Caixin
Sep 15, 2020 12:01 PM

社论 | 促长租 利安居 Editorial: Making Renting a Home Less Arduous Will Help Fix China’s Housing Market (Bilingual)

住房租赁市场有望得到规范和发展。近日,住房和城乡建设部发布《住房租赁条例(征求意见稿)》(下称《征求意见稿》)。这份业内呼吁已久的文件重视保护承租人合法权益;加强长租公寓运营的规范和监管,则成为其最大亮点。我们期待它有助于构建稳定的住房租赁关系,促进租赁市场长期健康发展,使承租人真正安居乐业。

China’s home rental market is moving toward greater regulation and development. In recent days, the country’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development published a new set of legal proposals for public comment.

The document, which experts have long called for, emphasizes two main things: the protection of renters’ legal rights and interests, and the need to strengthen standards and regulation for long-term rental apartments. We look forward to seeing it stabilize the home rental market, spur the market’s healthy long-term growth, and allow tenants to enjoy a more settled home life.

近年来,多地长租公寓屡屡“爆雷”,引发租客大规模维权。长租公寓运营模式自身存在缺陷和隐患,新冠疫情则加剧了其风险的暴露。纵然有种种不足,也应看到,住房租赁在中国有着巨大的市场需求,尤其在房价高昂、年轻人纷纷涌入的一线城市。据调查,34岁以下的年轻人是租房主力,其事业刚起步,财力尚不足,善待他们事关城市的未来。对这一市场存在的乱象,必须坚定不移地加以规范,同时应为其发展营造宽松的政策环境,鼓励企业探索多种模式。二者看似矛盾,实则统一。判断标准便是视其是否有利于消除经济金融风险,有利于租赁市场长期健康发展,有利于公正维护利益相关人的权益。

In recent years, frequent problems in China’s local long-term rental markets have spurred large numbers of renters to move to protect their rights. The coronavirus pandemic has revealed and exacerbated the clear shortcomings and hidden risks in the way that long-term rental properties are run. Despite a host of other issues, China has huge demand for rental housing, especially in megacities with rising numbers of young people and high property prices.

Surveys have shown that people under 35 years old are most likely to rent a home in China. This group is still at the beginning of their careers and tends to lack independent wealth, but holds the key to the future of their adopted cities. We must move decisively to tame this chaotic market while also creating a relaxed policy environment that allows further development while encouraging businesses to explore new models.

Although these two concepts seem mutually exclusive, they are not. The standard for judging them is to determine whether they help eradicate economic and financial risks, develop the rental market in a healthy way over the long term, and fairly protect people’s rights and interests.

长租公寓行业发展多年,已衍生出集中式、分散式、开发商自有式等多种类型。近年来,在政策支持与资本加持下,分散式长租公寓行业迅猛扩张。不过,其商业模式存在缺陷和隐患,一大表现是滥用“租金贷”,且租客使用租金贷比例高。租金贷作为一种金融工具,本身无可厚非,但若过度使用,一旦长租公寓企业资金链断裂、无法按期向房东支付租金,房东可能会收回房屋,而租客还需继续履行其与金融机构签订的贷款合同,风险极大。长租公寓“高进低出”“长收短付”的风险与之类似。

Many different models of long-term home rental market have emerged in China over the years, from the concentrated, to the decentralized, to the developer-led.

Recently, decentralized industries have expanded rapidly thanks to policy and capital support. However, there are shortcomings and hidden dangers in their business models, as demonstrated in the abuse of so-called “rent loans,” when long-term tenants simultaneously sign contracts with both the rental company and an associated loan provider.

As a financial instrument, rent loans are nothing sinister. But if the rental company suffers financial issues and can’t pay landlords on time, then landlords can take back control of their properties, leaving tenants servicing their debts to the loan provider despite not occupying their homes. China is home to a number of similar schemes that can rapidly leave tenants on the hook for rent they cannot or should not pay.

《征求意见稿》将这些容易引发经济纠纷和金融风险的乱象纳入监管,极其必要。它规定,直辖市、设区的市级人民政府可以建立住房租赁资金监管制度,将租金、押金等纳入监管。这将是下一步住房租赁市场监管的重点。去年年底,住建部联合国家发改委等六部门发文提出,将指导租赁企业在银行设立租赁资金监管账户,且租金贷收入占比不能超过租赁企业租金收入的三成,超过的应当于2022年底前调整到位。这些治乱之举初衷良好。不过,有些地方完全叫停租金贷,则有“一刀切”之嫌。

It was extremely necessary for the housing ministry to include regulation on these kinds of risks, which can trigger conflict and financial distress. The document proposes that governments in directly administered municipalities and communities can set up capital management systems for home rentals, incorporating regulation on rents and deposits. This will form an important part of controlling the market in the future.

A document issued last year by six government ministries, including the housing ministry and the National Development and Reform Commission, stated that the government would instruct rental companies to set up accounts with banks for regulating capital received from tenants, and forbid them from earning more than 30% of their rental income from rent loans. The new rules are slated to fully take effect before the end of 2022. While the intention behind them was right, there are worries some local areas imposed a complete halt to rent loans, a one-size-fits-all approach that would fail to account for complex individual arrangements.

在对住房租赁企业加强监管的同时,《征求意见稿》也提出了不少政策支持措施,住房租赁企业可以按照国家有关规定享受金融、税收、土地等方面的优惠政策。这是规范与发展“两手抓,两手硬”的正确取向。

Another strong move is that while strengthening regulation of the home rentals sector, the proposals also mention several support measures, such as permitting rental companies to enjoy preferential financial, tax and land policies according to the relevant national regulations.

