Published at Saturday, February 16th, 2019 - 23:52:38 PM. House. By Austin Lagi.
The Macro-Dynamics of the US and the Canadian Housing Markets: An Analytical Comparison Introduction: This article examines three key fundamental questions: (1)-Would the US housing market face any reversal given what is happening in the US and global economy? (2)-As predicted by some pundits, would the Canadian economy undergo any serious correction? (3)-What are the key macroeconomic factors which impact the Canadian and the US housing markets? And using this framework what predictions can we make both for short and long term trends of real estate markets? The US Housing Market: Its Evolution from Crisis (2007-2008) to Present: The US housing bubble was created by Steroids Banking using Securitization process and taking advantage of low interest rates and massive inflow of investment money from abroad. The housing prices in most regions almost doubled 2001 to 2006; and subprime lending escalated astronomically. The private Mortgage banks were applying their creativity and greed in designing highly risky esoteric mortgage products using the Securitization process. What is Securitization? Put simply this is packaging of mortgages (including subprime) into structured products (Mortgage backed securities, Collateralized debt obligations). The manufacturing mortgage bank then removes these esoteric products from its balance sheets to minimize any risks and sells these products to institutional investors using SIV (Structured investment vehicles). The buyers of these products erroneously assumed that the underlying mortgages of these securities were safe collateral given upward trending housing market. However, when subprime mortgages defaulted and housing market began to sink, these structured products built around defaulting mortgages fell sharply in value, thereby freezing the entire global credit system. Added to this turmoil was dilution of commercial paper because of potential default of big lending institutions. The global financial system was under siege. Ironically, the Credit default swaps, which mean to insure against default of these mortgages collapsed under their own weight, thereby reinforcing the Credit crisis. The US Treasury and the Fed intervened and injected trillions of dollars to save the collapsing US Housing and Banking system. This crisis is a classic example of Moral Hazard issue. Who was responsible for over-leveraging the system beyond its buoyancy point? Technically the Mortgage banks had packaged the mortgages and passed on the risks to the institutional investors. The institutional investors made the wrong assumption that the US housing market will move North forever. The Fed and other institutions did not have a proper regulatory-monitoring structure as envisioned in the BASEL guidelines to avert such over-leveraging. Nobody knew who will be responsible if the edifice collapses. Worst of all, the institutional investors assumed wrongly that the Credit default swaps (CDS) instruments would work miracles; and bail out defaulting mortgages. This is known as Moral hazard problem. Ultimately everybody was looking forward to the Fed and the Treasury to bail out the global financial system from reaching the doomsday. The US Housing Market in the aftermath of Crisis: The Mortgage Delinquency Rate (MDR) is a key metric that speaks of the real fallout of the US housing crisis (2007-2008). It measures the percentage change in delinquency of residential loans. In June 2007, the MDR was 2.17% and reached its highest level in March 2011 at 11.36%. It recovered back to 2008 levels at 10.4% recently. MDR is a key lagging indicator that reflects economic difficulties. Another key metric reflecting the state of housing health in the US is the S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Index. This is an index reflecting change in housing prices of 20 (and 10) key US metropolitan areas. The home prices in April 2012 for 20-city composite have reached the level existing in the start of 2003. In April 2012, the home prices have declined about 34-35% from its peak level in 2006. The main reason for a stagnant US housing market as evidenced from the MDR data is a fragile labor market. Slow job growth rate is due to weak consumer spending, which is the 70% component of real GDP and key driver of job creation in the US. Consumer spending is directly related to job growth rate, the saving rate and the consumer confidence. In an uncertain environment, spending falls and both the US dollar and saving rate increases. Although savings are recycled by the intermediaries as investments for businesses, this does not necessarily translate onto investment spending and GDP growth. Companies in a high risk environment aim to trim their balance sheets by paying off their debts, a process called as deleveraging. They do not want to burden their balance sheets by borrowing from banks. This deleveraging process slows down the level of investment in the economy thereby indirectly moderating the job growth rate. Deleveraging also runs counterproductive to low interest rates and impedes growth in jobs and therefore fast recovery of real estate prices. Why the Canadian housing market is not poised for a serious correction? The Canadian Mortgage system is more robust and conservative than the one prevailing in the US. First of all, the Canadian subprime market is only 5% of total outstanding mortgages whereas during its peak years 2004-2006, the US subprime market captured 25% of total outstanding US mortgages. The Canadian mortgage system executes better risk management tools including limited exposure to securitization and tight lending practices backed by insurance mortgage. The recent changes in the Mortgage lending have further tightened the belts to avoid any risks to healthy housing in Canada. The supply and demand conditions in Canada are monitored by all players actively. There is a great degree of transparency and authenticity in the housing data and practices. Supply dovetails both