© Reuters. An aerial view shows unfinished residential buildings of the Gaotie Wellness City complex in Tongchuan, Shaanxi province, China, September 12, 2023. REUTERS/Xiaoyu Yin/File photo

BEIJING (Reuters) – Even China’s population of 1.4 billion would not be enough to fill all the empty apartments across the country, a former official said on Saturday in a rare public criticism of the country’s troubled real estate market.

China’s real estate sector, once the pillar of the economy, has slumped since 2021 as property giant China Evergrande (HK:) Group defaulted on its debt obligations following a crackdown on new borrowing.

Well-known property developers such as Country Garden Holdings remain close to insolvency today, keeping homebuyer sentiment depressed.

At the end of August, the total area of ​​unsold homes stood at 648 million square meters (7 billion square feet), the latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows.

According to Reuters calculations, that would be 7.2 million apartments, based on an average living space of 90 square meters.

This does not include the numerous residential projects that have already been sold but not yet completed due to liquidity problems, as well as the numerous empty houses bought by speculators during the last market upswing in 2016, which together make up the majority of the unused apartments, experts estimate.

“How many empty houses are there currently? Each expert gives a completely different figure, with the extremist estimating that the current number of empty houses is enough for three billion people,” said He Keng, 81, a former deputy head of the statistics bureau.

“This estimate may be a bit high, but 1.4 billion people probably cannot fill it,” he said at a forum in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan, according to a video published by the official press China News Service.

His negative view of the economically important sector at a public forum contrasts sharply with the official narrative that China’s economy is “resilient.”

“Every now and then all sorts of comments come out predicting the collapse of the Chinese economy, but what led to the collapse is such rhetoric, not the Chinese economy,” a State Department spokesman said at a recent news conference.

Source : www.investing.com

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