Text by Yu Qun
China’s decades-long practiceof issuing property and landownership certificates throughdifferent agencies is expectedto end in 2014. At the end of November2013, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announcedthat China plans to consolidatevarious real estate registration offices intoone body. Concrete policies will be issuedand a single registration and informationsharingplatform will be established by theend of June 2014.
Both Houses and Land
At present, China’s land ownershiptitles are issued by land and resourcesoffices, while home ownership deeds areissued by housing and urban-rural developmentoffices. Thus, most Chinese homeownership certificates only carry informationabout the house, while informationabout the land on which the house stands ismissing. Construction of the single registrationplatform aims to eliminate inefficienciesof the existing process, in whichvarious properties are registered withdifferent government agencies. Meanwhile,rights for contracted management of variousland, such as usage, will be registeredthrough the same system.
In many Western countries, real estateregistration is a basic social service involvingadministrations of tax, finance, andindustry and commerce. The United States,which greatly respects personal privacyin many respects, even makes real estaterecords public. Detailed information aboutalmost every residence in the United States,as important private property, is openlyavailable on commercial websites or localgovernment websites.
According to Zillow.com, Bill Gatesowns a residence at 1835 73rd Ave NE,Medina. Zillow is one of America’s mostpopular web portal providing informationrelated to real estate, apartments, and mortgages.Detailed information about Gates’lake villa is all out there. Covering an areaof 5.15 acres, the villa has eight bedroomsand 25 bathrooms. According to the latestZillow estimation, it’s worth more thanUS$167 million.
However, registration of real estateinformation in China is a slow and difficultprocess. In China, immovable property isclassified into one of several categories,which determines which governmentalagency administers it. Nearly 10 agenciesin China have various jurisdictions toissue certificates to property rights varyingacross realms such as housing, forests,meadows and marine areas. Wang Xiaoying,researcher with the Rural DevelopmentInstitute of the Chinese Academy of SocialSciences, explains, “China’s implementationof the classified registration system forvarious immovable property began duringthe planned economy era, largely for thesake of managerial convenience.”