Unconventional Economist

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Saul-ute to a real economist

Saul Eslake is on fire. Earlier this month, Mr Eslake wrote a wonderful article in Fairfax lambasting the first home owners’ grant and other demand-side measures employed in vain by Australia’s governments to make homes more affordable: Governments have thus been providing cash handouts to first-time home buyers for almost half a century. Yet, strikingly,

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That’s not a first home owner grant!

This is a first home buyer grant. From the UK Telegraph: [A] controversial new mortgage deal is being launched by five local authorities and backed by Lloyds Banking Group, one of the lenders bailed out by the taxpayer during the credit crisis. The scheme is aimed at struggling first-time buyers who are unable to afford the

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Is the first home buyer pool running dry?

Last week, I quoted an Australian Financial Review article explaining how Australia’s banks are lifting maximum loan-to-value ratios (LVRs) and are, in some cases, waving mortgage insurance payments on high LVR loans in an effort to increase mortgage lending: Major banks are pitching special mortgage deals to their customers in an effort to generate business

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Mirror image

As regular readers will know, I am a close follower of the Canadian economy and housing market. Like Australia, Canada is a commodity exporter and more or less dodged the global recession that recently shocked the developed world. As in Australia, there is also widespread debate about whether Canada is experiencing a speculative housing bubble

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Dateline questions the China growth story

SBS Dateline last night showed an investigative story entitled China’s Ghost Cities. The video takes viewers on a tour of vast new cities of apartments and shops that are being built across China and which remain almost completely empty – all in the name of achieving economic growth. One of the people interviewed in the

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Ponzi dynamics (by Leith van Onselen)

An article in Friday’s Australian Financial Review (AFR) entitled “Getting a foot in the door” neatly highlighted the ponzi-like nature of the Australian housing market and the unsustainability of current housing values. Below are some extracts from the article along with some commentary of my own. It took Lee Palmer two years of trying before

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The Economist on housing supply

I was disappointed with The Economist’s recent special reports on housing. Whilst the reports captured the psychology and the demand-drivers of bubbles well (discussed in an earlier post), they failed to adequately capture the role of supply-side constraints. As far as I could see, the only reference to the supply-side of the housing market were

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NAB warns on offshore funding risks

The Australian banks’ heavy reliance on offshore funding has received limited coverage in the press lately. On Thursday, the Australian Financial Review (AFR) ran a story entitled Clyne sounds funding alarm, where NAB’s CEO warned about funding challenges facing Australia’s banks and the risks inherent to the Australian economy. Surprisingly, however, Clyne’s comments were not

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The Economist: Bricks and Slaughter

The Economist has published an excellent article entitled Bricks and Slaughter (h/t Financial Insights for the link). It is part of a series by the Economist exploring the lessons to be learned from the global housing bubble. Below are some key extracts; although I recommend that you read the article in full for yourself. A

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Jumping the urban growth boundary

Australia’s state and local governments rely on a variety of regulatory devices to limit suburban growth. One measure that has been implemented in all of Australia’s major cities and some towns (many within the past decade) is the Urban Growth Boundary or UGB.  A UGB is a form of large-scale zoning whereby the government effectively draws a ring around a

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Guest Post: FHOG: Proudly Ripping Off Young Aussies since 2000

Sam Birmingham runs a top quality networking site for young professionals called WeBe, which provides up-to-date information on financial matters, work-related issues, lifestyle news and reviews, and current affairs and opinion pieces. WeBe also provides a platform where members can have their voices heard, express opinions and share ideas with other like-minded Young Professionals. With the last week’s Mortgage Choice data indicating

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Productivity Commission on Planning/Zoning

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am critical of Australia’s urban planning structure and land-use regulations.  Through growth control policies such as exclusionary zoning and urban growth boundaries, Australia’s governments have effectively told the market where development can and cannot occur. In turn, they have restricted the level of contestability and competition in the land market and helped raise