current and future demand leaving little room for creation of bubbles. Remember bubbles happen when there is a huge undiscovered lag between supply and demand. For example, there is an anticipated constraint of commercial real estate supply in the wake of surging demand both in Toronto area and Western Canada. A large number of Canadians are currently disillusioned by lower and volatile investment returns in the core financial assets, stocks and bonds. The ongoing volatility in the Capital markets is expected to last in the next few years, given some long lasting problems like risks of Sovereign debt crisis in Europe & the US. This situation has mobilized a great number of people to invest in real estate as most viable alternative investment in the wake of record low interest rates. This process might continue for some years as the core financial assets (stocks, bonds and mutual funds) may not pick up momentum soon. The concept of a bubble is not quite relevant in the context of the Canadian housing market. This is explained in terms of a typical sales cycle witnessed in Toronto and other places in Canada. The sales cycle woven around tighter demand-supply conditions mitigates the probability of bubbles. For example, in Toronto, condos are sold or flipped by investors, who generally do not live in those condos. When interest rates would inch up in future, these investors will find it difficult to keep highly expensive condos. They will sell these condos putting downward pressure on prices of the condominium market. Intuitively, the falling prices will give opportunity to new immigrants and other investors to purchase condos, as they could not previously afford it. This process is further strengthened by different ethnic groups who support their new immigrant friends and families toward the purchase of their first homes in Canada. Overall these processes would push prices upwards again. To conclude, given these tight supply-demand conditions, the chances of any serious correction are quite minimal in Toronto. What are the Macroeconomic factors which impact the prices of Real Estate? Interest Rates and Inflation: Interest rate is the price of money. It is determined by supply and demand of loanable funds. However the countrys Central bank can greatly influence the rate by tightening credit conditions or making those relaxed by pumping money into the system. This is typically done through Monetary Policy and open Market operations. Lower rates make it cheaper for potential buyers to borrow money and make purchases. It also helps current homeowners to refinance their homes and save money. All this will lead to stronger demand for mortgages and housing. Increasing rates will have the opposite effect and dampen the level of sales activity in the Mortgage market. Carry forward trades, borrowing at lower rates in one region and investing it in other, also indirectly impact real estate. For example, foreign institutional investors can borrow money overseas at cheaper rates and invest in Canadian real estate market. More important, real interest rates equal nominal rates minus inflation. Rising level of inflation will lower the real interest rates and declining levels will inflate real rates. Inflation typically feeds into asset prices including real estate. Tightening of money supply is done to control inflation, and this process leads to rising interest rates. Easing of money supply is done to trigger growth and this is accompanied with declining interest rates. However greater supply of money and rising oil prices (supply side) feed into inflation and ultimately inflates asset prices. Economic Growth, Consumer spending and Employment level: Economic growth is measured by growth in the real GDP. Slowdown in economic growth-both global and regional-raises fears of deflation or declining prices, which does not bode well with overall economic affluence. Deflation can be compared to freezing of an economy. Japan experienced sustained recession due to deflation for a long period. Fear of deflation due to declining growth can have negative impact on the real estate market. Labor Market dynamics and in particular the level of unemployment has a critical relationship to the health of the housing sector. Rising unemployment during recession is often accompanied with low housing demand and mortgage delinquencies. For example, when Enron crisis erupted, there was general softening in the regional housing market. Another example is the current state of the US housing market. Economists say that the slow pace of housing recovery is attributed to a stagnant US labor market, which is stuck up at over 8% of unemployment rate. Consumer spending plays a key role in the US while the export sector plays an important role in China. As well in Canada, consumer spending has correlation to the GDP growth. In case of the US, Consumer spending constitutes 70% of GDP and is therefore most important driver of GDP growth rate. Higher consumption level, driven by consumer confidence levels, leads to greater economic (job creation) activity and ultimately translates into greater demand for housing. Surging consumer debt, as it is happening in Canada, is also not healthy for a sustainable consumption and GDP growth. Over-leveraged consumers do not have the capacity to absorb shocks like layoffs or increase in interest rates & inflation. Institutional Capacity of Economy to absorb External shocks: The housing crisis of 2007-2008 contaminated the global financial system. The Fed and G-7 countries had to undertake unprecedented bail out measures to save the global financial system from getting derailed. Fortunately, the Canadian housing market was resilient enough to absorb the shocks and did not sink. This happened because of a relatively conservative mortgage system prevailing in Canada. Regulatory measures also impact the resilience of the housing market. For example, tax credits in the US had triggered growth of the housing sector in the aftermath of crisis. Canada has applied its regulations to keep the housing