The mainland government's attempts to transform housing into a pillar industry have generated demand for 500 million square metres of residential space a year, an investment firm says. Bao Guoping, vice-president of Winsan (China) Investment Group, said growth would be further boosted by plans to increase per capita living space from 7.9 sq metres in 1995 to 9.0 sq metres in 2000. 'In view of the 1.2 billion population in China, that means there should be at least 1.2 billion sq metres of living space available in two years' time to meet the target,' Mr Bao said. According to official statistics, there had been a huge investment increase in the property market over the past five years, with total investment rising from 73.1 billion yuan (about HK$67.9 billion) in 1992 to 283.1 billion yuan in 1995. The figure was expected to grow, Mr Bao said. Though the mainland's second-hand property market was not active at the moment, mortgage loans for individual investors would stimulate more private purchases. Growth also would be spurred by state enterprises encouraging their staff to buy homes through subsidies and incentive schemes. Mr Bao said Beijing had announced in March that residential housing would be a key element of economic development. Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji had said that expediting the construction of residential housing would spur growth in construction-related industries and the national economy. Winsan invests in middle-market projects in coastal areas.