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August 9, 2010

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Residents concerned about idle apartments

RESIDENTS are using online forums to urge authorities to pay attention to the number of idle apartments in the city and further control real estate prices in Shanghai.

Residents are posting photographs of their communities at night that show more than 50 percent of apartments are unlit, which could mean they have not been sold or are unoccupied.

Nearly 100 photos from various residential communities in the city, usually taken between 8pm and 10pm, have been uploaded at an online forum since last Friday.

"We want government agencies to release the official idle rate of Shanghai's property market," a net user with the ID "rong_can" wrote on's property forum.

A high idle rate shows that many properties are owned by investors or speculators who don't actually live in the apartment, leaving most city dwellers unable to afford a decent home.

The Shanghai Bureau of Statistics doesn't release the idle rate in residential communities.

Industry insiders said measuring the idle rate by the number of unlit apartments would not be very accurate.

"Readings of electricity meters and unlit homes are not official ways of measuring the property market's idle rate because they only cover a limited number of residential communities in the city," said Yang Chenqing, an analyst at the research center of E-house China.

Online posters have also expressed doubt about whether the tightening measures against property speculation have been effective.

Previous media reports said that readings on electricity meters from 65.4 million apartments nationwide have been zero for six months, citing sources from the State Grid. This was later denied by the country's electricity transmission network provider.

Property tax?

There have always been arguments that property prices are pushed up by speculators who don't live in the apartments. Those who believe these arguments believe the government needs to introduce tough measures to crack down on speculation and surging home prices.

The government is said to be discussing a plan to introduce a property tax this year.

"A property tax can not completely solve the problem. More budget homes and affordable rental homes need to be built because there are simply too many rich people in the city," wrote "Jun21sh."

The National Bureau of Statistics said last week that new homes ready for handover, but not yet sold or leased, totaled 106.46 million square meters across the country in June, a 0.2 percent year-on-year increase.


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