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Guangzhou Gets Tough on Developers
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The real estate market here is to face closer scrutiny following the launch yesterday of a new campaign by municipal authorities.

The campaign will involve 11 government departments, which are responsible for the city's development and reform, construction, land resources and housing, urban planning, pricing, industrial and commercial administration, statistics, auditing, finance, taxation and governmental administration supervision.

Ouyang Yongsheng, a spokesperson for the municipal government, said the campaign will expose firms' tricks and misbehavior relating to property developments, marketing and sales activities.

He said special emphasis would be placed on whether developers had illegally hoarded land for speculation, driven up prices by releasing false information or by cornering a market, disobeyed the city's overall urban planning regulations, used pricing tricks, released for sale properties that had yet to pass official inspections and receive approval, or acted against the State's taxation policy to prevent speculative apartment purchases.

Yongsheng said the campaign will run for a month and that officials would conduct thorough investigations of the city's real estate companies.

"Property developers that are found to have used dirty tricks in their business operation will be urged to make rectifications within 10 days. Those who refuse to do so will be dealt with according to the law," he said.

"The move is an inseparable part of the municipal authorities' measures to curb the city's rising house prices," Yongsheng said.

"The government wants to keep prices at a rational level so that most citizens can afford to buy their own homes."

Other measures the city government has taken recently include the expansion of land supplies by 5 sq km over the next couple of years, an investment of 1.5 billion yuan ($194 million) to build "economical houses" for 5,643 low-income families this year, reclaiming unused land, streamlining procedures for housing approval and releasing house prices on time.

Many people, especially those who have not yet bought a house, have applauded the tough new measures.

Gao Weijie, who works in advertising, said: "House prices in Guangzhou have surged to an unbearable high. I hope rather than wish that the government's series of measures is effective in bringing them down or at least keeping the growth rate reasonable."

In February, the average price of an apartment in Guangzhou was 7,729 yuan ($1,000) per sq m, compared with 3,888 yuan ($498) per sq m in 2003.

Han Shitong, an analyst with the Guangzhou Real Estate Association, said that the measures would at least cultivate potential house buyers' wait-and-see attitude.

"If the measures are implemented by the book, the price should definitely drop," Han said.

(China Daily April 10, 2007)

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