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Housing prices jump causes overheat worries
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-21 08:58

Housing prices in the Chinese economic hub of Shanghai have achieved a year-on-year increase of nearly 30 per cent during the first quarter this year, the fastest growth among 35 major cities.

The National Development and Reform Commission Tuesday said Shanghai has taken the lead nationally, followed by Northeast China's Shenyang and East China's Qingdao, where housing prices went up by 19.6 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.

The commission said during the first quarter, nationwide prices, driven by robust real estate investment and sales, have increased by 7.7 per cent on average compared with the same period last year.

Compared with the fourth quarter in 2003, national average housing prices have increased by 2.6 per cent.

"Housing prices nationwide have risen quickly," the commission, the government's most powerful department in charge of economic operation, said yesterday in a circular.

The commission has closely monitored housing prices in China's most bustling 35 cities nationwide. It said housing prices in 10 cities have gone up by at least 10 per cent during the January-March period.

But prices in Beijing, famous among Chinese for expensive house, remained stable with only 1.8 per cent year-on-year increases during the same period.

In Shanghai, the government has taken measures to curb the fast price rises, according to Cai Yutian, director of Shanghai Administration of Housing, Land and Resources.

He said Shanghai will learn from Hong Kong's experience in controlling the real estate market, with the government intervening in and limit trading of commercial housing before owners get housing permits.

Statistics show 16 per cent of the houses purchased serves investment and speculation purposes, just below the international alarm rate of 20 per cent.

As China's economic powerhouse, Shanghai has observed soaring housing prices in recent years. Its commercial housing prices topped 5,118 yuan (US$617) per square metre last year, about 24.2 per cent or 1,000 yuan up from the previous year.

Yang Shen, chairman of the China Real Estate Association said tougher measures should be put in place to ward off risks in China's bullish real estate sector despite housing demands in the country remaining strong.

But the Ministry of Construction ruled out so-called "bubbles" which some industry insiders believe exist within China's real estate, even though investments in housing soared by more than 30 per cent on a year-to-year basis from January to March.

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