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破解地产泡沫和房子短缺的迷局  

2012-07-24 13:38:30|  分类: 人文社会 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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 过去15年,中国房地产如果能够合理发展的话,就不会出现目前的泡沫和短缺的困局。令人遗憾的是,这个困局已经成为阻碍城市化、经济可持续发展和人民谋求幸福生活的严重障碍。
   收入两极分化,腐败和传统文化是造成这一尴尬局面的三大推手。
   如果把城市人口按人均收入高低分为10等分,最富组的人均收入和最贫困组的人均收入的比例,早在1990年就已经高达7倍了。但是,到了2011年,这一比例提高到了33倍。如果把不能见到阳光的收入计算在内,这个倍数还要高得更加离谱。1978年,全国居民的人均收入基尼系数只有0.2,到了2011年,基尼系数高达0.5。
   收入两极分化说明,有钱人可以买得起大的和贵的商品房,而中低收入人群只能买得起经济适用房。有钱人大约占全国城市总人口的20%,中低收入人群占80%。
   地方政府官员、地产开发商和银行的腐败行为意味着,他们唯一的目的就是不惜牺牲广大人民和整个社会的利益,来牟取非正常的垄断暴利。这种昧着良心的牟取暴利行为,使三个利益集团密切勾结,集中开发利润丰厚、大户型、高价格的商品房,来满足富人阶层的需求。而对利润薄、小户型、价格低的经济适用房却一点兴趣也没有,使得广大中低收入的家庭没法买到他们想买,也买得起的房子。
   经济适用房的严重短缺,迫使中低收入人群拼命和富人竞争,购买大户型和高价格的商品房,进而推高商品房的价格,并造商品房的短缺。
   中国的传统文化要求男人必须先有房子,才能结婚。结果,有钱人喜欢买多套房子,不仅仅是为自己买,也是为孩子和孙子购买。
   这种看上去似乎‘不理性’的买房行为,加上大量的农民工涌入城市,创造了一个极其强大、并且永不满足的需求。更为极端的例子是,有的家庭,倾三代人的存款,就是为了孙子能在北京、或者广州,购买一套房子,让他在那里结婚和定居。
   贪婪无度的地产商、地方政府官员和银行家,充分利用普通百姓这种近乎疯狂而缺乏理性的消费心理,通过互相勾结,通过拒绝中央政府建设经济适用房的政策,通过把大量的新建商品房空置,来创造人为的短缺,并肆意的推高价格,达到牟取暴利之目的。中国目前房价之高,普通人一辈子卖命的工作,也只是为了买一套没有土地产权的房子。而有更多的人,穷的连买房子的梦都不敢做。
   中国近7亿的城市人口,有2.6亿是农村移民。因为房价奇高,他们买不起房子,只好把老婆孩子留在边远的乡村。这样的结果,使中国城市化出现两个致命的弱点。一是,大量的人口长期处于流动状态。二是,这些人口不敢消费,因为他们面对太多的人生未知数。
   中国房地产是一个泡沫无疑,但是这个泡沫却无从可以刺破。一方面,开发商利润丰厚,加上国有银行大量而利率低下的软约束,它们有超强的抗风险能力。另一方面,在地产泡沫开始之前,大多数大型开发商已经囤积了大量的土地。
   这种有泡沫而不会爆破的市场,对中国经济和社会有两个负面影响。其一,当政府进行限购时,地产商不会通过降低价格来促进销售,结果是量降价不降,造成开发速度下降,拖累经济的增长速度。其二,中低收入人群照样买不起房子,也没有房子买,严重阻碍中国城市化的进程,阻碍内需拉动。
   要绕开目前这种房子短缺--高房价--再短缺的恶性循环,中央政府已经下令,要求地方政府在2015年前建设多达3600万套的经济适用房,这无疑是可喜的一步。但是,也有许多问题,还没有得到回答。
   例如,如果没有政府的大量补贴,这个廉租房计划能否持续?
   再如,地方政府已经失去昔日天量级的土地转让费,它们还有能力拿到那么多的土地建造廉租房吗?
