1. These are Urban Homes.
2. There are roughly 20M people jumping to new cities and Urban areas every year. For years China has keep a roughly two years buffer zone, I think the rate of new housing is the same and rate of people going into Urban has declined, so a slight increase in terms of buffer ( closer to three years now ).
3. Most of the "Ghost Cities" do get fill up quickly, once the policy are in place for their turn.
These so called Home vacancies and ticking time bomb has been cycling through media every year. And it isn't happening ( yet ). There are 500M+ still living in rural areas ( Yes I know the number is a little hard to believe ) At least another 300M to go from rural areas to Urban, with 200M likely not going to get their turn as they age.
So from that perspective ( As much as I hate to admit it ) China really is still a developing country.
In this case, I think the system perfectly justifies having 50m homes empty. If you look at it another way, if San Francisco (arguably another booming localized economy) had the same initiative to build a 20% buffer for housing, it would be seen as a progressive, citizen minded effort to create affordable housing and a huge benefit to the community.
As China, I'd much rather face the problem of building empty homes (which is not really a problem?) than face the population revolting from huge spikes in cost of living due to not enough urban housing. SF is full of rich enough people to ignore the struggles of the working class - China probably isn't.
I also don't think the rise in 2nd or 3rd home purchases is an issue, it's more of a symptom of the growing divide between rich and poor, especially in China.
The SF problem is a lot like HK. There are far too many parties invested in property, therefore it is their interest to keep property building low and push the price as far up as possible. Government being extremely slow to react and by the time they do, those parties will try to delay it for so they have time to offload their asset.
The only way to go about it, is to build Satellite cities and try to move people out of it. Which in US is easier said than done.
SF housing is made extremely expensive by multi decade long anti housing policies, but that's completely artificial.
If the Chinese ran housing in SF, there would be housing for 5 million people there.
If the Chinese ran housing in SF, there would be housing for 5 million people there
Pretty sure not everyone would like how.
Not in and of itself, but if you look at historical parallels, like the development of Brasilia, the consequences were devastating: over a decade of hyperinflation and a series of failed currencies until one stuck.
It seems like China is building hundreds of Brasilias all at once.
Maybe Beijing has figured this out, and this will lift more people out of poverty than ever in history? Or maybe this isn't different and the reckoning on the back end will be unimaginable?
Never in history has local economic policy affected so many, and it happens to be in a setting where you aren't really allowed to debate economic or government policies.
Maybe it will all work out but it's a scary ride.
Go to a mall right next to Huangpu river near Lupu bridge mostly empty for last 10 years built by Greenland (it's the main downtown area). As others pointed out most of these homes and commercial ventures are waiting for price rises to sale and are seating empty. This narrative of urbanization is pretty old, now it's impact is very little in city like Shanghai.
At present across China there is price but no buyers. People are holding on to real estate until they get atleast bit more than what they bought. On the other hand people's saving has already been consumed by SOE and govt spending. So the only way to prop up economy is to print money like USA. As long as other countries do not want RMB to depreciate, they can print money and prop up the economy.
Official Stats? ( But as you know Official Stats could be wrong too ) I never said the City they built out NOW have to be filled within 2 years. There are some that strategically don't work and are left there like ruins. Some are waiting for their turns, some may never come. And they will likely knock those down and rebuilt again. And when it comes to urbanisation, why would anyone wants to pull people from rural into First Class City like Shanghai? There are lots of places in Midland and Western ( The so called Great Western China Development )
You probably can take a bicycle and ride along the Huangpu river from Nanpu bridge towards Lupu bridge. It's a beautiful bicycle path and you can see the empty malls and offices.
3. Many of the ghost districts never fill up before they are torn down as eye sores. Kangbashi will only fill up if coal makes a big come back, which is highly unlikely. Tianjin financial district is mostly a bust so far, but a derelict building or two for a decade is not abnormal.
The problem is really simple: China lacks a property tax, so housing is seen as a speculative investment rather than just a place to live in. And China is not wanting for speculators.
The entire Chinese economy is as rigged as the government can make it. The stock and bond markets are fake, the state owned enterprises are run as fiefs of the Party-State, not for profit, all the major banks included. Nothing is trustworthy. Combine that with a property market that’s been going up for decades and a ruling class that would not be happy if the middle class that started rioting if their savings in property went up in smoke and you have a fake property market too.
