China promises more effort to cool housing costs

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 20, 2013 at 5:40 am •  Published: February 20, 2013
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BEIJING (AP) — China's government ordered local officials Wednesday to do more to cool surging housing costs after a scandal over a bank employee who bought 45 properties highlighted the potential for evasion of ownership limits.

A Cabinet statement also directed local leaders to build more low-cost housing.

Soaring Chinese housing prices have made fortunes for some people but pushed home ownership out of reach of millions of families, fueling political tensions.

The government pledge comes as a new generation of Communist Party leaders who took power in November are promising more action to narrow the wealth gap between an elite who have benefited from economic reform and China's poor majority.

The government has increased minimum required downpayments, imposed limits in some cities on how many properties one buyer can own and imposed other curbs. Price rises have moderated but stories in the Chinese press about officials and businesspeople suspected of evading ownership limits have fueled public frustration.

In the most high-profile case, a bank officer in the northern province of Shaanxi is accused of amassing 45 properties worth at least $160 million with the help of phony identity cards and corrupt police.

In other cases, a city official in southern China and his family were found to have 21 properties. In the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, a political commissar of an anti-corruption bureau and his ex-wife had 19. In the central province of Henan, a housing director and his children bought 25 properties.