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China promises more to cool housing costs

BEIJING — China’s government ordered local officials Wednesday to do more to cool surging housing costs after a scandal over a bank employee who bought 45 properties highlighted the potential for evasion of ownership limits.

A Cabinet statement also directed local leaders to build more low-cost housing.

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Soaring housing prices have made fortunes for some people but pushed home ownership out of reach of millions of families, fueling tensions.

The government pledge comes as a new generation of Communist Party leaders who took power in November are promising more action to narrow the wealth gap between an elite who have benefited from economic reform and China’s poor majority.

The government has increased minimum required downpayments, imposed limits in some cities on how many properties one buyer can own, and imposed other curbs.

In the most high-profile housing case, a bank officer in the northern province of Shaanxi is accused of amassing 45 properties worth at least $160 million with the help of phony identity cards and corrupt police.

In another case, a city official in southern China and his family were found to have 21 properties.

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