BEIJING (Reuters) - China's property prices will remain stable in the first quarter, housing minister Chen Zhenggao said on Thursday, adding the government has the capacity and methods to stabilize the market.
"We are aware that the property market faces many contradictions and problems in 2017, and there are increasing uncertainties," Chen told reporters. "But I believe the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones and we have the ability and methods to stabilize the market."
The vice housing minister told reporters separately that preparatory work was now being done for a nationwide property tax, but he did not provide further details.
China's home price growth slowed for the fourth straight month in January after authorities slapped curbs on the property sector - a major contributor to the broader economy - over the past year as the concentration of price surges in the country's wealthiest cities stoked fears of a nasty crash.
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Lu Kehua, vice housing minister, said the country's property inventory reduction efforts will be more effective in 2017 compared with last year, and the government will continue to crack down on irregularities in the market in 2017.
The government will accelerate the drafting of laws to regulate the rental market and will encourage developers to operate rental businesses, he added.
China's megacities of Chongqing and Shanghai have been the only two cities to enforce a pilot property ownership tax scheme since 2011, raising taxes on those with multiple homes to penalize speculators.
(Reporting by Yawen Chen; Writing by Sue-Lin Wong; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)