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Property registration protects ownership, aids graft fight

2015-03-03 09:22 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

A new property registration regulation has allowed Chinese authorities to begin collecting ownership data on a unified platform, a move intended to strengthen protection of ownership and also shed light on corrupt officials' illicit assets.

The provisional regulation to register properties ranging from buildings, forests to maritime areas and rural homesteads was announced by China's cabinet in December to meet the requirements of the country's Property Law passed in 2007.

Entering effect on Sunday, the regulation stipulates that property be registered to create a nationwide database accessible during property transactions and among government agencies.

Analysts say the new registration scheme, led by the country's land and resource authorities, will address problems such as duplicate or wrongful registration by government agencies and transaction risks resulting from a fragmented, uncoordinated registration system.

The decision to register properties has stirred discussion about its impact on China's property market, which has seen prices and sales volumes weakening over the last year.

Chinese real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi, chairman of the Hong Kong-listed property firm SOHO China, said last year that the registration system will increase home supply on the market and drive down prices.

The data acquired through registration will also provide the government with a more reliable reference for designing a property taxation scheme in coming years, which many analysts believe will add to the cost of holding assets and precipitate sale of homes previously bought as investments rather than for living.

However, property brokers in major Chinese cities said so far they haven't seen existing homes being added to the market in great numbers, though some owners who put their apartments up for sale have become more willing to budge on price given expectation that home supply will ease based on future policies.

"The new registration rule doesn't change the fact that home prices are determined by the changing dynamics of supply and demand," said Zhao Xiuchi, a real estate academic with Beijing's Capital University of Economics and Business.

The other major goal of the scheme is to make it harder for corrupt officials to illicitly own multiple homes.

If ownership data is better managed and shared with government watchdogs, it will be easier to pin down questionable assets in the open-ended campaign to root out corrupt officials, said Han Changyin, a professor with KoGuan Law School of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

A lack of ownership data and information sharing has created loopholes for corrupt officials to game the system and hide illicit properties.

"If sellers' ownership information becomes accessible, it will make life much harder for those with questionable assets," said a sales manager at a Beijing-based real estate broker.

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