Daily Archives: May 16, 2017

Two assessments of issues behind the housing crisis

A couple of interesting articles looking at the issues in our current housing markets.

From Mother Jones: “Is Your City Being Sold Off to Global Elites?

That’s certainly a question that goes directly to our situation in Hawaii. The article digs into the situation in Vancouver, British Columbia, with a history of urban diversity.

It’s midmorning on a Saturday in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, and this is maybe the 20th example we’ve seen of what locals call the “empty-house syndrome”—homes purchased by foreign nationals, many of them wealthy Chinese, and left to sit vacant. Some will eventually have occupants; Vancouver is a top destination for well-heeled emigrants. But often, the new owners treat the houses as little more than vehicles for spiriting capital out of China. By one recent estimate, 67,000 homes, condos, and apartments in the Vancouver metro area, or about 6.5 percent of the total, are either empty or “underused”—an appalling statistic, given a housing market so tight that rental vacancy rates are below 1 percent.

We certainly see those empty houses in Kahala when we walk on the beach in the mornings. Just in the stretch of houses we walk past daily, there are probably two dozen large empty luxury homes. And I’m sure there are many more empty units hidden in high-rise condominiums.

Anyway, Vancouver is experimenting with how to respond. We should be watching.

And the New York Times looked at another aspect of housing: “How Homeownership Became the Engine of American Inequality.”

The culprit here is the mortgage interest deduction, which lets home owners deduct the portion of their mortgage payments that go to interest on their loans. It’s a financial benefit that renters don’t enjoy.

A friend has proposed a homeowner’s surcharge dedicated to funding affordable homes, and calls existing homeowners perhaps the largest impediment to expanding the housing base.

Complicated issues here.