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China June rentals surge as record numbers of college leavers seek accommodation

China’s home rental prices rose by their fastest for at least 2-1/2 years, according to a private survey, as record numbers of college graduates flocked to big cities in search of jobs as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Average prices in 40 cities rose 2.1% in June from a month earlier, compared with May’s 0.78% increase, statistics from Zhuge House Hunter, one of China’s largest independent real estate research firms, showed on Thursday. It was the biggest monthly increase since Zhuge started compiling the data in January 2019.

Rents rose fastest in top-tier cities, with the southern tech hub of Shenzhen up 2.56% compared with May’s 1.3% growth. Such cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, are the top locations for young job seekers, Zhuge House Hunter said.

Compared with a year earlier, rents in June were up 1.51%, the first gain since April 2020.

Growing numbers of college leavers has fuelled demand, and China has vowed to expand rental markets to make housing more affordable in big cities, where home prices and rents have surged in recent years.

The education ministry has estimated that more than 9 million college students would graduate this year, beating the record of 8.73 million set last year. The ministry expects graduates to exceed 10 million in 2022.

Major cities such as Beijing and Shenzhen began implementing measures this year to boost the supply of rental properties.

Kaylee Jian, 22, a postgraduate student from southwestern Chengdu city, arrived in Beijing in June to intern at a firm while exploring job opportunities in the capital ahead of her graduation in December.

“My rent takes up 150% of my intern salary, so I still have to spend my family’s money,” she said.

Jian shares an apartment with one other person in the north of Beijing, and pays about 3,000 yuan ($463) a month in rent.

“My parents told me that in Chengdu you could rent an entire well-renovated home for 2,000 yuan a month. I’ve finally realised how expensive it is to live in cities like our capital.”