   我认为,为了保护上述三大利益集团的既得利益,中国政府到目前为止还在绕开两个重要的命题。一,政府不愿意对囤积土地、囤积房产采取果断的税收政策。二,政府也没有明确建造房子的大小,来保证土地的有效利用,从满足广大民众的刚性需求出发,来保证城市化的健康发展。
   Understanding China’s Housing Bubble and Shortage
   Had China’s real estate industry been developed properly in the last 15 years, there would not have been such a nasty bubble accompanied with a structural acute shortage that has become a huge hurdle for urbanisation, sustainable growth and improvement of people’s livelihood.  
   There are three key factors responsible for the current housing bubble and artificial shortage: rising income inequality, corruption and culture.
   If the urban population is divided into ten groups of equal sizes which are ranked in descending order of per capita incomes, the ratio of per capita income of the richest group over that of the poorest group was already high at seven times in 1990, but it rose sharply to 33 by 2011. If unofficial grey incomes were included, the ratio would have been much greater. The Gini coefficient of per capita incomes among all the urban and rural households rose from 0.2 in 1978 to almost 0.5 today based on official statistics.
   Rising income inequality implies that rich people can afford to buy large and expensive commercial houses, but middle and low income people can only afford to buy small and cheap houses. The rich or high income people account for only a small proportion of the total urban population, possibly 20 percent. The vast majority of people, or at least 80 percent of all the urban population, belong to the middle and low income group.
   Corruption of government officials, house builders and bankers means that their only objective is to maximise abnormal monopolistic profits at the expenses of the vast majority of people and the society. Such profit maximisation behaviour has driven house developers, in collusion with local government officials and bankers, to focus their investments almost exclusively on large and expensive houses, meeting the demand of the rich. Little attention has been paid to the construction of economic housing to meet the demand of the middle and low income households because of low profitability.
   Consequently, there has been an acute shortage of economic housing, forcing the middle and low income households to compete with rich families to buy commercial houses at high prices, simultaneously creating shortage and pushing prices even higher in that sector.
   Chinese traditions and culture require men to have houses before they get married, explaining why rich people want to buy multiple houses not only for themselves but also for their children and grandchildren.
   This seemingly ‘irrational’ housing demand behaviour, coupled with a massive influx of rural workers into cities, create a powerful and almost insatiable demand for housing. In the most extreme case, people deplete savings of three generations just to buy an apartment in Beijing or Guangzhou so that the grandson can have a foothold in the city to get married.
   Greedy house developers, local government officials and bankers take advantage of Chinese people’s ‘insane’ desire for housing by colluding, by not building small and cheap houses, by hoarding a large number of newly constructed commercial apartments unoccupied, to create artificial shortage and drive prices up to such a level that an ordinary person has to work for his whole life just for a lease-hold apartment. Many low income people can never even dream of buying a house in the city.
   Out of the 700 million urban residents, 260 million are rural migrants. As house prices are so high, the vast majority of rural migrants cannot afford to buy a house and have to leave their families behind in the remote countryside. As a result, China’s urbanisation suffers from two fundamental weaknesses. Firstly, a large proportion of the urban population are floating residents. Secondly, consumption ability in the city is critically undermined as the floating population face huge uncertainties in their lives.
   The Chinese housing market looks like a huge bubble. However, this bubble may not burst for two reasons. First, large house developers can afford to hoard a large amount of housing without becoming bankrupt due to ridiculously high profit margins and soft budget constraints provided by state-owned banks through easy and cheap credits. Second, most house developers had accumulated a large amount of land before the housing bubble was formed.
   There are a number of negative consequences of such a non-bursting housing bubble and shortage. First of all, when the government imposed quantity restriction on house-buying, house developers resisted to sell houses at reduced prices. This means that house prices have not come down to benefit house buyers, but house construction has declined sharply, leading to a slowdown of economic growth. Secondly, middle and low income people are still unable to buy any affordable houses, prohibiting China’s urbanisation process and ability to stimulate domestic consumption.
   To move away from the vicious circle of housing shortage, high price and further shortage, the central government has ordered local governments to construct low-rent houses in the order of 36 million units before 2015. This is undoubtedly a move in the right direction but serious questions remain unanswered.
   How can the low-rent housing programme be sustained without massive government subsidies? How can the government acquire enough land to build those houses once local governments have lost their massive land sales revenues that were possible in the past?
   The government has not tried to resolve the very problems that have caused the current difficulty in the housing market, including its unwillingness to introduce house hoarding or land hoarding taxes, to restrict the size of commercial housing so that land can be used more efficiently to accommodate as many people as possible in the rapidly urbanizing process.     

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