Archive for ‘Housing’


China Wants Its People in the Cities – Reuters


Thirty-five years ago, when paramount leader Deng Xiaoping launched gaige kaifang, or “reform and opening,” China was a much more agricultural country, with less than a fifth of its people living in cities. Since then hundreds of millions of rural residents have left the countryside, many seeking jobs in the export-oriented factories and construction sites that Deng’s policy promoted.

Commercial and residential buildings stand in the Luohu district of Shenzhen, China, on Dec. 18, 2013 In 1978 there were no Chinese cities with more than 10 million people and only two with 5 million to 10 million; by 2010, six cities had more than 10 million and 10 had from 5 million to 10 million. By the following year, a majority of Chinese were living in urban areas for the first time in the country’s history.

Now urbanization has been designated a national priority and is expected to occur even more rapidly. On March 16, Premier Li Keqiang’s State Council and the central committee of the Communist Party released the “National New-type Urbanization Plan (2014-2020),” which sets clear targets: By 2020 the country will have 60 percent of its people living in cities, up from 53.7 percent now.

What’s the ultimate aim of creating a much more urban country? Simply put, all those new, more free-spending urbanites are expected to help drive a more vibrant economy, helping wean China off its present reliance on unsustainable investment-heavy growth. “Domestic demand is the fundamental impetus for China’s development, and the greatest potential for expanding domestic demand lies in urbanization,” the plan says.

To get there, China’s policymakers know they have to loosen the restrictive hukou, the household registration policy that today keeps many Chinese migrants second-class urban residents. China will ensure that the proportion of those who live in the cities with full urban hukou, which provides better access to education, health care, and pensions, will rise from last year’s level of 35.7 percent of city dwellers to 45 percent by 2020. That means 100 million rural migrant workers, out of a total 270 million today, will have to be given urban household registration.

To prepare for the new masses, China knows it must vastly expand urban infrastructure. The plan calls for ensuring that expressways and railways link all cities with more than 200,000 people by 2020; high-speed rail is expected to link cities with more than a half million by then. Civil aviation will expand to be available to 90 percent of the population.

Access to affordable housing projects funded by the government is also expected to rise substantially. The target is to provide social housing (roughly analogous to public housing in the U.S.) to 23 percent of the urban populace by 2020; that’s up from an estimated 14.3 percent last year, according to Tao Wang, China economist at UBS Securities (UBS) in Hong Kong. That means providing social housing for an additional 90 million people, amounting to about 30 million units, over the next seven years, Wang writes in a March 18 report.

The urbanization plan appears to face several big challenges. First, the government wants to maintain restrictions on migration to China’s biggest cities, which also happen to be its most popular. Instead, the plan calls for liberalizing migration to small and midsize cities, or those with less than 5 million. Whether migrants will willingly flock to designated smaller cities, rather than the megacities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, is an unanswered question.

Another obstacle to faster urbanization is that the plan doesn’t propose how to reform China’s decades-old land tenure system. Changing the system could allow farmers more freedom to mortgage, rent, or sell their land.

Finally, one of the most daunting problems is figuring out how to pay for implementing the ambitious urbanization targets. The cost of rolling out a much more extensive social welfare network will be substantial (today, most Chinese in the countryside have far lower levels of medical and pension coverage, as well as far inferior schools); building the new urban infrastructure will also be expensive.


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Property in China: Haunted housing | The Economist

IN CHINA, property prices can keep going up forever. At least, that is what optimists seem to think. They point out that the country is undergoing the largest urbanisation in history. The throngs of migrants from the countryside all need homes, the argument runs. China’s swelling middle classes, many of whom live in shoddy 1980s housing, are also eagerly moving to fancier flats or McMansions. The result has been a spectacular property boom over the past decade.

At first glance, it seems the good times are still rolling (see chart). During the first three quarters of this year residential sales shot up by 35% versus the same period a year ago. Prices for new homes rose year-on-year in September in 69 of the 70 biggest cities. In Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing prices jumped by more than 20%; in slightly smaller cities, such as Nanjing and Xiamen, they rose by around 15%.

