April 29, 2015

Changes in rates and perceptions: housing, income and inflation

David’s comment to this post deserves highlighting:


Vancouver house prices were increasing at a ridiculous rate before there was a such thing as a Chinese millionaire immigrant.

In the 20 years leading up to Expo 86 Vancouver house prices doubled three times. In the 30 years since then they’ve doubled a further four times.

There have been many ups and downs along the way, but on average the price of a house in Vancouver has been going up 10 percent per year for five decades.

So why are we so worried today? Why are so many calling for regulations to stop foreigners from bidding up our real estate?

There were years when incomes outpaced inflation, when people could get ahead simply by working hard. There were years when inflation was much higher than it is today. A 10 percent growth in real estate value didn’t look like much when the bank was offering 12 percent on a GIC.

But incomes stopped growing in real, inflation adjusted terms a long time ago. Today local buyers’ wages are moving along at the 2 percent inflation rate, if they’re moving at all, while housing continues to grow at the same 10 percent rate it’s been at for the last 50 years.

Ordinary citizens are like pedestrians on the side of a highway watching their dreams get smaller every second. It’s hard to blame them for wanting someone to install a traffic signal and turn it red.

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