BEIJING China will curb speculative land purchases as it looks to fend off risks in the property market, land minister Jiang Daming said on Wednesday.
China aims to keep its property market stable this year after new-home prices soared 12.4 percent last year, the most since 2011, with the red-hot land market widely viewed as a key contributor to the sharp rise.
Residential land prices in the four top-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou climbed 19 percent to an average of 21,037 yuan ($3,103) per square meter in last year's third quarter, government data show.
Since October, authorities in more than 20 cities have adopted curbs to cool the property market, including measures such as caps on land auction prices.
China will further regulate the land market by improving land auction rules and stabilizing land prices, said Jiang, speaking in Beijing on the sidelines of the annual session of parliament.
City governments will be required to publish medium-term residential land-use plans to give market participants a more stable outlook, he said.
The ministry will adjust land supply to reasonably boost the ratio of residential land in the most overheated cities, while suspending new supplies in smaller cities suffering an overhang, Jiang added.
The land ministry is "studying thoroughly" legal issues related to China's 70-year lease rule on residential land, he added.
The government owns all land in China, unlike most countries, and parcels it out to developers and homeowners through 20- to 70-year leases, leaving in doubt the situation upon expiry.
"Please be at ease, we will make sure homeowners' property rights are effectively protected by law," Jiang said, without giving further details.
China has sought to reassure homeowners by ordering local governments to automatically renew 70-year leases, but the law does not say if homeowners have to pay for the renewal, or what will happen to those with shorter leases.
(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)