BEIJING, April 18 (Xinhua) -- Housing prices remained largely stable in major Chinese cities in March amid tough government purchase restrictions.
As the government maintained purchase restrictions aimed at containing speculative demand, new home prices softened in the country's first-tier cities, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Wednesday.
New house prices in first-tier cities declined 0.6 percent year-on-year last month, while prices of existing houses in these cities went down 0.1 percent year on year.
The property market in second-tier cities is also showing signs of slower growth, with the year-on-year growth of new house prices sliding 0.2 percentage points from a month earlier.
New house prices went down on a yearly basis in nine of the 15 major cities considered the "hottest markets." On a month-on-month basis, new house prices fell in seven of the 15 cities, while Tianjin and Hefei saw home prices flat with February.
"Housing prices were generally stable as market controls have continued to take effect," said NBS statistician Liu Jianwei.
The data came after the NBS released Tuesday that China's investment in property development expanded 10.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of the year, accelerating from an increase of 7 percent registered in 2017.
Total investment in the real estate sector stood at 2.13 trillion yuan (339.2 billion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter, according to the NBS.
"The double digit growth beat market expectations," said Xia Dan, senior researcher of the Bank of Communications, noting that the construction of rental housing and affordable housing partly contributed to the growth.
During previous years, rocketing housing prices, especially in major cities, had fueled concerns about asset bubbles. To curb speculation, local governments passed or expanded their restrictions on house purchases and increased minimum downpayments required for mortgages.
In addition, China is moving faster to implement a long-term mechanism for property regulation that ensures supply through multiple sources, provides housing support through multiple channels, and encourages both housing purchases and rentals.
This year's government work report reiterated that "houses are for living in, not speculation."
"We will support people in buying homes for personal use, and develop the housing rental market and shared ownership housing," the work report said.
So far, 51 state-owned home renting companies have been set up in 12 pilot cities, where government-led rental management and service platforms were established.
For 2018, the government vowed to maintain stability and consistency of property regulatory policies and accelerate establishing the long-term mechanism for real estate regulation.
"China will not waver in its efforts to implement property market regulation and will maintain continuity and stability of policies in 2018," said Wang Menghui, minister of housing and urban-rural development.