The Chinese Housing Ponzi Exposed: "As We Sell Our First Apartments, We’ll Have Cash Flow To Build The Next Stage"

Tyler Durden's picture

Much has been said here and elsewhere about not only China's ghost cities - that final resting place where trillions in Chinese GDP "fixed investment" goes to quietly die but no before contributing to over half of China's GPD - over the past five years, but also about the bursting of the Chinese housing bubble in the past several months now that the Beijing Politburo has drastically slowed down the pace of loan creation and the country has shocked its bond investors by admitting failure is an all too real possibility. This post will therefore hardly reveal anything new, however it will provide some perspective on how from one of the most important industries for China's suddenly cooling economy, housing has becoming nothing more (or less) than one giant Ponzi scheme.

Here are some of the soundbites of a recent Bloomberg piece showing how "Xi’s Squeeze Leaves China’s Heartland Missing Boom" covering such exciting topics as:

... Bubbles:

Cities in China are facing some serious real estate bubbles, and the bubbles in third-, fourth-tier cities have the risks of total collapse,” said Tao Ran, director of the China Center for Public Economics and Governance at Renmin University in Beijing, in a phone interview on March 31. “The central government and banks tightened credit in the property market because they realized the risks.”

... Collateral

That makes it harder for Zhu Houlun, 43, who took over as Laohekou party secretary in August 2012 with plans to merge with neighboring Gucheng by building a new urban center on 70 square kilometers (27 square miles) of farming communities between the two. The project would create a city of 700,000 by 2020, more than double Laohekou’s existing urban population, according to a Xiangyang government report.

 

Zhu must rely on private developers like Liu Pingfeng, from neighboring Hunan province, who is building a 5 billion yuan project north of Laohekou called the Red River Valley Eco-Tourism Resort that includes apartments, a five-star hotel, a theme park and a polo club.

 

Raising funds is very difficult,” said Liu, 47, who has been building in Hunan for a decade. “I used to use land as collateral -- as long as I got the land certificate I could get the loan. Now it’s almost impossible.”

... Musical fountains:

In Red River’s muddy construction site by the river, there are clusters of concrete skeletons that Liu says are due to open in October as shops, cafes, bars and a fitness center. Nearby is a hole in the ground the size of a football field that will be a musical fountain.

... KFCs:

Downtown Laohekou shows how far the city has lagged behind development in the east. Rows of weather-stained four- and five-story buildings line the streets, with shopfronts selling liquor, cheap household goods and clothes. There’s no department store, no passenger railway station, no KFC -- the Yum! Brands Inc. (YUM) chain found in 900 other Chinese cities and townships. The nearest civilian airport is an hour’s drive away.

... Social problems:

“Local government officials are still very fixated on economic growth,” said Lynette Ong, an associate professor at the University of Toronto who wrote the 2012 book “Prosper or Perish: The Political Economy of Credit and Fiscal Systems in Rural China.” “Without growth, a lot of social problems like unemployment will surface.”

... from ashes to ashes, from ghost town to ghost town:

The expansion on the coast was largely fed by immigrants from provinces like Hubei that are now struggling to lure them back. On a February morning in Laohekou’s cavernous and unheated labor exchange, a single jobseeker scans the vacancies posted on the back wall, while five female staff clutch thermoses of hot drinks to keep warm.

 

“It’s hard to hire people here,” said Zhang Hongju, one of the staff. “The young people have all gone to Guangdong and those who haven’t need to stay home to take care of elderly family or kids.”

 

In Chen Genxin’s village, slated to be demolished to make way for China Dreamland, he says everyone is over 50. His sons left during the boom to get jobs in other cities. “If the country wants us to tear it down, we’ll tear it down,” said Chen, 71, as he harvests spinach from his small plot with his wife in the afternoon sun. “The earth will bury me wherever I go.”

... and, of course, the fact that it is all one massive Ponzi scheme:

In Red River’s muddy construction site by the river, there are clusters of concrete skeletons that Liu says are due to open in October as shops, cafes, bars and a fitness center. Nearby is a hole in the ground the size of a football field that will be a musical fountain.

 

The soaring cost of loans means Liu will build and sell Red River in stages. “As we sell our first batch of apartments, we’ll have cash flow to build the next stage,” he said in an interview in February in Laohekou.

Finally, some pictures:

A construction-site hoarding displays an artist's impression of a development containing Tiffany and Louis Vuitton shops in Luying village on the outskirts of Laohekou, Hubei Province, China

Chen Genxin, farmer, and his wife stand for a photograph at their plot of land which is going to be requisitioned to make way for the China Dreamland residential and tourism project by Sichuan Hengxinyuanda Investment Group on the outskirts of Laohekou, Hubei Province, China

 

The new Laohekou Number 1 Middle School stands under construction on the outskirts of Laohekou, Hubei Province, China, on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.

China Dreamland residential and tourism project by Sichuan Hengxinyuanda Investment Group stands under construction on the outskirts of Laohekou,