Despite these signs of rude health, even some of China’s biggest property moguls appear to be growing uneasy. Wang Shi, the chairman of China Vanke, the country’s largest residential-property firm by volume, has called the market a bubble. Wang Jianlin, the country’s richest man and the chairman of Dalian Wanda, a property giant turned entertainment firm, acknowledges that parts of the country may be experiencing a property bubble, though he thinks it “controllable”. Li Ka-Shing, a Hong Kong tycoon who has long been bullish on China, has started to sell his mainland holdings.

The problem is not the wealthiest cities with the most vertiginous valuations. Indeed, in those markets prices may yet go higher. People from all over China buy trophy apartments in Shanghai and Beijing, making their markets as resilient as those of Manhattan and central London. In fact, policies aimed at squelching speculation may be artificially suppressing demand in those places.

Shanghai and Shenzhen recently followed Beijing’s lead by requiring that buyers of second homes put up 70% of the purchase price as a deposit. In Beijing, the sale of a second home incurs a 20% capital-gains tax. (This is supposedly a nationwide policy, but is not always enforced in other cities.) Couples with two homes are reportedly divorcing to avoid the tax, since once officially single they can each own a primary residence, and thus sell either one without penalty.

Demand does not look so robust, however, in places like Yingkou Coastal Industrial Base, in north-eastern China. This development was promoted by the local government as a future hub of economic activity, but the future has not yet arrived. There are rows of empty buildings and few people on the streets. Property salesmen claim that big companies ranging from Coca-Cola to PetroChina are building factories nearby. But even Xinhua, an official media outlet, is sceptical: except for street lamps and the occasional passing vehicle, it reported recently, “at night the base was completely dark.”

Many property developments outside the big cities appear to be ghost towns of this sort. Moody’s, a credit-rating agency, laments that a large and rising share of new supply has gone to smaller cities. People’s Daily, another official organ, recently fulminated against the “huge waste of resources” such construction represents. Nonetheless, by the government’s count, 144 cities in 12 provinces are planning 200 new towns.

via Property in China: Haunted housing | The Economist.


* Spike in land abuse cases in China’s western regions

China Daily: “Chinese authorities are drawing up new land support policies for western parts of the country, following a sharp spike in land abuse cases in the region during the first three months of the year.

In the first quarter, cases jumped 22.4 percent year-on-year, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Land and Resources on Friday.

“Due to the focus on development of the western regions, demand for land from infrastructure construction and investment is increasing sharply, putting pressure on land supply,” said Yue Xiaowu, deputy director of the ministry’s law enforcement and supervision administration.

“This means the western regions need policy support, which is what we are working on,” Yue said.

Last year, the ministry held an investigation into illegal land use cases in western regions, studying the reasons for the surge in numbers.

Yue said that besides the increased investment and infrastructure construction, the higher rural population had also caused a rise in abuse cases involving farmland.”

via Spike in land abuse cases in China’s western regions |Society |


* Chinese company plans to build world’s tallest skyscraper – in just THREE MONTHS

Given the prediction that China’s urban population will continue to expand as more rural workers migrate to cities seeking jobs and a better life, this kind of ‘system building’ may be the answer.

Daily Mail: “A construction company yesterday revealed plans to build the world’s tallest skyscraper – in just three months.

Massive: An artist's impression of the planned 220-storey Sky City building planned for Changsha, south-east China. The mammoth building is planned to be built in only three months

Sky City in Changsha, south-east China, will be a 220-storey structure standing at an incredible 2,749ft (838m).

It will house 17,400 people and also boast hotels, hospitals, schools and office space with occupants using 104 high-speed lifts to get around.

Massive: An artist’s impression of the planned 220-storey Sky City building planned for Changsha, south-east China. The mammoth building is planned to be built in only three months

The half-mile high superstructure will be 32ft taller than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – the current tallest building – and is expected to cost almost half as much.

