China pushes state banks into home rental markets at their own risk

Vastavam web: As property prices rocket across China, Beijing has appealed to the country’s banks and insurers to help accelerate the development of rental markets as a way of making homes more affordable – and rein in speculative sale markets.The big state banks have responded by pledging more than 3 trillion yuan ($467 billion) in rental housing financing, including for real estate developers, leasing firms and tenants, according to Reuters calculations. The total value of the rental market was 1.3 trillion yuan last year.

CCB began offering the loans in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen in November. Under its pilot scheme, home renters can borrow up to 1 million yuan ($157,000) with no collateral and have up to a decade to repay their loans. “The government, from central to local, is very determined,” CCB President Wang Zuji told Reuters, referring to the push to expand the rental market. He added that supporting policy measures in taxation and land supply were still being studied by the government, and that CCB was still “exploring” how it could finance the initiative. Liu Feng, a 28-year-old product manager, was one of the first to take out a rental loan from CCB for his 90 square meter (970 square feet) three-room apartment in Shenzhen.

He said his monthly payments under the plan – including interest – came to about 6,000 yuan, less than if he paid for it himself, meaning the bank was effectively subsidizing his rent.Also last year Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (1398.HK) (601398.SS) launched a similar product in Guangzhou and Bank of China Ltd (601988.SS) (3988.HK) issued its first loan to renters in Xiamen. Both of the southern cities have been chosen by the central government to test real estate sector reforms. A retail loan officer at one of China’s 12 joint-stock banks said his bank had decided not to offer the product.

“After CCB launched the products we looked into it closely, but only to find that was not something we could afford – interest rates were just too low to cover the cost of funding,” the officer said, declining to be named. “Only deep-pocketed large state banks can bear the cost”. “The products have low bars for loan applicants, so risk control is really the key,” said Yang Xianling, chief economist at Ke Research Institute. “A credit-based mechanism needs to be introduced to carefully prevent speculators”. To mitigate risks, banks are considering packaging rental-related loans into asset-backed securities and real estate investment trusts and transferring risk to other investors, the sources said.