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China’s Mortgage Crisis Paralyzes Construction as Majority of Unfinished Buildings Remain Unfinished

It has been a year since the wave of unfinished construction projects hit China. Most affected developments have remained unable to resume work or meet delivery dates. Both citizens and banks have lost confidence in developers’ ability to address the issue. The Chinese government has not disclosed the nationwide count of unfinished projects. A survey revealed completion rates of about 56 percent in South China and 40 percent in North China, while Southwest and Central China had rates of only 15 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Henan Province had the lowest rate at 11 percent.

Xu Shirong, a professor at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University sees the unfinished building crisis as a political problem. Local influential figures engage in real estate transactions and development, attracting funds from banks under the influence of local governments. Xu believes relief measures have been aimed at reducing losses for upper-class developers who have influence on public policy.

The crisis emerged in 2019 due to increased government regulations leading to liquidity problems for real estate companies. Homeowners stopped making mortgage payments, triggering a financial crisis. Relief funds were introduced, but developers faced challenges in obtaining them, particularly when some were asked to repay loans. Only a few developers secured financing support from the “16 Financial Measures” policies.

The allocated relief funds of 400 billion RMB ($62 billion) are considered inadequate to address the crisis. Real estate prices have dropped significantly, and banks face risks when holding collateral. The motivation to buy houses has decreased due to factors such as the U.S.-China tech war and the pandemic’s impact on the economy. Commercial properties are difficult to rent out, affecting the sale of residential properties.

Developers’ promotions have not yielded expected results and people lack confidence in unfinished buildings due to their poor quality and a lack of confidence in real estate market policies. Local governments rely on real estate for their economies, and unresolved unfinished projects could burden their finances and create imbalances in urban development.

Source: Voice of America, June 20, 2023