GDP: Cold Weather and Hot Real Estate

In October, Canada’s inflation-adjusted Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded by 0.16%, which rounds up to 0.2%. While a second consecutive month of growth is unambiguously good news, we should be concerned about the amount and type of growth. Amount of Growth Real GDP (in chained 2002 dollars) dropped from a peak of $1,241 billion in July 2008 to a trough […]

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Vancouver bids to be world’s greenest city

Last week, the City of Vancouver’s task force, the Greenest City Action Team, issued a plan for the city with short and longer-term goals and policy advice on achieving them. The report covers more than climate change, a good thing as it is important to identify win-wins that lead to improvement on other environmental, health and social objectives as we […]

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BC outlook: this is gonna hurt

Housing has been one of the major drivers of the BC economy in recent years. Low interest rates led to rising home prices and a psychology of “must get in before being locked out forever”; leading a housing bubble that had everyone in town swapping jaw dropping stories of bidding wars and outrageous prices paid. The economic driver was not […]

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Confessions of a Newspaper Economist

Declan picks up on Stephen’s suggestion that economists were too diffident to raise concerns about the real estate bubble: How to square the group of economists in the front pages of the paper offering a series of right wing prescriptions supported by neither fact nor theory with the economist unwilling to point out a housing bubble because it doesn’t fit […]

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Open Letter from Canadian Economists

The Progressive Economics Forum’s open letter is now making the rounds. Signatories include four chairs of economics  departments, two former Presidents  of the Canadian Economics Association, a former federal  Secretary of State (Finance), and  a former Quebec Minister  of  Industry. Here’s the text and the 88 signatories: Open Letter from Canadian Economists on the Current Economic Crisis and the Appropriate […]

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Reigning in the Mortgage Industry

I’m pleased to see the federal government are taking action to modestly reign in the wilder excesses of the Canadian mortgage lending industry. They propose to insure only loans with a 5% downpayment and 35 year or less amortization period – compared to tnhe status quo which permits insurance of no down payment 40 year loans. My recollection is that […]

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Federal Liberals on housing: then and now

The Wellesley Institute blasts the federal Liberals on housing: Earlier today, the Liberal Urban Communities Caucus released a powerful report condemning the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, and calling for strong action. Eighteen years ago, almost to the day, the National Liberal Caucus Task Force on Housing released a powerful report that condemned the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney, and […]

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What the homeless need …

 … is homes. Check out this astonishing admission, as reported by CBC: St. Paul’s in downtown Vancouver, one out of every four beds is being used to treat the homeless, drug addicts and the mentally ill, said [Lorna Howes, the director of acute and community mental health for Vancouver with the Vancouver Coastal Health authority]. We are spending money on […]

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The cost of homelessness

For the first time in years, I forked out a toonie to buy the Vancouver Sun this past Saturday. It must have been a guest editor for Easter or something because the banner headline screamed: The Cost of Homelessness: BC spends $644 million a year on services for those on the street. A study says the same amount would buy […]

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The Dynamics of Housing Affordability

http://www03.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/b2c/catalog/z_getpdf.jsp?pdfkey=2913653764704560038976021471679303982482875120909016402/65901.pdf CMHC have published a joint study with StatsCan on the dynamics of housing affordability, 2002 to 2004. Affordable housing is defined as paying more than 30% of household pre tax income on shelter costs. Annually published cross sectional estimates show that about 20% of Canadians were paying too much for housing in any given year over this period. This […]

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Housing and Homelessness in Toronto

From PEF member Nick Falvo, from today’s Toronto Star: City has a useful plan but still needs funding TheStar.com – comment – City has a useful plan but still needs funding January 15, 2008 Nick Falvo Over the past decade, media attention surrounding homelessness has been widespread, prompting Canadians to become increasingly concerned about a mounting social crisis. Shelter usage […]

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Is Big City Real Estate Overpriced?