sector strong and healthy. Demographics and Migration: These play an important role in shaping the long term prospects of the real estate market. In Canada and the US, the aging population of baby boomers will create more demand for residential and vacation homes in the next decade. International migration to Canada is also an important determinant of housing market in Canada. Technology, Oil-Commodities boom and Exports: The Canadian economic and housing activity is also impacted by three external forces: Chinese Investors, Oil-commodities prices and economic activity in the US. The Western Canada is impacted by the level of Chinese and foreign investments, mainly in the Mining and Oil sector. The Eastern region, mainly Ontario and Quebec, is impacted by the level of exports to the US and therefore indirectly on the state of the US economy. Stronger Canadian dollar does not augur well for exporters. Overall, the Canadian economy and dollar are strengthened by rising demand for Oil and commodities. National Level of debt: In the US, the national level of debt is reaching about $14 trillion and will continue to grow in the years to come. National debt piles up due to persistent fiscal deficits in the economy. In the US, there is a challenge of twin deficits-both fiscal deficit and external imbalances. The twin deficits not only lead to faster growth of national debt but trigger anticipation of higher interest rates and inflation. This happens through the following mechanism: Higher debt in the US is monetized by either selling bonds to China (or other surplus countries) or by printing money from thin air. In either case it leads to greater risks and consequently higher interest rates, fast depreciating currencies and therefore more inflation. Some economists say that if debt is not contained by the US policy-makers, we may enter an era of hyperinflation where all asset prices (including real estate) will become very costly. Applying Macroeconomic Framework to analyze current & future trends: (I)-Current Global Economic Outlook: The global economic growth is expected to moderate in 2012 (and perhaps 2013). Concomitantly, the global real estate market is cooling down a bit. The moderation in growth is spread unequally across different geographical regions. In the US, which been the central point of housing crisis, there is some improvement in key housing indicators. Given sustained low rates, minimal probability of deflation (freezing of economy) and complete preparations by European Central Bank to cope with Eurozone debt crisis-there is less likelihood of any major reversal to the US economic fundamentals and therefore the housing market. The key emerging Global housing trends are captured in the following summary: (A)-The battered US housing market is relatively stable, with less increase in foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies. The US market is currently an ideal buyers market. However, there will be a substantial lag time before we can witness a complete turnaround in the US housing market. (B)-The vibrant Canadian housing market is generally perceived to be ready for some correction in 2012 and 2013. Chart V shows key housing trends in Canada. (C)-The European housing market is (and will in future) undergoing a degree of correction. This stems from recent fiscal crisis in Europe as well as fragility of the German economy exposed recently. The housing market in the emerging global economies is also cooling down a bit. (II)-Some Predictions using the Macroeconomic Framework: The short term perspective of the Canadian housing market might witness come corrections in 2012 and 2013, but as argued in this paper this will be minimal. Also, as argued further, the commercial real estate market will stay steady and strong in 2012 and 2013 in Canada. Given the complex interplay of global economic forces and what is happening in the Eurozone and the US in terms of debt crisis, it is rather difficult to make any certain long term predictions. However, growing complexity warrants a more holistic inter-market analysis to predict about the real estate trends. The seven key global economic trends of the next decade can help us understand the future real estate prospects as well. These seven trends are as follows: (1)-The bubble of Sovereign debt crisis in the US and Europe will last for sometimes, at least next decade. Governments in this part of the world are running unsustainable massive debts, which will ultimately put an upward pressure on inflation and interest rates. (2)-The clear outcome of (1) above will be depreciating value of currencies. (3)-Another consequence of (1) above will be fragile and volatile bonds and stock markets. (4)-Commodities, gold and some alternative investments will become attractive as they will be perceived to store real value. Currencies, stocks and bonds will depreciate fast. (5)-Inflation will be triggered by massive monetization of debt (printing currency from thin air). This situation may be exacerbated if China pulls out trillion of dollars of US bond purchases it made in the last decade; and if oil prices continue to move north. (6)-Demographic trends entail growth of baby boomers in North America and Europe leading to migration to North America. (7)-The US dollar will not evaporate because of spectacular performance of the US companies and technological advancement in North America. Given these seven key economic trends of the next decade, the housing market will stay vibrant and steady in Canada and the US. Baby boomers, foreign investors and immigrants will continue to play a critical role in strengthening the housing demand in North America. Hyperinflation, as worst case scenario, might pull down demand of assets because it would stoke prices of those assets including real estate. At this stage, however, it cannot be predicted whether the European and the US governments will take concrete measures to contain their debts and put in place sustainable debt management policies. Future events will unravel the political commitment of these governments. At this stage, one thing is certain: the current debt monetization policy of these governments is not sustainable in the long run.
