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In a controversial debate last week, many lawmakers backed a government proposal to allow more Viet Kieu to own houses in the country.

National Assembly deputies discussed the amendment of Article 126 of the Housing Law and Article 121 of the Land Law, both relating to Viet Kieu ownership of houses and land use rights in Vietnam. According to the proposal, Viet Kieu will be allowed to purchase residential housing after three months time residing in Vietnam. Current laws regulate a six-month period.

Those Viet Kieu are seen as key investors in the country, deserving of credit for their contributions to culture, science and many other specialised areas. Those married to Vietnamese will also be allowed to buy property. “They are all required to use the houses for residential purposes for themselves and their families,” said Minister of Construction Tran Hong Quan.

Vietnamese law makers agreed that more favourable policies and conditions for overseas Vietnamese to own houses and use land would facilitate the implementation of the Politburo’s Resolution 36 issued in 2004, which stressed the consideration of overseas Vietnamese as an integral part of the Vietnamese nation.

“A new regulation will also help make the local investment environment more favourable, encouraging overseas Vietnamese to return and contribute to the country,” said deputy Ngo Duc Manh from Binh Phuoc province. Deputy Tran Du Lich from Ho Chi Minh City added that the amendment, if approved, would help regularise “underground transactions” between Viet Kieu and Vietnamese people living within the country.

According to government statistics, overseas Vietnamese sent more than $1 billion into the country, accounting for 16.6 per cent of the total $6 billion of overseas remittance a year, to buy houses in Vietnam under the names of their inland relatives and friends. The strict definition of housing ownership can be mostly attributed to this situation, which has resulted in a series of disputes and appeals over housing ownership.

Yet, some National Assembly delegates have expressed concern over local authorities’ ability to manage the growing number of properties owned by Viet Kieu if the amendment is approved. So far, there have been around 140 overseas Vietnamese who have bought houses in the country, with the biggest numbers reported in Ho Chi Minh City (100) and Hanoi (15).

The government has predicted that the number of overseas Vietnamese buying houses in the next few years will be 10 times higher, at around 1,400 people.

“This is a large number [for local authorities] to manage,” said deputy Nguyen Hong Nhi from central Nghe An province. “The law must therefore define more clearly that people must bear Vietnamese nationality, be at least 18 years old and be able to show proof that their purchasing money is legal and legitimate,” Nhi stressed.

Tran Ngoc Vinh from Haiphong expressed worries over speculation that could lead to an increase in property prices, hence affecting local people, particularly the poor. “The National Assembly therefore needs to approve the law on housing and land taxes to minimise the type of speculation we have seen in the past,” Vinh noted.

The proposed changes to the two articles of the laws were previously discussed three times by the National Assembly Standing Committee and are scheduled to be passed by National Assembly deputies at the end of the National Assembly’s fifth session on June 18.

Source: VIR

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