* Property loans rise $302 bln in Q1 vs $191 bln increase in Q4
* Property loans account for 38.8 pct of Q1 total new loans
* Outstanding individual mortgages +20 percent y/y by end-Q1 (Adds details, context)
BEIJING, April 20 (Reuters) - Chinese banks extended 1.9 trillion yuan ($302 billion) in new property loans in the first quarter of 2018, reflecting still solid demand for housing even as curbs on speculation continue to bite, central bank data showed on Friday.
Property loans, comprised mainly of individual mortgages and loans for real estate development, accounted for 38.8 percent of all new loans made in the quarter, Reuters calculated from data from the People’s Bank of China (PBOC).
The total rose 58 percent from 1.2 trillion yuan ($190.82 billion) in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to Reuters calculations.
The property sector is a key growth driver for the world’s second-largest economy but authorities have struggled to keep soaring prices in check so that housing is still affordable.
China posted its fastest property investment growth in three years in the first quarter, driven by a surge in land values and as developers grew more confident about the policy outlook. However, sales slowed as limits on home purchases hit transactions.
New home prices rose for the 35th consecutive month in March, with more cities reporting growth as the government supported demand from first-time buyers.
In the first quarter of 2017, lending was 1.7 trillion yuan and sales growth accelerated thanks to a boom in smaller cities where home purchase conditions are less restrictive.
Outstanding property loans rose 20.3 percent by end-March from a year earlier to 34.1 trillion yuan, the PBOC said in a quarterly report posted on its website.
Outstanding individual mortgage loans rose 20 percent by end of March to 22.86 trillion yuan.
Individual mortgage loans increased by 99.49 million yuan in the first quarter.
Chinese banks doled out more loans overall in March and appeared to make solid progress in reining in off-balance sheet lending that has prompted a sweeping crackdown by regulators looking to reduce systemic financial risks.
Regulators have been cracking down on consumer loans that are being misused for home purchases, warning they cannot be used to “fuel property bubbles”.
Consumer loans increased by 1.4 trillion yuan in the first quarter, according to PBOC data. ($1 = 6.2879 Chinese yuan renminbi) ($1 = 6.2894 Chinese yuan renminbi) ($1 = 6.2888 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Writing by Yawen Chen; Editing by Kim Coghill)