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Officials ordered to become estate agents

GOVERNMENT officials in an east China city have been ordered to sell homes in a drive to boost the housing industry.

The government of Hanting District in Shandong Province's Weifang City issued an official government decree on January 14, requiring that its officials sell at least one apartment in the first half of the year to revitalize the real estate market, today's Economic Reference News reported.

If the officials cannot sell the homes by the end of June, they will have to buy one themselves. Or, they will be punished by a salary cut and the departments they work with will get a poor evaluation, according to the details in a follow-up document issued by the district housing bureau.

If the apartment sold is less than 75 square meters, that is only regarded as half an apartment, the bureau said.

The home sale results are being published every month.

In the first two months, officials from 53 departments had sold 306 homes.

But officials who have not managed a sale are concerned.

One official who declined to be identified told the Economic Reference News that he has not yet found a buyer.

He did not need to buy a new apartment for himself and could not afford one anyway.

"Since the government arranges housing for most officials, extra homes are not needed," he said. And he said he could not afford one of the new homes which sell for at least 200,000 yuan (US$29,259.31).

Senior officials with Hanting's housing bureau and district government refused to comment on the home sale decree which is controversial.

Professor Tan Qiugui with China University of Political Science and Law opposes the decree, saying it mars the government's image - the government should not be sharing interests with property developers.


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