Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan residents employed on the Chinese mainland can now join the public housing provident fund program, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development announced yesterday.
A statement, which was issued jointly by the Ministry of Finance, the People's Bank of China, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said people from the three regions keen to participate in the program will be treated on par with their mainland counterparts.
China's public housing provident fund offers favorable lending rates than commercial banks. In Shanghai, for example, employees covered by the fund pay 7 percent of their monthly salary to the fund and their employers are required to match the amount.
Prior to the latest move, the market response to these policies in some mainland cities were lukewarm.
Shanghai acted on the initiative way back in September 2015.
"Over the past two years, I received very few inquiries from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan residents about participating in the housing fund program," said a staff member of the hotline service operated by the Shanghai Housing Provident Fund Management Center.
Lu Wenxi, senior manager of research at Shanghai Centaline Property Consultants Co, said: "The latest statement by the ministry reflects some improvement in the government policies as it allows people from the three regions, who represent a very small part of the workforce on the mainland, to enjoy the same benefits as their mainland counterparts."
"However, the cold response it received in Shanghai, for example, should be a pointer as very few Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan residents have plans to buy a house here."
Lu estimated people from the three regions account for less than 1 percent of the total home buyers in Shanghai.
A human resources director with a US-based chemical company confirmed to Shanghai Daily that few employees from the regions have shown interest in participating in the housing provident fund program.
"The majority of our employees from the three areas plan to be on the Chinese mainland only for few years," said the director who did not want to be identified.
"In almost all cases, our non-mainland Chinese employees prefer housing allowances, which is usually included in their overall package, over provident fund that requires them to pay a fixed amount of their salary to the fund every month. They can only withdraw the money when they leave the Chinese mainland."