As a result, Chinese money loves chasing bubbles in search of returns, like P2P lending and crypto.
There is also the continued migration from rural to urban, ensuring that demand will continue to increase for a while yet.
The government should read Henry George. Well, everyone should read Henry George.
In China, you can buy property and just sit on it. Many apartments are never even renovated because market level rents are too low to justify that. Yes, they apartment costs 7m yuan to buy, but only rents out for 10k yuan/month that doesn’t even cover interest. Keep in mind that renovation actually decreases an apartment’s value because new owners have to unrenovate it first.
- New construction condos are a better investment proposition than in the West because (1) there's no property tax, and (2) other types of investments are less reliable (e.g., stock market is rigged)
- There's a cultural aversion to 'used' things, which explains why an investor might prefer to let a condo sit empty instead of rent it out.
- Because they're seen as an investment, some new construction is actually built with the intention of selling directly to investors.
So they can stop a lot of rampant speculation through a variety of measures, meaning hopefully, they can kill any bubble-like blowups.
As you say, there's a lot of poor folks and a lot of empty homes, maybe that does mean a haircut for home owners, but it might possibly be done in a way that doesn't cause any bursting bubbles.
So long as there is something to underpin reality (like ex-poor people wanting homes) they can make a soft landing for all of this.
The more existential concern is: 'what then'?
The path has never been so uncertain.
It's their not recognizing they're creating a government supply bubble.
The real weakness of demand economies historically hasn't been their difficulty producing basic things (that they feel are necessary), but knowing when to stop producing things. Absent free market signals, there's not a lot to tell you when to put the brakes on.
But macro-macro I see China going the very same thing Germany/UK/France, then Japan, then Korea did after WW2: they all rebounded to a certain degree and did so with nationalist fervour where applicable, and then kind of softened as they stopped having as many kids... and the kids lost the hyper passion their parents did.
China is almost there with a lot of this, and soon it won't matter what they do, there's a limit to the demand for their stuff, they can only build so many homes, and they're having fewer babies, and those babies don't want to be slaves.
China is 1980's Japan, just a lot bigger.
According to wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urbanization#/media/File:2015_...), US is already highly urbanized but China's not.
As long as we agree that high rate of urbanization is the future, China basically has more room to grow in this aspect.
I know I'm nitpicking and being an asshole about this point, but I think words matter. How we talk about things feeds in to how we conceptualize things and our mental models are like low quality, compressed, cartoon versions of reality and getting them more accurate at a fundamental level goes a long way towards improving the end results of our cognition.
It also used to be called First World, Second World, Third World. It's not anymore. Discourse changes because people stop agreeing on terms being useful, accurate, or good.
I liked Hans Rosling's level 1,2,3,4 stratified model a little better.
Understand the frustration though.
But the weirder thing was endlessly empty malls. For whatever reason, high-end luxury malls had all been built _before_ the in-progress housing stock, and they had already found tenants who were stores way out of my (comparatively wealthy!) price range: gucci, prada, etc.
So it seemed like the plan was to move a lot of people from the country to the city and provide them with high-end malls to shop at. But the problem was that those people were poor. It struck me as unlikely that they'd be rich enough to buy Fendi bags by the time they moved in. And the malls were standing dead empty until that happened.
None of this made any sense, and it was happening on an absurdly huge scale. (I can't remember where I read this, but I like the line that went like: "There is no precedent for how big things are in China, because there's never been anything as big as China.")
This seemed like a phenomenal misallocation of resources, so it was -- and is -- very hard to believe that a country making such crazy decisions was actually going to become wealthy and stable.
So pretty much everything I read about China's economic development, I don't believe. It all seems like a house of cards. Articles like this one, however, are much easier to grok.
My theory is that many developing countries use the wrong metric to gauge their success, looking to count their skyscrapers or their advanced techno-cities but fail to see that the success of "developed" countries lies more in their justice and governance systems.
My theory is that many developing countries use
the wrong metric to gauge their success
Large corporations face exactly the same problem.
And in a nutshell this is why my beloved NYC's subway is such a disaster :(
It's not like the people building terrible systems don't know there is a disconnect with their users. They just don't care.
I know a guy who works for a similarly corrupt and incompetent rail system. They told him not to take the train to work because if he was late "I was on your train and it got delayed" was not a valid excuse for being late. Management knows the system sucks.
