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Double bubble trouble

Written By: - Date published: 12:56 pm, August 13th, 2009 - 19 comments
Categories: bill english, economy, housing, tax - Tags:

It’s a rare day that I agree with Bill English but he’s right about the danger of another housing boom.
The last bubble has not deflated yet we are already seeing prices start to grow again. There are now projections of 24% growth housing prices over the next three years, in a period when GDP is projected to grow less than 5%. What that means is more borrowing from offshore to fund another round of housing speculation, while underinvestment in productive areas continues. We ind up with more debt, higher interest rates, and more people locked out of owning their own home by high prices. It’s simply not sustainable and it will come back to bite us hard.
So, what can be done about it?
Well, there is a genuine shortage of new housing construction. The Government should take the lead here with a big new state housing programme, which would also boost employment and improve housing condition and health for the poor.
The other big problem is that housing is too attractive for amateur investors. We must make investment in housing speculation less attractive. A simple capital gains tax on second houses (which the Greens have been calling for forever), and changing the tax rules that allow losses on rental properties to be used to write off income tax would be two good first steps.
The variable mortgage levy that was proposed by The Reserve Bank under the last government (which Cullen liked but was defeated before it got going by the media and National crying ‘tax hike’!) would also be a good step – it effectively functions as an extra interest rate only on mortgages making them less attractive while not punishing other borrowers like exporters, unlike rising the Official Cash Rate it doesn’t encourage the carry trade which pushes up our exchange rate hampering exporters, it mitigates against people hedging against rates rises by taking fixed-rate loans, and the money goes to the taxpayer coffers rather than the foreign banks.
All this could be made revenue neutral by taking something off the bottom income tax rate or even the corporate tax rate. Better yet, some of the extra revenue could be used to get the government back in surplus sooner.
We can’t have another housing bubble on top of the one we still have. There are good measures the government can take and it is heartening that English seems to be willing. The questions are: can he drag Key with him, and will they act in time?

19 comments on “Double bubble trouble ”

  1. Boris Klarkov 1

    Same old same old from the Communists; tax the overburdened! Give more to the undeserving!

    • Maynard J 1.1

      You are not even trying! Or is Bill English actually part of the top secret Dipton Socialist Splinter Faction that infiltrated the Nats in the late 70’s?

  2. aj 2

    I can’t see those projections being correct. People’s paypacks are still be squeezed, debt levels are already very high, and the number of jobless and those with the threat of job loss hanging over their heads may increase over the next two years. As for CGT – it did not prevent a housing bubble in the USA, Australia.

  3. So Bored 3

    There is a bit of a danger here that we will rush to build houses to meet current and future requirements without giving though to what the future urban environment requires. Thought needs to be directed towards whether the urban sprawl we generate with housing subdivisions is any longer a good long term option or a misallocation of resources. Thought also needs to go toward what a low energy economy will look like and to make provisions.

    Whilst I trust the market to build and develop, responding to signals I see no reason for faith in their ability or the current planning process to anticipate future needs and deliver the considered signals.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 3.1

      Excellent point. We need more accomodation but we also need to reduce energy, power, water and land usage given what we know is coming up.

      Any enlightened government would look at facilitating new forms of urban development not blindly spending a small fortune on double bitumenising the countryside. Does anyone think Key and Joyce are up to the task?

      BTW do we REALLY need to spend $3 bill on double laning SH1 from Puhoi to Wellsford?

  4. coge 4

    Problem is Kiwis want to have homes to live in. Mugabe had the right idea, knock half of them down. That will teach those degenerate & greedy Kiwis!

  5. coge 5

    Problem is Kiwis want to have homes to live in. Mugabe had the right idea, knock half of the buildings down. That will teach those degenerate & greedy Kiwis!

  6. Chris 6

    A capital gains tax on secondary and more homes/houses is definitely needed to shift (… urmmmmmhhhhagggghh! *CLUMPK! there. shifted) investment from housing to other investment sectors.

    A mortgage levy naturally enough would only apply to mortgages required to purchase additional investment houses/homes. It wouldn’t apply to first/principal homes/secondary beach/bach/crib properties.

