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Northwestern city boasts housing boom

ALTHOUGH the Chinese housing market has continued to slump since the beginning of 2009, the housing price in Yinchuan, capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, boasts the country's biggest increase in the past six months.

Housing prices in the country's 70 major cities fell 0.9 percent from a year earlier, according to a joint statement issued last week by the National Development and Reform Commission and the National Bureau of Statistics. Housing prices in some eastern cities, such as Shenzhen, had fallen 16.5 percent by January.

However, in Yinchuan the prices of new homes rose 8.8 percent year-on-year in January. The apartments in the city's downtown areas are selling for more than 4,500 yuan (US$658) per square meter.

Annual income

Even so, prices in downtown Yinchuan are around one fifth of those in Beijing or Shanghai, where new homes sell for 20,000 yuan to 30,000 yuan per square meter on average.

"Only three years ago, the average housing price here was below 3,000 yuan per square meter," Ma Jun, a real estate researcher said on Saturday. "The price keeps going up, but the average yearly income of Yinchuan residents has stood still at about 14,400 yuan."

The city's migrant population is said to be responsible for pushing up housing prices. The migrant population purchased more than 12 million square meters of apartments in 2008, more than 57 percent of the total housing sales, said Ma. Yinchuan, dubbed "the city of migrants," has a population of 1.4 million.

Housing prices in underdeveloped western parts of China used to be low, and those low prices attracted many migrant homebuyers, said Liu Xueli, from the city's housing department. Liu said that most of the buyers don't intend to live there, but buy them as an investment.


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