The problem with being rich in one of those oppresive regimes is that you can get rich. But staying rich is much harder, because the moment you fall out of favor you will be disowned. This can change simply through a new clan taking over power and kicking out the old clan. In the capitalist west, this is much different.
I personally think the best place is where the intellectual elite chooses to live. E.g. in the early medieval ages, the church harassed a bunch of intellectuals for their "heathen" ideology (greek philosophy, sciences, etc). So they all moved to the middle east, causing a great period of prosperity. Socialism, similar thing here. Russia had so many great minds. Scientists, authors, poets. But many of them went to the west and are still doing it. Same for germany btw, here eastern Germany was a big hub of culture, e.g. Leipzig was renown for its books, but socialists harassed and hated every intellectual (even more than they harassed the general population), so many of them fled to the west, so many in fact that they had to build a wall to keep them in. The western part of germany greatly profited from this brain drain.
It's not dangerous to democracy if these autocrat regimes build luxury condos that nobody lives in. It's dangerous when they build luxury condos and the elite choses to live there. In our world which is so much dependent on science and engineering, they chose which country, which region inside a country, prospers and which doesn't, simply by chosing where they live.
This is an interesting historical claim. Which intellectuals are you thinking of that moved from Europe to the Middle East in the early Medieval period?
Pagan philosophy was gradually supplanted by Christianity in the later years of the Empire, culminating in the closure of the Academy of Athens by Justinian I. Many Greek-speaking philosophers moved to the east, outside the borders of the Empire. Neoplatonism and Aristotelianism gained a stronghold in Persia, where they were a heavy influence on early Islamic philosophy.
The last Scholarch of the Neoplatonic Academy was Damascius (d. 540). According to Agathias, its remaining members looked for protection under the rule of Sassanid king Khosrau I in his capital at Ctesiphon, carrying with them precious scrolls of literature and philosophy, and to a lesser degree of science. After a peace treaty between the Persian and the Byzantine empire in 532, their personal security (an early document in the history of freedom of religion) was guaranteed.
> Shenoute is now considered a saint in the Coptic church, but his piety manifested itself in a particularly ugly guise: he was part of a gang of thugs who would break into the houses of locals whose theological views they felt to be unsound, and smash up any property they objected to on religious grounds.
> Early in the book, she describes how she was brought up in her youth to think of late-antique and medieval Christians as enlightened curators of the classical heritage, diligently copying philosophical texts and poems throughout the ages so that they were saved from oblivion. Her views in this matter have evidently shifted somewhat over time. In this book, early Christians are much more likely to close down the academies, shut temples, loot and destroy artwork, forbid traditional practices and burn books. Rather than praising Christians for preserving slivers of classical wisdom, she argues, we should acknowledge how much was knowingly erased.
And quoting another article about the same book:
> And so she opens her book with a potent description of black-robed zealots from 16 centuries ago taking iron bars to the beautiful statue of Athena in the sanctuary of Palmyra, located in modern-day Syria. Intellectuals in Antioch (in ancient Syria) were tortured and beheaded, as were the statues around them.
I personally find that it's very important to know the past, so that it won't be repeated in the future.
And you use this as an example of religious oppression in medieval Europe (?)
Here is a good critical review of the book you're citing:
I think the suggestion is that the ones who were persecuted moved, not all. Basically "the bunch".
China is the second-largest economy.
It really doesn't. That is until you visit there again in 3 - 5 years times. Everything is different. You start getting lots more people and spending money. Ok it is not like everyone becomes wealthy overnight. But from Zero to having a few people actually buying, shopping and eating in these malls is quite an achievement. And they move from bottom class Third Tier cities into upper class Third Tier etc...
I have seen it, it is a little hard to comprehend. I still don't know how everything was possible.
Anyway, I'm perfectly happy to be wrong here, there's clearly a lot about macroeconomics that I don't know (that people don't know?). So, if you say that it's happening despite its weirdness, well, that's something.
I just think we have a big enough theoretical apparatus for why state-directed economic development is inefficient that the burden of proof is on people saying "things are going well in China." Especially because we can be pretty confident that some large percent of the statistics we see on development are forged.
I've seen similar stuff in vacation destinations in Turkey and Greece; poorly developed areas next to a road (think just bare rock and shrubs) with a super fancy looking fur coat shop. Fur coat shops, in 35+ degree C weather. I want to believe they get the odd rich Russian coming over from time to time, but TBH they're probably money laundering fronts.
