Beijing Plans to Require Car Buyers to Secure Parking Space

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Beijing plans to require local car buyers to show proof they have secured a parking space before purchasing a vehicle, as the city battles congestion and pollution.

The city aims to introduce the rule next year, Vice Mayor Zhang Yankun said at a meeting in the capital today. If implemented, Beijing will be the first city in China to require parking proof for a vehicle purchase. Tokyo has a similar requirement.

The rule, proposed as early as 2010 as part of a package of measures to regulate traffic, could put an additional damper on vehicle sales in China’s capital, which started to cap the number of new license plates in the same year. The city began awarding new licenses through a lottery system in 2011.

“The tricky part is how would the government enforce such rules,” said Harry Chen, an analyst with Guotai Junan Securities Co. in Shenzhen. “Other cities may follow suit and roll out similar policies. One thing is for sure: parking costs will rise because of this.”

Parking has become a problem in Beijing, and in many Chinese cities, as new office and shopping developments draw more traffic to the city center than there is parking space. Motorists often park illegally on side roads, or in residential compounds, blocking traffic and causing heated disputes.

To alleviate congestion, Beijing already bars cars from roads on specific days each week depending on the last digit of the license plate. Drivers of vehicles not registered in the city also need to get a permit before entering the capital.

The proposed rule, if implemented, may hit younger buyers disproportionately. Many young Chinese live with their parents, even after marriage, as rising property prices make ownership increasingly unaffordable. Most high-rise residential complexes also have fewer parking lots than there are apartments and spaces aren’t allocated to individual vehicle owners.

The announcement is being greeted with dismay in online forums.

“You already need an apartment before you can get a wife,” read a posting by zmast_com on one forum. “Soon you’ll need a cemetery plot before you can die.”

— With assistance by Ying Tian

(Updates with comment from analyst in fourth paragraph.)
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