Could this spell the end to the likes of Beijing Yosemite and Chateau Regalia? In an attempt to curb China's property boom and address the imbalance between rich and poor, the Ministry of Land and Resources last week halted the allocation of land for luxury villas. Property rates in Shanghai—China's frothiest market—have tripled in the past five years as buyers snap up units in oddly named, lavishly priced complexes. But land-ministry officials admit the availability of low-cost housing has been neglected. "The country cannot afford construction of large villas to meet the demand of a few high-end customers while sacrificing the interests of the majority," vice director Shu Kexin told the state-run China Daily
Just a decade ago, most Chinese lived in government-housing complexes with drab names like Living Community No. 506, which may not have boasted the amenities of Beijing's Merlin Champagne Town but at least kept a roof over everyone's head. Now, the price of a 100-sq-m Shanghai apartment has risen to around $113,000—beyond the reach of a city dweller's average annual salary of $3,333.
Still, the land ministry's attempts to address the problem may do little. For one, it hasn't defined the term "villa," leading some developers to omit the word in hopes of skirting the law. "Oh no, we don't live in a villa," jokes Geng Yong, a resident of Shanghai's Fragrant Lotus Garden estate. "We live in a garden."