Basically, if you see middle income people start carrying around products badged (having logos on it is itself a signal that it's not high end) with the brand and sold in Macys, it's being stripped of it's high end status. And then even the middle income people start noticing everyone has it, so it devalues it for them, so the fashion brands need a new company to present as "high-end".
New neighborhoods the size of downtown San Francisco, and barely anyone around. A few police, the odd person riding a bike, but otherwise you could throw a bowling ball down most streets and not hit anything.
The more I thought about it, the scarier it became. This is a bubble that makes all before it look insignificant in comparison. The question is whether the government can guide it into a soft crash landing.
I constantly hear about China being an econ powerhouse, the future of the world, everyone wants access to their huge middle class, etc. But for my one week visiting Beijing and Shanghai I was confused to say the least.
The most impactful thing I have ever seen was on the high speed train between Shanghai and Beijing (about 5 hours at 190 mph) and I have never seen more highrise apartments completely empty in my life. In fact, at some points, I would look out the window and see over 200 of the exact same highrise perfectly spaced and all very clearly empty. I would say a lower bound on the number of 20+ story apartments I saw in 5 hours is somewhere around 10,000. I could be off, but I was pretty attentive to it the entire ride. Most of them were empty(given the lack of any humans, vehicles, or clothes on the balcony around them).
The wildest thing was seeing some of these highrises plopped in the middle of a farm. Nothing around, not even a cement road, and just an unoccupied apartment, 20 floors tall, surrounded by fields of whatever crop it was.
I started to hypothesize that the massive construction SEO's in China were used to subsidize jobs for rural workers and nothing else. It seems like construction would be a good industry to try to bring lesser educated and rural populations to higher wealth due to the high need of labor. This is total speculation so please don't blast me, but it seems possible.
Anyways, I was shocked at seeing this and I wonder if anyone can add other anecdotal evidence of something like this in another Chinese region. The great wall was pretty cool though:)
> In 2012, I traveled for about 6 weeks in China.
Six weeks staying in China means nothing. China is already the 2nd largest economy but it still develops at an unprecedented rate. Urbanization in the country only reach 60% and will increase to 90% in 2030. 'Ghost cities' and empty malls will be filled very quickly in the next 3-5 years. There's actually a shortage of malls/supermarkets/schools in most communities in China, and that's the reason why e-commerce prevails and companies like Alibaba are reinventing retail.
> So pretty much everything I read about China's economic development, I don't believe.
You shouldn't, especially if you only read reports from Western sources, which are heavily biased and often telling only what people prefer to hear. People in the States are either ignorant on what's going in China, or so entitled to think there's only one way for how societies work.
As that notes, there are significant deficiencies in a lot of the cheap housing stock in lower-opportunity areas that need money to fix. Those properties going unoccupied can still be an issue, but it’s different from speculation on new property. Vacancy rates in high-opportunity US cities are very low.
From what I’ve heard, the situation in China sounds like speculation on new properties, rather than aging housing stock that requires significant reinvestment.
Yes, you can buy way outside the sixth ring road, but they have no buses or subway, what will you do, drive?
Leaving behind mega cities that are empty. Hell if you want to play out a pretend version of "I am legend" you could get pretty close. (Minus the zombies)
Now, I haven't done any close reading on this for the past few years, but back in 2014 or so the consensus among China-watchers was that the government both in policy and in action had clearly staked a path somewhere between the "hub and spoke" and "distributed growth" models. The high speed rail network is an important part of this, creating economic hot spots along the path between existing supercities. In fact, in the intervening time they have disincentivized further growth of Shanghai and Beijing, and is creating a new administrative city south of Beijing and west of Tianjin rather than expanding each of those two supercities.
I have no idea what empty megacities you're referring to...
Leaving behind mega cities that are empty. Hell if you want to play out a pretend version of "I am legend" you could get pretty close. (Minus the zombies) "
I am I having a stroke, or did that comment refer to "mega cities that are empty"?
I grew up in Lake Tahoe , and having gone up recently for my Dad's memorial - and talking to some of the wealthiest realtors in the region - coupled with how areas of tahoe are literally banning AirBnB - they have a crap ton of "vacancies"
But its not like these are not owned-homes - they are just not lived in/abandoned.
Basically, the homes were bought in the past decades for fractions and either rebuilt/remodeled such that now there are +++% of the homes which are +Million$ vacation homes.
