Of course, the government has kindly given leases for this land to builders and homeowners for durations varying between 20 and 70 years, and in the last few decades of easing markets, everyone in China has all but ignored the issue, buying and selling houses without paying much attention to the leases underlying them. But when a woman tried to sell her house and was informed by the local government that her lease had expired and that she would have to pay them one-third of the home's sale value if she wanted to sell it, it threw a lot of things up in the air.
Because the government never had a plan for what to do when these leases expired, it's all been a bit of a mess. They've tried to make 70-year lease renewals mandatory, but it's not clear whether homeowners would have to pay for that. And while getting rid of the system entirely might sound like a simple enough solution, local governments do genuinely need this lease income -- they have few other sources of revenue. Also, it's not clear what will happen if a homeowner is unable to afford a lease renewal. Do they get to keep the house and move it somewhere? Could they put it on stilts so it's not technically on the ground?