The current issue of Maclean’s features a typically provocative cover on “Real Estate 2008.” The “Buy? Sell? Panic?” headline caught my attention because I am currently selling a place in Ottawa and moving to Toronto. The story inside Maclean’s is far more soothing, suggesting that there is no risk of a real estate crash in major Canadian cities because: sub-prime […]

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More on the Olympics and poverty in Vancouver

My office window looks out over Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, an area notorious for being Canada’s poorest postal code. Back when Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Olympics, we pointed out that the world’s media would be stationed just ten minutes walk away from truly abject poverty, and when the cameras started rolling, it may not be gorgeous mountain backdrops they would […]

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Mortgage interest deductibility

Given the odd rumbling in Ottawa that the feds might make mortgage interest deductible from income tax, this article from the New York Times provides some interesting background on the origins of this deduction in the US, the impacts it has had, and the current state of play. The full article is rather lengthy; this excerpt captures some of the […]

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Homelessness prevention

The August issue of the Journal of Primary Prevention is dedicated to articles on homelessness, addictions and mental illness. It has a US focus but many of the problems will be familiar to Canadians, too. A guest editorial (pdf) kicks off the issue by scoping out the problem, with a good summary of studies on the hidden financial costs to […]

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The hidden costs of homelessness

are high, according to a new report, summarized by Gordon Laird in the Toronto Star: According to a new report from the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, Shelter: Homelessness in a Growth Economy, homelessness is costing Canadian taxpayers $4.5 billion to $6 billion a year. Canada in 2007 collectively spends more managing homelessness than it spends on international […]

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The Human Costs of Financial Deregulation – US Sub Prime Housing Lending

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_12/b4026050.htm A rather moving story from Business Week about the real victims of the crisis of the US subprime mortage market – the borrowers. The late stages of the US housing bubble were sustained by a flood of new buyers – lower income households tempted to get into the housing market by superficially low interest rate mortgages for which they […]

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Vancouver’s housing challenge

The story below was the banner headline piece on page one of today’s Vancouver Sun, and is a perfect choice for the “we told you so” file. Three years ago, after being awarded the 2010 Olympics, our BC Solutions Budget (and in subsequent editions) made many of the same points as the Olympics Housing Roundtable’s soon-to-be-released report. This report, and […]

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Affordable housing and urban design

Last Fall, in my capacity as a member of the Vancouver City Planning Commission, I helped organize a conference on affordable housing from a longer-term urban planning perspective. The final report is now available here. It features a summary of what happened at the conference, written by yours truly, but also contains lots of great visuals that were developed and […]

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Mortgage excesses in the US

This is scary: The Concerns of Comptroller of the Currency About the Excesses in the Mortgage Market Nouriel Roubini | Dec 18, 2006 A colleague in the financial sector pointed to my attention a speech that the Comptroller of the Currency – John Duggan – has recently given where he expressed some serious concerns about the growth of exotic mortgages […]

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Housing first

The Globe and Mail is running a series on homelessness in BC (at least, in its BC edition). Mark Hume reiterates the case for supportive housing arrangements to get people off the streets into a place where they can stabilize their lives. It would be highly advisable for senior governments to get back into the housing game, as the market […]

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Bubble trouble

Dean Baker has a gloomy take on the impact of the housing bubble bursting: After the Housing Bubble Bursts By Dean Baker t r u t h o u t | Perspective Tuesday 24 October 2006 Every new release of data on the housing market provides more evidence that the housing bubble is finally bursting. Compared with year-ago levels, nationwide […]

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Happy 60th birthday, CMHC! You’re fired.

Today’s Globe has a story that the feds are contemplating the privatization of CMHC. Let me get this straight. With the run-up in real estate prices, housing affordability is perhaps as bad as it has ever been. In recent years, CMHC has pulled away from supporting the creation of new affordable housing (although it does help support existing social housing […]

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BC’s new rent supplements

The BC government has introduced a new program to address the crisis in housing affordability: rent supplements. Over the past five years, the BC government has stopped building affordable housing for low income people. There has been new federal money for this purpose but the government has used that money to build “assisted living” spaces for seniors (properly part of […]

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