The problem with this is that it happened so densely so quickly, that the idea of running a small business in Tahoe City is tough due to lack of traffic as well as lack of workers - as you cant have workers who have no place to live...
Is there a global institute for urban planning who is attempting to address some of these issues.
In dealing with the local cannabis regulations across every county in California, and the local city planning department jurisdictions within these... my take-away is that its a ridiculously fragmented understanding of both problems and the solutions.
Looking at that plot, it does seem like the vacancy rate correlates with housing bubbles quite well.
- abandoned yet still livable homes
- new construction not yet moved into
- houses currently in the state of being sold
- old buildings not yet demolished
- airbnb and short term rentals currently sitting empty: seasonal housing usually makes up a large extent of vacant housing in a country
- accomodation for workers/fly-in-fly-out workforce
- rentals currently vacated because they can't find a tenant
- rentals currently tenanted but not being occupied (because of moving in/out consecutively with other properties)
- holiday homes not being used
The Aussie census also calculates about 11% of homes being vacant on census night.
Like with employment markets, most people seriously underestimate the true 'state of natural churn' in these stats that can be found in a modern day country/economy, and just form a picture in their head of an apartment block just sitting there doing nothing all the time or wonder why people aren't being housed in them.
I know this stuff can be highly market dependent, but that roughly matches on-the-ground observation in Midwest. (11% of homes are vacant, rental units have a ~9% vacancy rate).
Some of those houses are in disrepair (unlivable). Some of the units are brand new (not yet occupied). Some are bank owned investment properties (intentionally empty). Some are between occupants. Etc.
Urban region Rural regions
2016 792.98 589.73
2015 771.16 603.46
2014 749.16 618.66
2013 731.11 629.61
2012 711.82 642.22
2011 690.79 656.56
2010 669.78 671.13
2009 645.12 689.38
2008 624.03 703.99
Also, the state of some of these buildings is worth noting - Much like Nail Houses, there's a significant portion of these developments that were made to sell for investment purposes alone, and are not going to be suitable for habitation.
"the farmers that own the land here get the cheapest materials, and make these pop up out of nowhere": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcyYyyaPz84&t=666
Follow-up video "Are new chinese buildings really falling down?": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XopSDJq6w8E tl;dr yes. Note at 2:30 "We saw this place being built three years ago".
Now I look back, China really will be the next super power. The management and controlling are simply on a different dimension.
China is wise to have extra housing capacity. Even if they are 'nail houses' ... they only have to beat sleeping in the streets.
The problem isn't if there's a spare bedroom, it's the political, social, and economic forces. And since we're talking about mass migration, we also have to talk about geography.
Think about it. In order to get to China, you have to cross the Himalayas, probably on foot. Then once you're there, you have to enter an economy (perhaps clandestinely) where you can't speak the language, have no large population of people that speak your language, have no common social ties, and if that wasn't enough challenges, the country is famous for clamping down hard on internal economic migration (i.e. the hukou system), and has no history of foreign immigration since... ever?
It's just not plausible. You can walk to India. You can walk to Pakistan. There are cultural ties to Pakistan. If you want to go someplace outside of South Asia, Kuwait and the other Gulf States have extensive Bangladeshi expat communities, due to the number of migrants workers. (Hell, 70% of Kuwait's population isn't Kuwaiti.)
Edit: Given this - it seems like China might be able to more easily absorb this many apartments being put on the market. One could imagine a lot of people entering a modern world where they wouldn't live with their parents (or child).
Still, I'm sure there's a bunch of people that only live together on paper, or multiple families that share a house because they're poor, and the like.
I think much of this open housing is in new urban cities -- the 10M person cities that are mostly west and on the Silk Road built to support trade (but not quite built because of actual need just yet)
In a "us knows us" world, the big loans are given to people approving the regime.
The loan is 10 million for example, the collateral is the property.
The loan is 50% used and defaults.
5 million profit.
Some articles around shadow banking, if you want to look it up
This has very recently changed, if I'm not mistaken.
It's part of not being an developed countries. And the requirements were accepted by a loan to the world bank of 7,7 billion $ from America ( from memory)
There's nothing wrong with housing not being a scarce resource.
I've heard from friends in the bay area that immigrated from China that buying a house is a prerequisite for a man to get married (so family often helps since bay area housing is crazy).
