speculation," Song told the Global Times, adding that the tight regulations might stay in place this year.
Hui Jianqiang, research director with real estate information provider Beijing Zhongfangyanxie Technology Service, also stressed that China's regulation of the real estate industry in first-tier cities is a "long-term, or at least medium-term" policy.
The governments of Beijing and Chongqing have stressed that they will develop the rental housing markets in 2018, according to media reports.
The government strategies in places such as the Xiongan New Area in North China's Hebei Province and other new towns will provide ample development opportunities for the real estate market, Song said. "The housing market is undergoing a structural change, but on the whole investment and (government) support in the sector has not shrunk at all," he noted.
But Song also stressed that though policies governing the sector are tight in general, they are likely to become more flexible in the future.
"Housing policies used to be relatively uniform, but signs have emerged that the central government is giving more scope to local governments to make policies better tailored to local conditions," Song said.
Certain regions in China have started to loosen restrictions. For example, Lanzhou, capital of Northwest China's Gansu Province, on January 5 said it had lifted purchase limits in several of outlying areas.
These moves that show that "policies are becoming more specific and mature," Song said, adding that because of such flexibility, house prices or sales might rebound a bit in 2018.
The prices of new residential units and second-hand houses in first-tier cities fell 0.1 percentage point and 0.4 percentage point, respectively, in December compared with November, the 15th month of declines, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on January 18.
Hui told the Global Times on Sunday that under the government's regulations, the property market will likely grow in a more stable manner in 2018.
"I think housing prices in 2018 will depend on the tug-of-war between markets and government regulations," Hui said, adding that if housing prices continue to drop due to government regulations, the market will play little role.