China's property market slump continues despite loosened regulations

China's real estate woes, triggered by tighter government regulations, drag on even after the curbs have been loosened.

The latest statistics show new home prices dropped in 62 major cities out of 70 in December and that real estate investment in 2023 fell 9.6 percent from the previous year.

Two major property developers, Evergrande Group and Country Garden, have been declared in default.

What triggered the slump in the property market was the tightening of regulations by the Chinese government out of concern over an asset-inflated bubble.

The stronger regulations were put in place in 2020 under the slogan that houses are for living, not for speculation.

The government spelled out the "three red lines" for the debts of property developers with the intention of restricting new borrowing.

The tighter regulations worsened the cash management of many real estate firms, leading to delays or suspensions of housing construction.

In the face of the prolonged slump, the Communist Party Politburo decided in July last year to adjust and optimize the property policy.

The government later announced it was relaxing regulations on housing loans.

With little improvement to be seen in the market, the government approved in October the issuing of 1 trillion yuan, or about 139 billion dollars, in new government bonds to push for infrastructure investment.

Observers say it is very unusual for China's budget to be reviewed during the year. Market players saw this move as suggesting a sense of urgency held by the leadership of President Xi Jinping.

A key meeting in December to discuss economic policy for the coming year unveiled measures to deal with a property market slump and the related debt risks of local governments.

The Communist Party has yet to hold an important meeting of the Central Committee that was originally expected last autumn. Some observers say the leadership may have had difficulty coming up with effective measures.