China Property ‘Stealth Easing’ Spreads in Boost to Home Prices

(Bloomberg) -- At least 11 Chinese cities have eased restrictions on residency-permits this year, potentially giving their ailing property markets a boost.

The moves are seen as part of a “stealth easing” of property curbs that have helped keep a lid on housing prices. New-home prices rose at the slowest pace in eight months in December, the most recent data show.

While combating property speculation is one of President Xi Jinping’s signature policies, a deepening economic slowdown is prompting some city governments to loosen the screws.

In one of the latest cases, Xi’an last week allowed all non-locals holding an undergraduate degree to apply for a residency permit known as a “hukou,” scrapping a maximum age limit of 45. The age limit for people with a high-school-equivalent vocational degrees was raised to 45 from 35.

A hukou holder can buy as many as two residential properties in the Shaanxi provincial capital. Otherwise, a prospective buyer would need to have paid two years of income or social securities tax to qualify to purchase property, and be limited to one unit.

Other cities to have recently loosened restrictions include:

DateCityChange
Jan. 11GuangzhouRelaxed age limits in residency permit application 
Jan. 23DalianRelaxed residency permit restriction; lifted ban on selling property within three years of becoming a resident 
Feb. 11ChangzhouRelaxed age limits in residency permit application 
Feb. 13 NingboFenghua district to give up to 500,000 yuan housing subsidy to skilled workers
Feb. 13 Xi’an Relaxed age limits in residency permit application 
Feb. 17NanjingRelaxed social security payment prerequisite in residency permit application 

Last year, more than 100 cities eased residency policies to attract skilled workers, helping spur housing demand and push prices higher, according to Zhang Dawei, an analyst at Centaline Group. “Those policies are equivalent to lowering home-buying thresholds,” he said.

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