Chinese housing datapoint of the day

By Felix Salmon
September 23, 2009
Rosealea Yao reports:

Roughly 80 per cent of China’s urban residents own their homes – an astonishing number for a country that only began to privatise its housing stock in 1998.


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Rosealea Yao reports:

Roughly 80 per cent of China’s urban residents own their homes – an astonishing number for a country that only began to privatise its housing stock in 1998.

Astonishing is right — and frankly, given the absence of any sourcing, I’m not sure I believe it. The high point of the influx from rural to urban China might be behind us, but it isn’t over yet, and all those poor Chinese workers looking to make their lives in the big city are unlikely to jump straight onto the bottom rung of the housing ladder. There might be some shenanigans going on with the definition of “residents” here — are all city inhabitants really included in the denominator?

That said, no visitor to China can fail to be astonished at the sheer quantity of housing stock which is going up in high rises across the country. If Yao is right, then substantially all of that stock is sold rather than rented, which helps to explain the astonishing amount of money in the Chinese construction industry. But it also means hundreds of billions of dollars of mortgages in the Chinese banking system, which I doubt were underwritten with particular assiduousness, and which have been written at extremely high price-to-income ratios. China could yet suffer a mortgage crisis of US proportions.

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