Everything You Need to Know About Section 8 Housing : For years, youve worked persistently for long hours yet your pay is just not enough to take care of your expenses. Health care, utilities and rising food prices are barely covered by your wage. Pretty soon, your take-home pay wont be able to keep up with your familys growing expenses. This distressing scenario plagues millions of American families today. Their salaries just cant be stretched enough to adequately provide for housing expenses. If you are a legal United States resident and dont earn enough money to cover rent or mortgage payments, you may want to consider applying for the federal governments Housing Voucher Program, which is also referred to as section 8. What is Section 8? The Housing Act of 1937 provided for financial aid to be paid by the federal government to local housing agencies or LHAs to make the living conditions of low-wage earning families better. Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937, usually just referred to as Section 8, mandates the payment of federal housing assistance to landlords for the benefit of about 3.1 million families with low income. It makes housing assistance possible through various programs, with the Housing Choice Voucher program being the largest, which subsidizes most of the rent and utilities payments of about 2.1 million families. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) manages and funds the Section 8 programs. There are about 2,400 public housing agencies (PHAs) that administer the program locally. A Brief History of Section 8 Section 8 housing had its beginning during the Great Depression. The passing of the U.S. Housing Act by Congress constituted the start of federal housing assistance in the country. It furnished the money to build quality yet affordable low income housing apartments for financially-challenged wage earners. These units are administered and maintained by local authorities. The U.S. Housing Act was revised in 1961 to give way to the Section 23 Leased Housing Program which allowed low-income earners to take up residence in private low income housing apartments leased by local authorities. Tenants agree to pay a certain percentage of the rent, while the difference between the tenants payment and what the landlord would have normally received in the open market. Building maintenance were also performed by the local housing authorities. In 1974, the Act underwent another revision which provided for the creation of Section 8. Rather than build and manage public housing, it aimed to assist low-earning tenants who were allotting the greater part of their earnings on rent payment. Federal funds were now used to pay a portion of the rent in housing units chosen by the renters on the open market. Since then, several more legislations were passed to amend and refine the Section 8 program. The Critical Need for Housing Assistance The 2005 HUD report to Congress stated that the almost 6 million renter families in the country who dont benefit from public housing assistance suffer from worst housing needs. A huge bulk of these families have undergone severe rent burden which HUD describes as paying in excess of 50% of the wage-earners income for rent. Other households made their homes in second-rate buildings. Groups being given priority by Section 8 are composed of low-income households with children, senior citizens and handicapped individuals. Likewise, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have a Section 8 program called the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) which distributes a number of housing vouchers to qualified homeless U.S. armed forces veterans. The Housing Voucher Program The main Section 8 program is currently engaged in the housing voucher program. Housing choice vouchers are locally distributed and managed by public housing agencies or PHAs. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provide federal funds to these PHAs to manage the voucher program. A voucher can be project-based which means its use is confined to a particular apartment complex. PHAs may appropriate up to 20% of their vouchers for this. A voucher can also be tenant-based where the tenant can freely choose any housing that passes the criteria of the program and is not restricted to units within subsidized housing projects. The tenant may choose to rent a housing unit in the private sector, is not confined to any particular apartment complexes, and can choose to live anywhere in the U.S as long as the total rent meets the standards established by HUD. This can include living in Puerto Rico which has a Section 8 program managed by a public housing agency. Under the housing voucher program, households or individuals who are eligible for Section 8 funding are given a voucher which allows them to find and rent a unit where they will be responsible for paying 30% of the rent. The housing voucher will pay for the remaining 70% of rent and utilities. Most families pay for section 8 housing using 30% of their adjusted income, which is a familys total earning less the deductions for dependents below 18 years old, senior citizens, handicapped individuals, full-time students, as well as medical expenses and disability assistance. The voucher program is currently subsidizing the rent payment for nearly 2.1 million households in the United States. Whats more, these vouchers can be used at times by low income households to pay the mortgage or purchase a house. Prioritization of Housing Voucher In many instances, your local public housing agency will receive more applications than it can afford to approve vouchers for, and will as a result create a waiting list of applicants. PHAs can move certain applications forward or put them way back of the waiting list, and may choose to grant priority to households who are presently without a home or are residing in