Land use rights still big issue
There was a public outcry after media reports in April that the authorities in Wenzhou, East China’s Zhejiang province, intended to charge residents a fee as high as onethird the value of their housing to renew their current land use rights when they expired. Recently, the Ministry of Land and Resources has announced the residents will not have to pay an extra fee to extend their land use rights, nor do they need to apply for an extension.
The Property Law, enacted 10 years ago, stipulates that land rights for residential use can be “automatically renewed”, but it does not clarify whether that involves a fee. Law experts who participated in the drafting of the law say that ambiguous wording was used because even then there was controversy over this issue.
However, the April dispute in Wenzhou over the renewal of land use rights for residential housing means that the authorities need to resolve this issue once and for all. A guideline co-published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council, China’s Cabinet, in late November, explicitly said that a legal arrangement for residential land use rights is being studied to ensure homeowners are confident their properties enjoy permanent protection.
So the latest Ministry of Land and Resources’ transitional arrangement for the renewal of land use rights in Wenzhou is being viewed by some as offering clues to the official approach to this issue in the future.
However, the ministry’s arrangement is a transitional one for this particular instance in Wenzhou. Institutional and legal arrangements to resolve the issue of land use rights after they expire still need to be worked out.