State Council consolidates property registries

Consolidation of scattered property lists would aid Beijing's efforts to enact land reforms, crackdown on graft and cool overheated market

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 5:25am

The central government has consolidated its scattered property registries under a single agency, a move seen as instrumental to a host of major policy objectives from controlling the property market to cracking down on official corruption.

In a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, the State Council decided yesterday to give the Ministry of Land and Resources overall authority over the registration of land, buildings, prairies, forests and coastal waters.

The central government will set up a database to ease information-sharing about transactions, registrations and other administrative approvals of real properties across different departments. The public would also be allowed to inquire about the information to "safeguard their legitimate rights", according to a State Council statement.

The central government has long viewed the ownership of land and buildings on the same land as separate interests and maintained separate registration systems for each. A building is registered with the Ministry of Housing and Rural-Urban Development while the land beneath it is listed with the Ministry of Land and Resources.

The disconnected registries have helped enable corrupt officials to conceal ill-gotten assets. In February, a senior Lufeng police official, Zhao Haibin, was sacked after he was accused of owning 192 houses in Huizhou , as well as others in Shenzhen and Zhuhai .

The scattered databases have also presented a hurdle for Beijng in its effort to institute a property tax because there is no single place to go to determine how many properties are owned by each potential taxpayer.

Zhang Hongwei, director of Tospur Property Consulting's research centre, said the centralised registration system would make it possible to expand the property tax to more cities because property ownership would be much easier to trace.

Zhang said the database would also simplify policymakers' efforts to monitor home purchases and devise more precise measures to cool the property market, Zhang said.

It could also help clear the way for a unified market for urban and rural building land - or land used for non-agricultural purposes - a goal the Communist Party's Central Committee set at its third plenum last week.

"The thing now is how fast can that one centralised system be achieved," Zhang said. "The housing ministry has promised to connect the property registration databases of 500 cities, but only achieved 40 cities. You can imagine how much resistance there is from interested parties."

However, Li Chengyan, a professor at Peking University's School of Government, was more upbeat.

"The centralised registration and database will play an important role in building a clean government and is consistent with the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection's request for officials to report their assets," Li said. "I think at least a framework [of the system] will be set up even though its progress maybe slow."