These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author and are not intended to be used as personal or financial advice.
UPSIDE DOWN FINANCES RE HOUSING FOR SINGLES AND LOW INCOME-PART 2 OUTSIDE THE BOX SOLUTIONS FOR PRICING OF HOUSING
Part 1 of this series of three articles showed how singles and low income families buying the smallest units in the housing market are forced to pay more for less space while the rich are getting much more while paying less.
From Part 1, information restated here is one example, condos presently being developed in Calgary by a developer in one housing complex includes 1 bed, 1 bath, 1 patio micro-condo of 552 sq. ft. with starting price of $299,900. Two patio, 2 bed, 2 full bath, 2 story 1232 sq. ft. condos were already sold out so price not available. Then there are 2 patio, 3 bed, 2.5 bath, 2 and 3 story 1830 sq. ft. condos priced from $649,900 to $749,900. Apparently, ultra-deluxe model has master bedroom suite covering entire third 600 sq. ft. floor. The third floor bedroom is bigger than total square footage of $299,900 condo. When price per square foot is calculated for units in the complex, micro-condo is selling for $543 per sq. ft. while three bed condos are selling from $355 to $409 per sq. ft.
So who is more likely to buy micro-condos? Possibly low income couples, single parent with one child, or environmentally conscious, and probably an individual/single or divorced/separated person. Who gets to pay $150 to $200 more per square foot for two-thirds less space? Ripple effects are owners of micro-condos have to proportionately pay more house taxes, education taxes, mortgage interest and real estate fees on less house and less take home pay for biggest lifetime expense. When it is sold, will seller recoup buying price?
One could question how this is any different than gouging like loan-sharking, and pay-day loans rather than the welfare of singles and low income.
As in many parts of the world, parts of Canada are heading for a crisis in affordable housing. Different solutions have been proposed to avert this crisis. One is Attainable Housing (attainyourhome), for example in Calgary, which allows maximum household income of $90,000 for single and dual/parent families with dependent children living in the home and maximum household income of $80,000 for singles and couples with no dependent children living in the home. While this method allows singles and low income to enter the housing market with a low down payment, it does not alleviate the problem of insane upside-down pricing of housing as outlined in the example shown above. Another solution that has been proposed is an affordable housing action plan of inclusionary zoning where a certain percentage of new housing units built would be social and community housing partly funded by government programs, and a certain percentage of new housing units would be affordable rental or ownership housing units built by the private sector. However, developers and the housing associations will argue this will not work and neighbors continue to have a “not in my backyard” mentality.
Regardless of the above proposed solutions, outside the box thinking is required for affordable housing. How about the following suggestions?
OUTSIDE THE BOX SOLUTIONS FOR PRICING OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Solution 1 – for a housing complex as identified in the above outrageous pricing example, prices should be set where the base price of the unit with the smallest square footage cannot be more than the base price of the unit with largest square footage within the complex. Any changes and upgrades by the buyer would be added to the base price. (In the above example the base price of the 552 square foot condo could only be $355 per square foot to match the cheapest price of the biggest per square foot unit in the complex.
Solution 2 – Charges for house taxes, education taxes, and real estate fees should be based on square footage, not the price of the housing unit. This would provide fairness where fees are based on largest unit and become proportionately less on smaller units. (Added January 7, 2016)
Solution 3– charge a fee such as a carbon tax fee for units greater than a certain number of square feet. For example, allow a maximum size of 2500 square ft. for a housing unit (assumption is that there is no need for excessive amounts of square footage in housing). For anything greater than 2500 square feet, charge an extra fee to the buyer with an incremental increase in the fee for every additional 500 square feet of space. (The rich have been paying less and getting more square footage while using non-renewable resources plus water at an alarming rate, i.e. 5000 square foot log cabin using twelve logging trucks filled with harvested logs and a showhome that has seventeen sinks). The monies collected from these fees could be used to build more affordable housing.
The following are excerpts from two published articles:
- MoneySense, Sept./Oct., 2015, page 17 ‘Two ways to cool white-hot home prices’ (ABBREVIATED VERSION) (moneysense.ca)
“Concern should not be for how much houses cost, but how out of reach home ownership has become for Canadians….Developers motivated by profit have built mostly smaller one and two bedroom condo units…There is also rapidly increasing rental rates due to a scarcity of new rental units….One solution-taxing housing, not income. We don’t currently pay tax on the profit earned from the sale of our primary residence. We do, however, pay progressive tax on the income we earn. Thomas Davidoff, economics professor at Sauder University, uses himself as an example and selling a house in Vancouver for a large profit. ‘I was wrong about the prices, wrong about the future value, and I was still rewarded for my dumb luck’. He compares this to his professional life, where he spent the better part of 10 years completing a bachelor, master’s degree and PhD. Today, he pays the government $0.42 in tax for every dollar he earns. ‘Getting my PhD damn near killed me. Why is my dumb luck rewarded but my hard work penalized?’….He suggests the federal government tax capital gains made on the sale of a property. The tax could also be progressive. More important is what a new tax structure would do to affordability. By taxing property profits, you reduce the number of speculators and real estate investors who help to inflate housing profits. This would be politically challenging, since homeowners are a politician’s biggest voting block….Still, those elected to political office need to take initiative—and put housing affordability for the many before the political aspirations of a few. To do nothing would mean we accept that $1 million for an average home is the new norm in Canada”.
- Calgary Herald, September 12, 2015, page F3, ‘Builders frame up the coming year’ (calgaryherald):
“Canadian Home Builder’s Association- Tally Hutchinson, president ‘Our message on affordability is being heard. We still believe there are some large issues on the table that need to be ironed out. One being inclusionary zoning’….This zoning would require the private sector to construct and sell a percentage of units within a development at a pre-determined percentage, below market price….’The issue we have with inclusionary zoning is that it transfers that broader societal obligation of subsidized housing onto a small group of homeowners. We believe these costs should be shared by all members of a community, not just those who are buying new homes for condos. It still is a large issue on the table that needs to be ironed out’.”
The blog posted here is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles. It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.