, BEIJING, Jan 8 – Tang Youlian never thought she could make 70,000 yuan ($11,600) from her homestead in Wuling Mountain as the market price was only one tenth of that a couple of years ago.
Thanks to the introduction of a local rural land exchange system and a land reclamation program, the 48-year-old farmer, living near southwestern Chongqing Municipality, was able to realize her family’s dream of a new home.
According to local land policy, by converting a homestead, a piece of land granted by the government to build one’s house, into new farmland, farmers can receive a quota known as “dipiao”, or land transaction tickets.
The quota can be sold on the local rural land exchange system to urban developers who need land for development projects.
Tang’s house was in a mountainous area, at least half an hour walk from the main road, and vulnerable to floods. Her family had always wanted to settle in a new place, but they could not afford to build a house at the foot of the mountain.
In 2012, Tang and her family learned about the policy. If they demolished their old house and converted the homestead of 503 square meters into farmland, they would receive more than 70,000 yuan.
The family converted the land to grow rapeseed and corn, and received the subsidy, which could cover half the cost of a new house. They built a three-story home at the foot of the mountain.
China has been experimenting with ways to make the rural land market more fluid and grant more property rights to 650 million rural residents to increase their earnings.
The policy was set at a key Communist Party of China meeting held last November, but approaches are still being explored, with some regions spearheading the reform, such as Chongqing.
Tong Daizhi, executive president of the Chongqing Rural Land Exchange, told a program produced by Xinhua’s TV network CNC and Xinhua-run news portal Xinhuanet.com that the municipality established the country’s first rural land exchange centre in 2008, as approved by the State Council.
Over the past five years, 85.3 million square meters of land has been traded with a transaction turnover of 26.1 billion yuan. The majority of the money, more than 20 billion yuan, has gone to farmers, said Tong.
Liu Shouying, deputy director of the Rural Department of the State Council Development Research Centre, said in the program that the key criterion to assess the land reform experiment is to see whether it increases farmers’ property earnings.
“If it does, it is a successful reform, otherwise it is a failure,” said Liu.
In China, trade of urban land has evolved into a vigorous market over the past years, but land deals in the countryside have remained largely static as farmers mostly have rights to use, but cannot directly trade or mortgage them.
For many farmers who are working in cities, their rural homes and land have been left unattended, yielding neither crops nor revenue.
These homes and land have never been their real property and they have to start afresh on their urban journey. It is considered a great waste of land and unfair for farmers.
Tang said the “land transaction ticket” reform helps address the problem in Chongqing.
According to the local policy, farmers will remain the legal “owner” or contractor of the land after reclamation. They can continue to work on the farmland or lease it to other farmers. The land reclamation subsidy, along with earnings from harvesting or leasing their land, will help farmers settle down in a new place.
Tang’s new home is in a newly-built residential area, along with 40-plus other new houses, at the foot of Wuling Mountain. “If not for the program, it would have taken at least ten more years to save enough money for our new home,” said Tang.