The mainland government's curb on approving new villa development has driven up prices for existing villas by 50 per cent in Shenzhen in the past two years, according to property consultants. Michael Choi Ngan-min, chairman of Land Power International, said the growing demand for luxury villas was helped by the increasing number of affluent people in the city, keen to improve their living standards. Buyers of villas in Shenzhen were entrepreneurs from Dongguang, Nanhai and Foshan, he said. 'These private entrepreneurs are awash with cash and they can afford to buy pricy properties,' he said. Hong Kong buyers were also interested in the sector, agents said. The villa market turned buoyant two years ago following the mainland government's curb on the allocation of land for new villas, which was implemented in 2003. According to a survey conducted by Centaline China, prices of some villas exceed 20,000 yuan per square metre, about 50 per cent higher than those sold two years ago. The strong demand is backed by the latest sales response to Emerald Canyons at the Mission Hills Golf Resort in Shenzhen. The developer, Mission Hills Group, said it sold 108 villas on the first day of the official sale. A spokesman at Mission Hills said 60 per cent of buyers at Emerald Canyons were from Hong Kong. The project, comprising 156 villas, is part of the $4 billion Mission Hills resort that includes 10 golf courses and a five-star hotel. Villas at Emerald Canyons measure between 2,100 sqft and 3,100 sqft with private gardens ranging in size from 6,000 sqft to 20,000 sqft. Prices range from $6 million to $10 million per house.