It will dwarf the Shard in London, standing more than 530m above the western Europe’s tallest building and, when completed, will mean nine of the 10 tallest skyscrapers in the world are in Asia.


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But the most impressive thing about Sky City is that its designers, Chinese-based Broad Group, plan to start and finish it in just 90 days.

This astonishing pace, which will see five storeys go up a day, is down to the revolutionary method of prefabricated building where blocks are built off site and slotted together to save time.

Despite concerns about its structural rigidity, Broad Group says the half-mile high building will be able to withstand a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

The idea isn’t pie in the sky thinking either, with Broad making headlines last year when they built a 30-storey building in 15 days.”

via Chinese company plans to build world’s tallest skyscraper – in just THREE MONTHS | Mail Online.


* Home Depot closes stores as it shifts focus

Home Depot closes stores as it shifts focusChina Daily: “Home Depot Inc, the largest home-improvement retailer in the United States, said it is closing its remaining seven big box stores in China as it shifts its focus to specialty and online outlets in the world’s second-largest economy.

The move will affect about 850 employees, and the company will record an after-tax charge of about $160 million, or 10 cents per diluted share, in the third quarter, it said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Employees of Home Depot gather outside the company’s Xi’an store on Friday as the home-improvement retailer declared that it will close all its seven stores in China. [Photo/China Daily]

“Closing stores is always a difficult decision,” said Frank Blake, the company’s chairman and CEO. “We’ve learned a great deal over the last six years in China, and our new approach leverages that experience.”

The company said it will keep its two recently launched specialty outlets – a paint and flooring store and a home decoration shop – in Tianjin.

It is also in talks with several Chinese e-commerce websites to explore selling its products online, it said, a combination believed to be more adequate to Chinese customers’ needs and shopping preferences.

The Atlanta-based seller of building materials and home-improvement products will also keep its R&D team in China, as well as the 170 workers in its sourcing offices in Shanghai and Shenzhen, the statement said.

Home Depot has 2,249 retail stores in operation globally. Excluding the charges related to the store closures, Home Depot expects its fiscal 2012 diluted earnings per share to rise 19 percent to $2.95 for the year.

The company’s success story in the global market did not translate well in China, where the do-it-yourself home decoration-retailing concept has failed to inspire Chinese homeowners, industry analysts said.

The US company acquired a local peer, The Home Way, in 2006 and took over its 12 outlets in China. However, it has closed five outlets since 2009. The company has also replaced three top executives since its establishment in the country, a move that did not alter its sales decline.

Though specialized home-improvement retail is an upcoming trend, Home Depot arrived in China too early, at a time when the country’s decoration culture and consumption behaviors were not ready for the concept, said Chen Lei, a retail analyst at China Galaxy Securities. Despite the construction boom, the low labor costs made the DIY decoration concept irrelevant, he said.

Chinese homeowners rarely paint houses or lay out wooden floors themselves. Rather, they prefer to hire decoration companies, which often find products with more competitive prices from local building material stores, Chen said.

In addition, the company’s strengths in the United States, including its lower prices due to its global sourcing channels, have been diluted in China.

“You can always find local brands that are cheaper, and consumers in various regions have very different preferences,” Chen said. “Winning the market through a price war is not going to work for a foreign retailer in China.””

via Home Depot closes stores as it shifts focus |Companies |


* China starts construction on 5.8 mln low-income housing units

Xinhua: “China started building 5.8 million low-income housing units in the first seven months of this year, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said Friday.

Construction on 3.6 million affordable homes has been basically completed in the period, the ministry said in a brief statement on its website.

The government vowed to start construction on more than 7 million low-income housing units this year, part of its five-year plan to build 36 million such units by 2015.

The government has stepped up its efforts in the construction of affordable housing in recent years, aiming to cool the country’s runaway property prices.”

via China starts construction on 5.8 mln low-income housing units – Xinhua |

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