    I echo Bored… we do need to imagine and create a low/hyper energy efficient economy. Shame the wingnuts can’t see past their bombast and puffery to put their skills towards this worthy goal.

  7. vto 7

    housing bubble this, housing bust that. I reckon most people have no idea whats a bubble and whats not.

    On the long term average value must equal cost. Otherwise nothing will get built.

    Right at this point in time values are way below cost and as such the market is out of kilter on the downside. During the ‘boom’ values were not that much above cost and so were hardly out of kilter on the upside.

    Values will rise to meet cost. And probably quite shortly given the so-called housing shortage. But such a rise is not a boom built on fluff or speculation or any of that crappola. Such a rise is a move back to the long term average – where value equals cost. Its very simple.

  8. vto 8

    Quite frankly frankly I get very tired hearing the likes of Bollard and English and other politicians telling us that we are all terrible for liking houses and carrying on.

    “Stop spending money. Stop buying plasma tvs” they cried.

    “Start spending money, Start buying plasma tvs” they not too long after cried.

    They should all just shut the fuck up. Bloody hypocrites. How many tvs do you reckon English would own? How many houses does he own? Ay? Ay?

    And I just do not understand why investment in housing is always pilloried? For fux sake it is one of the fundamental requirements for life on planet earth – a roof over ones head at night. Economic activity in this area is fundamental and as equally valid as economic activity in that golden child called exporting.

    And what is with exporting that justifies its halo anyway? Are people saying that the only way make money for NZ is to bring it in from outside? If so, then that means we are taking it off other people outside NZ and making them poorer, according to that logic which assumes that NZs economy, like the world economy, is a finite system.

    There is just as much validity in growing NZs domestic economy. It is not a finite system you know.

    bloody grumble grump.

    • Kevin Welsh 8.1

      Be a waste of money if he had one at the Dipton ranch as it would never get used.

  9. tsmithfield 9

    I agree with VTO. Increased property values is not necessarilly a bad thing, and not necessarilly counterproductive to business.

    My company is supported by mortgages over several houses from family members involved in the company. Because of the drop in house values, we didn’t have room to raise additional finance for the company if it was required.

    Consequently, if housing values rise, we will have more equity available and will be able to use that to further expand the business.

    There are a lot of small businesses in NZ in a similar position, so increases in house values will also help the productive sector

  10. funkster 10

    It’s not investment in housing that’s bad (building more and better housing), it’s speculation in housing that’s the problem… buying and selling second, third, (to however many properties you like) properties to make profit, not to live in.

    The fact that your on paper losses get written off against your income, but that in most cases the appreciation in value is not taxed distorts the investment market, ultimately driving up housing costs to larger proportions of household income, and making it much more difficult to buy a first home.

  11. Reddy 11

    Anything that stops people speculating in houses can’t happen soon enough IMHO. An affordable roof over ones head is a basic human need- people buying up heaps of houses just to flick on for capital gain is obscene.

    I was a pretty big fan of Helen, but as time goes by I think her failure to put a stop to property speculation by both NZers and foreign buyers was inexcusable.The average house owner NZer now owes a small fortune to overseas banks- this debt will have a big impact on how people live their lives now and well into the future. The astronomical cost of housing will force many more of our young people overseas.

    I hope Bill English does actually do something about the problem and these are not just empty words.

  12. mike 12

    Forget about the CGT – it’s jaw boning as it would be politcal suicide. Nats have to be seen to to be open to ideas but thats as it will go.

    GST will rise to 15% more likely

  13. jagilby 13

    I find myself in the totally foreign situation of whole-heartedly agreeing with you Marty.

    I don’t know how this works now… do I hand you my VRWC membership, do I get a complimentary berret? What’s that deal? What have I become?

  14. jagilby 14

    Actually no… sorry.

    Don’t agree with this:
    “Better yet, some of the extra revenue could be used to get the government back in surplus sooner.”
    It should ONLY be tax neutral. Broadening the tax base is not an excuse to increase the tax take.

    And I’d only be a fan of a variable mortgage levy on second/investment property. Why would you errect another barrier to entry for first home buyers?

    The only segment of the electorate that this would be grossly unpopular with is baby-boomers. Anyone younger than them is actually sick to death of them siphoning “wealth” through property.

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