Proposal to let farmers in China sell off housing land given cool reception

Official suggests that loosening the rules on home sales will help fund development in poorer rural areas

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 11:05am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 11:05am

A government official’s suggestion that farmers in China should be allowed to sell land allocated to them for housing has been given a lukewarm reception by analysts and experts on rural affairs.

Zhao Hui, the director of the village and township construction department under the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said at a conference on urbanisation the move would allow more private capital to help fund the development of rural areas.

Farmers are given plots for housing that are controlled collectively by villages. Most are forbidden to sell it.

Zhao said that if plots of housing land were sold, roughly a fifth of the cash could go to the farmer and rest shared between the government and the village.

Development in urban area and cities has largely been funded by land sales to the private sector, according to Zhao, but rural development has lagged behind because it relies on government funding.

“No matter how hard the central government tries to allocate funds, it will be dwarfed by funds from private capital,” Zhao said.

Li Guoxiang, a researcher at the Rural Development Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the proposal ran counter to existing laws.

“The constitution stipulates rural land is owned collectively and that is unlikely to be changed in the near future,” said Li.

If farmers sold their land and could not make a living in urban areas, social stability would be affected, Li said.

Kong Xiangbin, a professor at the China Agricultural University, agreed that if farmers sold their land it could create problems, but said an exception might be made in tourist areas in the countryside where some homes could be sold off.

A Communist Party plenum held in Beijing in November last year issued a resolution suggesting there may be changes in the rules governing land allocated to farmers for housing.

Mainland media reported last month, citing anonymous sources, that the government was working on draft regulations on housing land in rural areas, which might be announced this year.