Bejing's 3.8 million vacant homes: for real?

Beijing's municipal government responded to the 3.81 million vacant homes number that went viral yesterday. The number isn't final and empty homes were recorded if no one answered a knock on the door. Therefore, it's not a very robust data point. Articles discussing it have suggested a way of reducing the number of vacant homes though: a vacant home tax. In the current market, it wouldn't take much of a tax to push properties onto the market.

Rather than a vacant home story, this news highlights a growing problem for the Chinese economy: lack of accurate information. China's economy must develop into a service/information economy if it will continue to grow, but there's a real lack of accurate data. People are using methods such as counting lighted windows in the evening (I do see a very high proportion of dark windows in the evening, suggesting vacant homes are everywhere, not just a function of newly built homes) to estimate vacant home totals, but the government could clear it up using water and electricity data.

In the end, a lack of data always backfires. During the worst of an economic crisis, the public will believe the scaremongering rumor mill and ignore the government, even if it gives 100% accurate information.

市公安局回应“381万空置房” 数据不是最后数据

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