房屋租赁市场回报率较低,长租公寓行业资金密集但薄利,需要资本不断注入以维持企业存续,但是,目前长租公寓融资渠道还未顺畅打开。理论上,有机构信用融资、住房租赁专项债、股权融资和资产证券化等多种融资渠道,但是,或对于底层资产要求颇高,或资金成本过高,难解企业资金之困。在其他国家和地区,REITs(Real Estate Investment Trusts,房地产投资信托基金)是这一领域的重要融资工具。长租公寓资产收益率相对普通租赁较高,接近公募REITs要求,但多年来迟迟不能落地。中国公募REITs相关的基础法制和税收政策需要加快研究,争取早日推出。

The rate of return in the property rental market is comparatively low. Long-term rented apartments are a highly concentrated industry, but the profit margins are slim. Such businesses rely on a constant influx of capital to ensure their survival, but much of the capital flows have not yet been adequately opened.

In theory, China has fundraising pathways like financial institutions, special bonds for home rentals, stock ownership and asset securitization, but businesses still struggle to solve their funding issues, either because financing costs or the standards for underlying assets are too high.

In other parts of the world, real estate investment trusts (REITs) are an important funding tool in this respect. The yield on assets like long-term rental apartments is higher than normal rentals and even approximates the standards for publicly placed REITs, but years of dithering have left them unable to be rolled out in China. Governmental departments must urgently research fundamental legal frameworks and tax collection policies for publicly placed REITs and aim to launch them as soon as possible.

住房租赁市场要长期健康发展,各方的权益均应得到公正维护。住房租赁市场主体多元,出租人、租赁企业、承租人和金融机构等之间存在各种契约,利益关系复杂。其中,承租人即租客是最弱势的一方,保障其合法权益是建立稳定健康的租赁关系的关键。长期以来,租客合法权益被漠视乃至侵犯,是住房租赁市场的常态。广大租客承受着搬家频繁、居住条件不佳等生活不便,常常因租金过快上涨、押金被克扣或拖欠而蒙受经济损失,甚至与业主或中介频发纠纷,这也将大量租房群体提早逼入商品房市场,这显然极不利于住房租赁市场的健康发展,遑论提振内需等更宏大的课题。

The rights and interests of all parties must be fairly upheld if the rental market is going to enjoy healthy long-term development. The market is home to diverse entities, with different contractual relationships existing between lessors, rental firms, tenants and financial institutions. The most vulnerable group is the tenants, for whom guaranteeing legal rights is the key to establishing healthy rental relationships.

For a long time, the rights of people who rent apartments have been ignored or violated in China. Many tenants bear the inconvenience of frequently moving house or living in poor conditions. Often, they suffer from rent hikes, deposit deductions, and penalties from falling behind on rent. In some cases, they argue frequently with the property owners or real estate agents.

All of this prompts many tenants to try and buy their own homes as quickly as possible. This is evidently a disadvantage for the healthy development of the rental market, let alone grander plans like raising domestic demand.

住房租赁市场的发展还有赖于更大范围内的体制变革。近年来,中国政府倡导租售并举的住房制度,多地也就“租购同权”做了一些试点,但迄今进展有限。要推动住房租赁市场长期健康发展,需要户籍、社保、教育等改革同步推进。《征求意见稿》提出,承租人可以持住房租赁合同,按照有关规定申领居住证,依法享受基本公共服务和便利。这是一项重要进展,但还远远不够,且有待各地政府严格落实,避免又沦为一纸空文。

The development of the rental market also depends on broader systemic reforms. In recent years, the Chinese government has advocated a housing system that balances the needs of renters and buyers. Some areas have piloted granting the same rights to both groups, but up to now progress has been limited.

Ensuring the rental market’s healthy long-term development requires us to make simultaneous reforms to the household registration, social insurance and education systems. The proposals state that tenants with rental contracts will be allowed to apply for local residency permits in accordance with the relevant regulations and enjoy basic public services and conveniences in accordance with the law. This is an important development, but is still far from enough. We’re also still waiting for local governments to strictly implement the rules.

随着国内商品房市场逐渐饱和,住房租赁市场必将得到进一步发展,特别是在大城市。租房天然体现“房子是用来住的”的特点,居住刚需理当优先得到满足。长租公寓是解决当前租赁市场结构性矛盾的重要抓手。目前,一些自有房产的开发商正探索发展长租公寓,我们乐见其成,并对企业家的创新能力深具信心。实施有效监管以除风险,营造宽松环境以利发展,应成为制定有关住房租赁政策的“两点论”。

As China’s domestic property market becomes progressively more saturated, the rental sector will inevitably develop further, especially in large cities. Rentals naturally embody the principle that “homes are for living in.” Ensuring people have settled home lives should be our first priority.

Long-term rentals are an important starting point for resolving the current structural contradictions in our rental market. At the moment, some real estate developers are exploring the long-term sector. We are optimistic about this and have deep confidence in the capacity of entrepreneurs to innovate. Implementing effective regulation to root out risks and creating a relaxed environment for development should become our “two-pronged approach” to drawing up the relevant home rentals policies.

The Chinese version of this article was published in Caixin Weekly on September 14, 2020, and is only for Caixin Global's app users to read. Unlock more bilingual articles, download Caixin app.

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