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Puru Saxena on China, Commodities and Australia

Financial Sense Interview with Puru Saxena (click to listen)  A reader, ‘Sceptic’, today posted the above link to an interview on Financial Sense with Puru Saxena. Mr Saxena runs Puru Saxena Wealth Management, an established money management firm based in Hong Kong. Mr Saxena produces the monthly Money Matters report, which follows economic, historical and geo-political trends,

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The Economist on Australian Housing

Some readers might have seen it already, but the Economist has just released an article questioning the sustainability of Australia’s house price boom. Here are some key extracts (article available here): This week in The Economist we will publish our quarterly index of house prices around the world. Australia’s homes are the most overvalued in the index. The ratio of prices to

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The Baby Boomer Bust?

The 21st century will be the century of old age, where declining birth rates meet longer life expectancies. This ageing of the population will affect many areas of the international economy, from consumption and growth to asset valuations.  The impacts from ageing will likely be most acute in Western Nations, although some developing countries, most notably

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Disparate groups slam Australia’s housing affordability

In the wake of the 2011 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, which identified Australia as having the most unaffordable housing in the Anglosphere, it appears that pressure is building on the Australian Government to take corrective action. Over the past two weeks, concerns have been raised by three disparate groups: the Sacred Heart Mission, the Real Estate Institute of

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UK deleveraging: “standard of living to plunge at fastest rate since 1920s”

The Telegraph today published a disturbing article on the dire state of the UK economy: Households face the most dramatic squeeze in living standards since the 1920s, the Governor of the Bank of England warned, as he reacted to the shock disclosure that the economy was shrinking again. Families will see their disposable income eaten up as

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China’s Demographic Time Bomb

The 21st century will be the century of old age, where declining birth rates meet longer life expectancies. Nowhere are these demographic shifts occurring as quickly as in China, which is facing demographic challenges that threaten to slow its long-term expansion. China’s demographic headwinds stem from its ‘one child policy’, which was brought into effect in 1979 and is

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Detailed Report: The 2011 Demographia Housing Affordability Survey (By Leith van Onselen)

The 7th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey has just been released and, once again, it has delivered a stern condemnation of housing policy in Australia. This year, the Demographia survey has been expanded to 325 markets in seven countries: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The

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The Days of Easy Credit are Numbered

Back in December, I wrote the following: In the early-1990s, non-bank lenders entered the Australian mortgage market and began raising funds via securitisation on wholesale debt markets. The rise of these non-bank lenders caused an intensification of competition amongst mortgage lenders. With no formal regulator and no rules outside of regular trade practices and corporations law, they

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Guest Post: Changing the Rules: Why our Property Boom is Over (Part 1)

Sam Birmingham runs a top quality networking site for young professionals called WeBe, which provides up-to-date information on financial matters, work-related issues, lifestyle news and reviews, and current affairs and opinion pieces. WeBe also provides a platform where members can have their voices heard, express opinions and share ideas with other like-minded Young Professionals. Yesterday, Sam published the first in

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Why not copy Houston?

Following on from my recent articles on land-use regulations and housing affordability, I want to take readers through Texas’ deregulated urban planning system, and how this system has assisted in providing Texans with housing that is among the most affordable in the Western world despite very high population growth. Adam Smith would be proud: Possibly the best description

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Planning Gone Mad

My previous article, The Truth about the US Housing Market, has obviously divided opinion on the important issues of housing affordability and the causes of housing bubbles. In only 48 hours, this article has been read by over 5,000 people, making it my second most popular article of all time, behind Australian Housing: a Bubble in

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The Truth about the US Housing Market

Last week, the United States Case-Shiller 20-cities Composite house price index took an unexpected plunge, falling 1.3% in October from a month earlier. Prices have now fallen by around one-third (see below chart). Month-over-month prices fell in all metro areas covered by the index. And in six markets – Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Portland, Seattle and Tampa – house prices have