Raise taxes to prevent a housing bust: Stiglitz

Joseph E. Stiglitz at the World Economic Forum 2009 annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland
Joseph E. Stiglitz at the World Economic Forum 2009 annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland

A weekly roundup of news and views on property development, sales, affordability and more

Will higher taxes stop a housing bust? U.S. economist Joseph E. Stiglitz says capital gains taxes on higher-priced real estate, as well as policies or taxes targeting empty homes, will help ease inequality and boost the economy. The Nobel Prize-winning economist, who has called Canada’s housing inequality “very disturbing,” says real estate taxation can help dampen housing bubbles and prevent broader economic damage. (BNN)

Blame politicians for high house prices. Why is housing so expensive in Vancouver and Toronto? Lawrence Solomon, executive director of Urban Renaissance Institute and a former vice-chair of the City of Toronto Planning Board, says Chinese buyers, green belts outside the cities and opponents to high rises do contribute to high housing costs, but most of the blame lies elsewhere. “City homes aren’t expensive because we’ve run out of land to develop within cities, as is often claimed. City homes are expensive because politicians prevent available land from being intelligently developed or redeveloped.” (Financial Post)

Another pension group is selling its Vancouver real estate holdings. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is looking for buyers for a minority stake in its $4 billion portfolio, which includes office towers and shopping malls. Cadillac Fairview, the real estate unit of Canada’s third-biggest pension fund, is looking to raise about $2 billion from the sale. It follows Ivanhoe Cambridge and the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan in seeking to reduce holdings in the Vancouver commercial market, where prices have reached record highs amid an influx of foreign cash even as new supply drives up vacancy rates. (Bloomberg)

Concord Pacific wants its land back. The developer is suing the City of Vancouver for trying to sell a piece of land that was included in millions of dollars’ worth of community benefits Concord provided as part of the company’s redevelopment on the north shore of False Creek 20 years ago. While City planning documents say a building as high as 425 feet could be allowed, Concord says the site was to be used for charitable community purposes. The lawsuit asks for an injunction to prevent the sale, and Concord has offered to buy back the land at a fair market price. (The Globe and Mail)

When pets are a priority. Some New Yorkers don’t just look for accommodation that accepts pets but for places that their pets will accept, from access to a patio to access to daycare. “Many people who don’t have children view their pets as their children, and they consider their pets’ needs in the same way others would consider how the schools or playgrounds are in a particular neighborhood,” says one. (The New York Times)