July 7 (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of real estate agents and industry workers marched in Hong Kong today, calling on the government to lift measures it has put in place to curb home prices in the world’s most expensive housing market.
“It’s affecting everybody, not just the agents, it’s affecting the economy,” Denys Kwan, a protest organizer and former president of the Society of Hong Kong Real Estate Agents Ltd., said by phone. “Stop it, stop it right now.”
Property transactions in the city plunged to a two-decade low in the second quarter in response to a doubling of stamp duties on buyers and sellers, and tightened regulations on marketing material of new apartments. About a third of Hong Kong’s property agents may lose their jobs over the next year if the government persists with its real estate curbs, according to Midland Holdings Ltd., the city’s only listed realtor.
Home prices have more than doubled since early 2009 on an influx of mainland Chinese buyers, near record-low interest rates and a lack of new supply, prompting the government to introduce a raft of measures to quell concerns of an asset bubble. The total number of property deals fell 42 percent to 14,291 in the second quarter from the previous three months, the lowest level since 1991, according to Midland.
There were 37,016 individual real estate agents and sales-person license holders in the city at the end of May, up from 34,919 a year earlier, according to government figures. Since taking over last July, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has imposed extra taxes on non-resident homebuyers, doubled the stamp duty on all property transactions, raised minimum mortgage down-payment requirements, and sped up the approval process of new home sales permits for developers.
As many as 5,500 people participated in today’s protest, the Hong Kong Police Force said in an e-mailed statement. Kwan said 23,000 people marched.
The government won’t ease the curbs until there’s a steady supply of new properties, Leung said in an interview with Bloomberg News in June. Financial Secretary John Tsang said the city may introduce more curbs if needed, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported today.
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