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China pushing for unified property registration by year-end

[BEIJING] China will push for a unified real estate registration system in all cities and counties by the end of the year, state media said on Sunday, seen as a major step in the fight against corruption.

China's plan for a nationwide property database, once hailed as an antidote to corruption, stalled in the face of resistance from local governments - highlighting the difficulty Beijing faces in driving through reforms to tackle widespread graft.

A unified real estate database is seen not only as vital for authorities to administer the housing market, but could also force corrupt local officials to disclose properties purchased with illicit funds, industry experts say. "Strive for all cities and counties to be able to implement unified registration as well as issuing new certificates by the end of the year," Vice Minister of Land and Resources Wang Min, was quoted by his ministry's official newspaper as saying on Friday.

The government would also "explore and improve the system of the competitive transfer of mining rights", Wang said.

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Officials have said that China needs about three years to fully establish a unified registration system for real estate, and about four years establish a unified registration information management platform, which would support fiscal and financial reforms.

In 2014, China issued rules requiring real-estate owners to register their holdings with authorities. Publication of the rules took longer than expected, officials said, reflecting heavy resistance from local governments and other insiders.

While information on property ownership is already collected in some form by authorities, experts said the current record-keeping system for residential property is not consolidated or comprehensive, making it insufficient to effectively monitor the housing market.

China's only housing census was done in 1986.