Guangdong province has banned new property projects for 12 months. The freeze applies to all residential and commercial projects. Provincial planning commission deputy director Zheng Guorui said the freeze was intended to reduce the stockpile of empty flats in the province, a result of over-building. He said the Government intended to buy some of the stock to sell to Guangdong people at subsidised prices to ease a housing shortage. How much would be spent and how many flats would be bought by the authorities would vary from city to city, depending on city governments involved. 'It depends on each city's earnings,' he said. Mr Zheng said there was no overall figure on how much the provincial Government estimated it needed to spend to purchase the empty flats. He said there were relatively more empty units in Shenzhen, Huizhou and Guangzhou. Guangzhou Vice-Mayor Chen Kaizhi said the city would introduce further new measures in the second half of this month to boost sales. But he would not say what the new measures were. A slowdown in the mainland real estate sector has led to price falls in many cities in Guangdong. But property owners and developers in Guangzhou have been reluctant to cut asking prices. City officials believed that prices for housing, offices and commercial space were relatively high and did not reflect market conditions. Guangzhou maintains that the city has a low vacancy level, at between three and five per cent, while the vacancy rate is higher on the outskirts, where transport is less convenient. Renewed protests in recent weeks from Hong Kong buyers of Guangdong properties resulted in the establishment of a committee that includes construction, commerce and land administration officials from Guangdong cities including Panyu, Nanhai, Huizhou, Foshan, Zhongshan and Dongguan. Complaints from the buyers included developers not finishing projects on time, poor construction and differences between completed flats and what was advertised. Provincial Vice-Governor Tang Bingquan yesterday reassured disgruntled buyers that officials would work for a solution to the problem. 'We have the ability to settle the problem. Hong Kong people should remain calm,' he said.