Supposedly this leads to distortions in the Chinese market where rental units are relatively cheap, but purchasing costs are very high.
Maybe an apartment doesn't meet the marriage requirement for a housing purchase?
and $100 a sq ft
That's $100k a house.
Multiplied by 50m homes
is $5 Trillion dollars of inventory.
US GDP is ~$20Tr, for context.
Monetary policy matters. A pause in the Fed tightening instantly flows through to impact the market price for $5tr USD of speculative real estate, a half a world away.
People don’t have to sell if they own it, but if they can’t make the payments, that would be like the 2008 USA financial crisis.
You've probably heard that your new car loses most of its value (that is, most of the value it will ever lose) the minute you drive it out of the dealership. The label "new" is worth much more than the functionality.
This can also be true of apartments. I have seen it written that it is true of Chinese apartments, though I can't personally attest one way or the other.
An apartment or house could degrade when being lived in - but that's the internal furnishings, which is "easily" replaced. The concrete, walls and other structural features degrade regardless of whether an occupant is in it or not!
This is also true in China. Shrink wrap is left on things indefinitely so that they will appear to be new. I've seen it happen on things ranging from doorknobs (already installed on the door) to board games (opened and played, but with the shrink wrap carefully preserved to fit over the lid).
Would you be interested in renting a 400 sf dilapidated teardown shack in western Kansas, no utilities, five hours from the nearest big city, no local jobs, and not near anything of consequence?
As young Chinese flock to the large cities, they might have grown up in something similar to the above, but just because they're leaving it behind doesn't take it out of the housing stock.
That's perhaps a bit of an oversimplification, but a good number of that double digit percent is abandoning the rural lifestyle held over from the cultural revolution.
some apartments are finished, these days it’s more likely you’ll find a fully finished apartment, ready for move in, but they do have the unfinished apartments, but it’s too much trouble and trending down lately.
you’re right about the investment aspect, i believe in early < 2012, there was no limit to the number of houses you could own or mortgages you could take so the extremely weathly purchased apartments in batch as investment, never considered living or renting these out, many of these back then were unfinished, so you pay off the downpayment, get a mortgage, and leave it as an investment to sell later without having to deal with the complications of outfiting the apartment with drywall, hardwood floors, appliances, fixtures, paint, etc, and having to deal with rental hassles. basically what they purchased were these concrete enclosures with basic plumbing and electricity in place.
i used to rent an apartment in downtown shanghai, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, roughly 100 sq m (1000 square foot) new apartment, fully furnished with 60 inch led tv, furniture, etc, that cost me about 6k rmb a month (1000 usd a month), to buy would have cost me about 4m rmb (670k usd), i had pretty good relationship with the landlord, her father owned about 20 similar apartments in the complex, they were from a small town.
Hahaha, things are even more crazier in Shenzhen. You can rent a 1.5 million buck apparent for $500
For monopolies yes. But for commodities, you have to go with the market rate - best value product wins the sale.
Maybe the Bay Area is so absurdly expensive that a boat is a good investment, but I would be highly dubious about it myself.
You can probably save some considering how expensive the bay area is, but you're also living in cramped quarters with downsized appliances (which I guess is normal for the bay area :P). Also, boat showers really suck.
How is this not a good thing?
With this, millions of people who're homeless will suddenly find a home. Investments that have already been made will be useful to society, which should be the case to begin with.
If this policy deters investment in housing, rents will eventually rise till it again becomes sensible to invest in building houses. The market takes care of itself.
Instead of a ban, perhaps a high annual tax, say 30% of the value of the house, if it's left empty for more than a month a year.
King Canute should just decree that the tide is to go out.~
No matter how you structure the law, the capacity of property speculators to evade its intent will likely exceed the government's ability to enforce it, especially when some of those speculators are government officials.
I foresee that a vacancy tax would be avoided by building apartment buildings that are only 80% finished, or whatever the law threshold may be, such that they do not qualify as vacant housing units, but can still be brought onto the housing market more quickly than erecting a new building from the foundations.
Regarding your point that this tax will be hard to enforce, why do you think this is harder than to enforce than the cornucopia of taxes and construction rules we have today?
Regarding your point about leaving buildings 80% finished, there can be another tax on land not put to productive use. This would include both land left empty, and unfinished construction. In return for these taxes, eliminate other taxes like property tax, stamp duty, registration, transfer of ownership, etc.