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China property 'stealth easing' spreads in boost to home prices

Shanghai

AT least 11 Chinese cities have eased restrictions on residency-permits this year, potentially giving their ailing property markets a boost.

The moves are seen as part of a "stealth easing" of property curbs that have helped keep a lid on housing prices.

New-home prices rose at the slowest pace in eight months in December 2018, the most recent data showed.

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While combating property speculation is one of Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature policies, a deepening economic slowdown is prompting some city governments to loosen the screws.

In one of the latest cases, Xi'an last week allowed all non-locals holding an undergraduate degree to apply for a residency permit known as a hukou, scrapping a maximum age limit of 45.

The age limit for people with a high-school-equivalent vocational degrees was raised to 45 from 35.

A hukou holder can buy as many as two residential properties in the Shaanxi provincial capital.

Otherwise, a prospective buyer would need to have paid two years of income or social securities tax to qualify to purchase property, and be limited to one unit.

Last year, more than 100 cities eased residency policies to attract skilled workers, helping spur housing demand and push prices higher, according to Zhang Dawei, an analyst at Centaline Group.

"Those policies are equivalent to lowering home-buying thresholds," he said. BLOOMBERG