Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Yingjie Guo
Chapter 10: Housing China’s inequality
In November 2013 the national index on housing prices showed its fastest year-on-year jump since its establishment in 2011. The National Bureau of Statistics reported an overall increase of 9.6 per cent, with southern cities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen revealing an increase of over 20 per cent, despite policy action by the central government to rein in real-estate speculation and local governments’ involvement in the creation of a market bubble (National Bureau of Statistics of China 2013). This is not an unfamiliar trend in the relatively recent development of China’s housing liberalization. In the late 1990s I spent some time in some of the first commercial housing compounds in the north-eastern suburbs of Beijing. Homeowners there were buying apartments at a subsidized discount, as a result of the city government’s or their own company’s active support for a nascent homeownership. Prices were between 3500 and 5000 yuan per square metre and were generally considered scandalously high. When I last visited those neighbourhoods in 2013, real-estate agents lining up in front of those buildings were offering potential buyers the same, now ageing, apartments for close to 40 000 yuan per square metre: a bargain in Beijing’s ever growing real-estate hype. On the open market, in 2002 the price of an average apartment of 80 square metres was around 33 times the average yearly disposable income of a Beijing household. In the first half of 2009, this ratio had gone up to 61.
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