Research Shows 22 Percent of Urban Homes in China Are Unoccupied
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s mantra that homes should be for living in is falling on deaf ears, with tens of millions of apartments and houses standing empty across the country.
Soon-to-be-published research will show roughly 22 percent of China’s urban housing stock is unoccupied, according to Professor Gan Li, who runs the main nationwide study. That adds up to more than 50 million empty homes, he said.
The nightmare scenario for policy makers is that owners of unoccupied dwellings rush to sell if cracks start appearing in the property market, causing prices to spiral. The latest data, from a survey in 2017, also suggests Beijing’s efforts to curb property speculation -- considered by leaders a key threat to financial and social stability -- are coming up short.
“There’s no other single country with such a high vacancy rate,” said Gan, of Chengdu’s Southwestern University of Finance and Economics. “Should any crack emerge in the property market, the homes to be offloaded will hit China like a flood.”
One solution that the government could use is property or vacancy taxes to try to counter the issue, but neither appears imminent and some researchers, including Gan, say what actually counts as vacant could be tricky to determine.
Holiday homes and the empty dwellings of migrants seeking work elsewhere account for some of the deserted properties, but purchases for investment are a key factor keeping the vacancy rate high, according to Gan. That’s despite curbs across the country meant to discourage buying of multiple dwellings.
There’s an economic cost to vacancies too because they’re a drag on supply, which puts upward pressure on prices and crowds young buyers out of the market, according to Kaiji Chen, who co-authored a Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis working paper called “The Great Housing Boom of China.”
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