It started as an act of protest by fed-up apartment buyers in a single project in a city in central China. Now tens of thousands of people around the country are withholding payments on their mortgages for homes that developers, including China Evergrande Group, have yet to finish.The movement has since spread to at least 301 projects in about 91 cities according to figures from a crowdsourced document titled “WeNeedHome.”
Tracking the extent of the protest has grown increasingly difficult after China began censoring in mid-July crowdsourced online documents tallying the number of boycotts. Such shared files have been a key source of data for global investors and researchers.Real estate accounts for about 78% of household wealth in China—double the US rate—and families typically save for years and borrow from friends and family to purchase a home. As the Evergrande debacle unfolded last year, many market watchers said that the financial contagion would be limited by the fact that homebuyers in China often pay in cash. But some did use mortgages, and the boycott underscores how much of the pain of the crisis has fallen on households.
China’s outstanding mortgages stood at 38.3 trillion yuan at the end of 2021, according to the People’s Bank of China.
GF Securities Co. expects that up to 2 trillion yuan ($296 billion) of mortgages could be impacted by the collective refusals. That’s the total balance of the loans; the amount that could be withheld will be smaller.Should every buyer default, that would lead to a 388 billion-yuan increase in nonperforming loans, Jefferies’s said.
Banks say the impact is much lower still. Lenders have detailed about 2.11 billion yuan of loans at risk from the protests, according toa tally of banks that have disclosed their exposure.
The wildcat boycott on loans worth as much as 2 trillion yuan ($296 billion) threatens to deepen China’s real estate slump by shifting focus from the country’s embattled property companies to its massive banks. Lenders have relied on mortgages as their safest source of revenue as Covid lockdowns stifle growth.
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