CHINA'S recent measures to rein in soaring property prices had been effective in stabilising the real estate market, a top housing official said yesterday during a rare online chat with Internet users.
'The trend of excessively fast rising residential property prices in some cities has been curbed, sparking a wide, positive response in society,' Qi Ji, vice minister of housing and urban-rural development, told Web users.
The official also warned excessive increases in property prices posed a risk to 'living standards, security of the financial system and social harmony and stability'.
The online discussion attracted hundreds of questions from Web users, highlighting growing fears that China's property market was at risk of overheating.
Beijing has introduced a series of measures in recent weeks to cool soaring prices amid growing complaints they are out of the reach of many Chinese people.
Questions posted on the central government's website covered a range of issues such as the lack of affordable housing and corruption among officials.
One Web user with the name 'Give Me Hope' complained he and his wife could not afford to buy an apartment in a second-tier city and were jealous of 'house slaves', referring to people with a mortgage.
'We cannot afford the down-payment at all, particularly after the issuance of the new policy requiring a down-payment of at least 30 per cent,' he wrote.
Prices in major cities rose 11.7 per cent year-on-year in March, the fastest pace since a nationwide survey was widened to 70 cities in July 2005, official data show.
At the Beijing Real Estate Expo last month, the average price of a new apartment in the Chinese capital was 21,164 yuan (S$4,332) per square metre, double that of last year, state media said. That means a 90-square-metre apartment in Beijing would cost 1.9 million yuan, compared with the average per capita income of 17,175 yuan in 2009.
A government-backed survey showed consumer confidence in the first quarter hit the highest level since 2007 but people were less willing to spend money, possibly due to rising property prices, state media said yesterday.
It is rare for Chinese government officials to chat directly to Web users.
In February, Premier Wen Jiabao took part in an online discussion ahead of the country's annual parliamentary session in March - only the second time he had ever done so.
China has the world's largest online population with at least 404 million users, according to state media.
The Internet in China is also regarded as one of the most heavily censored in the world, with the communist authorities seeking to block a wide range of issues they believe may threaten their rule. -- AFP
Source: Business Times, 8 May 2010
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