BEIJING, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Home prices kept rising at a quicker pace in major Chinese cities in January, underscoring the need for government measures to cool the property market, data released Friday shows.
Of a statistical pool of 70 major Chinese cities monitored by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 53 cities saw home prices increase within 2.2 percent in January from a month earlier. In December, 54 cities recorded increases with a growth margin of no more than 1.2 percent.
New home prices in first-tier cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen rose 2.1 percent, 1.3 percent, 2.0 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, on a month-on-month basis, marking a quicker pace of growth than in December.
On a year-on-year basis, 53 cities registered rising prices, with the growth rate taking a drastic jump to 4.7 percent from the 2.4-percent rise recorded in December, the NBS said in a statement on its website.
Liu Jianwei, a senior statistician with the NBS, attributed the sharper price increase in January to two factors: property developers phasing out sales promotions after prior discounts had taken effect and buyers cashing in amid intensifying worries about future price rises.
At 4.7 percent, new home prices in Guangzhou recorded the largest year-on-year growth, followed by Urumqi and Beijing. The eastern city of Wenzhou saw housing prices plunge 10.1 percent year on year in January, according to the NBS.
Compared with December, only 10 cities saw prices fall and seven saw prices stay unchanged.
Compared with January 2012, 16 cities saw prices decline and one remained the same.
For resold homes, 51 cities witnessed price rises in January, up from 46 cities in December.H Since 2010, the Chinese government has adopted a range of measures, including restricting third-home purchases and introducing property tax trials, to reel in the runaway real estate market, which has been the country's key economic driver in recent years.
However, home prices started to rebound unexpectedly in the second half of 2012, shored up by the country's pro-growth policies, including two consecutive interest rate cuts and the lowering of banks' reserve requirement ratio.
Amid the increasingly warming property market, the State Council, China's cabinet, reaffirmed its stance on Wednesday, saying it will strictly implement and improve measures to tighten the housing market and ensure that the policies remain steady.
The cabinet asked cities that have imposed restrictions on the housing market to maintain their grip, while other cities in which home prices have soared will be asked by provincial governments to introduce timely curbing measures, according to a statement released after the cabinet meeting held Wednesday.
It also said China must continue to curb speculation in the housing market and expand experimental property tax reforms in Shanghai and Chongqing to more regions.
Liu Jianwei, the statistician with the NBS, forecast that prices will not rebound dramatically if these measures are strictly implemented, especially in light of the completion of more affordable housing units this year.
China will finish construction on 4.7 million affordable housing units and start construction on another 6.3 million units in 2013, the State Council also said Wednesday.
The affordable housing program, first approved in 1999, has enabled low-income families to own homes despite the overheated real estate sector in recent years.
The government allocated 233.26 billion yuan (37.1 billion U.S. dollars) for subsidized housing projects in 2012, up 36.2 percent year on year, according to the Ministry of Finance.
Meanwhile, the government is planning the construction of 36 million affordable housing units during the 2011-2015 period.
Liu also said that based on last year's rate of sale, the 236 million square meters of housing pending sale in December should be sold by March.
That means the housing market faces a generally balanced situation in supply and demand, providing a foundation for forecasting stabilizing housing prices, said the statistician.
China's economy is also showing signs of stabilization, as GDP growth quickened to 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 after hitting an almost three-year low in the third, according to NBS data.
The NBS said the country's consumer price index (CPI), a major gauge of inflation, eased to 2 percent year on year in January from a seven-month high in December despite rising food prices.
In the pursuit of high-quality and efficient growth, the central government vowed to maintain a proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy in 2013 during a key economic work conference in December.