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Coordinated Campaign to Rein in Property Sector
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Ten government departments in South China's Guangdong Province are linking up for a special campaign to bring order to the province's real estate market.


The campaign, set to run through August next year, will involve the government departments responsible for construction, land resources, finance, auditing, state taxation, local taxation, development and reform, pricing, industrial and commercial administration and governmental administration supervision.


Corresponding departments in the province's 21 cities will also take part in the campaign.


Lu Hongqing, an official with the Guangdong provincial construction department, said the campaign's goal would be to expose the tricks used by real estate developers when developing, marketing and selling developments. The campaign will focus on whether developers have illegally used land, deliberately changed plans, released false advertisements, illegally hoarded apartments for speculation, driven up prices, sold property that had yet to pass official inspections or receive approval, dodged taxes or got out of line pulling down old residences or relocating residents.


The campaign will also look into whether government officials or other public servants working with the real estate sector have broken laws or otherwise misbehaved. A particular emphasis is to be placed on whether they have abused power, ignored misconduct by developers, refused to settle administrative procedures in time or asked for or received bribes in their daily work with property firms.


The campaign will also involve investigations into enterprises, intermediary agencies and their staff responsible for pulling down old residential buildings and removing residents to help authorities determine whether they had deliberately tampered with the appraised values of the targeted houses, misrepresented the floor spaces or produced false mapping reports to property registry departments.


Lu said the campaign would be divided into three phases. The first phase will involve self-examinations by real estate developers and give the public a chance to file complaints.


Officials in the province's 21 cities will then launch their own investigations before the provincial departments examine a random sampling.


"The province aims to set up a long-term mechanism to improve the management of the real estate market using this campaign as the basis," the official said.


He added that the campaign is expected to curb the rising house prices, especially in big cities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen, while still allowing the province's property market to develop.


"If measures are implemented by the book during the campaign, the development of Guangdong's real estate market will definitely be more orderly, and housing prices will probably fall," said Cai Suisheng, secretary-general of the Guangdong provincial real estate association.


"Potential home buyers in Guangzhou and Shenzhen and other Pearl River Delta cities where property prices have surged so much will certainly take a wait-and-see approach," he added.


Many people, especially those who have not yet bought homes in the province, have applauded the provincial campaign.


Gao Weijie, an employee of an advertising company in Guangzhou, told China Daily: "Housing prices in Guangzhou are unbearably high. I hope rather than wish that the provincial government's campaign will keep prices down."


"Both property developers and government officials, especially those in charge of land resources, housing management and urban planning, should be under closer scrutiny to minimize under-the-table practices," Gao said.


The average price of housing in the province was 5,750 yuan (US$740) per square meter in March, up 22.38 percent from a year ago. April's figure is not yet available.


And the average price in Guangzhou, the provincial capital, was about 7,600 yuan per square meter in April, compared with about 3,900 yuan per square meter in 2003.


(China Daily June 8, 2007)


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