Friday, August 19, 2016

Canada's housing market

finally, the authorities have taken step to slow the Vancouver housing market.  The tool used was rather blunt, and somewhat late to the game, still housing prices in Vancouver seem to finally be slowing down, some estimates show that housing prices in metro Vancouver are down 20%.  Now like everything this must be taken with a grain of salt, one month doesn't a year make, still the introduction of a 15% tax on real estate transactions is important.

It isn't very efficient insofar as it it a tax on transaction, but it can be reduced or removed quickly should the price action be sustained.  Now, economically, this type of tax makes sense, it was introduces successfully in the UK about 18 months ago, and did cool the market there to a degree.  Vancouver has different issues that make the tax more or less useful.  There is little speculation driver in Vancouver, the price action is based on real demand from foreign investors, but there too the real drivers are hard to understand.  For more than a year the Chinese government has been working to reduce capital flight -- this has been mostly apparent in Macao, a gambling den, just a short boat ride away from China, that has seen massive reduction in gambling revenues!

Still this is not to diminish the importance of the tax, by introducing inefficiencies the government insures a slow down in demand, and the implosion in prices is probably worse then expect,ed as sales in metro Vancouver two months ago went from 800 to less than 70... A sign that something has changed.

In a similar trend is the desire of the green movement to impede traffic in cities to encourage public transport, I never understood their reluctance to use market tools.  For me Singapore and London are beckons of sanity, by introducing road pricing they have allowed the market to clear based on need, granted poorer resident face an uphill struggle, but let's be honest, they would anyway.  The reality is that road pricing works and does in fact produce real revenue streams that allow the improvement of public transit, yet most "green" transport crusaders would rather have people stuck in traffic, creating portion and imposing a real economic burden, that benefits no one, and actually creates a real net loss to the economy (pollution & time wasted).


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