second-rate housing, wage-earners who spend more than half their income in rent, or individuals who are displaced against their will. Know more about prioritizing by inquiring at your local public housing agency office. Since section 8 isnt actually an entitlement benefit, people who become eligible for a housing voucher cannot be 100% sure that theyll get one. According to the latest figures, only 1 out of about 4 households who qualify for housing assistance receive it. Waiting lists can take long to be processed. In several places, eligible applicants fiercely compete with other applicants for vouchers. Due to the huge volume of demand, some LHAs have entirely ceased taking in applications. For instance, in New York where rents are exorbitant and oftentimes beyond reach of low-income earners, many households set their sights on section 8 vouchers. Today, as the country teeters toward the reality of the sequestration cuts to the federal budget, it seems that New York City may miss out on up to 6,000 section 8 vouchers that were intended to be made available this year. In Chicago, more than 2,300 households are on the waiting list. Recipients are picked out of the list by a lottery held every month. Only when the list is exhausted will the application process resume. Requirements to Qualify for Rent Assistance Putting these realities on one side, if you belong to a low-income bracket and you require rent subsidy or other support provided by the voucher program, you first need to make sure that you have what is financially required to qualify for Section 8 housing. Whether you qualify or not is dependent on certain factors which include your total household income, how much rent you are paying, the members of your household, the average income in your locality, and your assets. Income requirements differ from place to place, but as a rule you will need to have a total household earning of not more than 50% of the average income in your locality. The program is open to all U.S. citizens and people with legal immigration status. Another criterion is the number of your household members. Your Section 8 income limit gets lower as the members of your household gets fewer. Other factors are also put under consideration by HUD and its local agencies when checking an applicants qualifications. Generally taken into consideration are homelessness and other factors that are linked to a particular location like involvement in a local welfare-to-work program. Other criteria that may help you get considered for assistance are: • presently living in a homeless shelter • working over 42 hours each week • being a veteran of the U.S. Armed Services (widow or widower) • suffering from disability • being a senior citizen 62 years old and over • having children LHAs should also give priority to very low-income households whose total earnings dont even amount to 30% of the average income in the area. 75% of the new applicants that get qualified for housing assistance each year must be near or at the lowest-income level. If you think you have every reason to qualify for a housing voucher, you must go and get in touch with the public housing agency in your locality. You can get all the information you need on the HUD website including local office address, toll-free phone numbers, and email addresses. Dont get yourself fooled by professional con artists. There are fly-by-night agencies that will promise to help you to get all the Section 8 paperwork done for a certain fee. You can get all the help you need to apply for a housing voucher at no cost just by visiting your local public housing authority or your federal HUD office. Bear in mind that no person should ever ask you for money for a low income housing assistance application. Anyone who charges you for a voucher or an application can be arrested for fraud. Obligations Since a public housing authority approves the housing unit of a qualified household, the landlord and the family head sign a lease agreement. At the same time, the PHA and the landlord sign a contract for housing assistance payments that will run concurrently with the lease. This demonstrates that the PHA, the landlord and the tenant all have roles and obligations they must fulfill under the program. 1. Tenant Expect some delays before you receive the final decision on your application. Many applicants can be on the section 8 housing waiting lists for months, or possibly even years. If your application gets approved by the local PHA and you have received a housing voucher, you have to be absolutely sure that your present or future living situation meets HUD safety and health requirements. If you are renting, youll be asked to sign a one-year lease with a willing landlord who will be obliged to provide you with safe quality housing and fair rent. The landlord may require the tenant to pay a security deposit. After the first year, the landlord can draw up a lease renewal contract or allow the household to reside in the unit on a monthly lease. Know how much rent youll be paying. Section 8 housing requires you and your household to pay 30 percent of your monthly adjusted gross income on rent and utilities. The voucher you received will cover the rest of the cost. Visit your local PHA if you need help in determining how much you need to allocate each month. When the household has moved into the new home, each member is expected to abide by the lease and program rules, keep the housing unit in good condition, pay the percentage of rent promptly, and inform the PHA of any changes in family composition or income status. If you need to, you can move to another area without losing your eligibility to Section 8 housing. Just be sure to inform your local PHA ahead of time, terminate your lease according to its provisions, and look for another housing that will comply with HUD safety and health criteria. 2. Landlord The landlords responsibility in the voucher program is to provide tenants with a suitable, sanitary and clean low income housing unit with a fair rent. The living space must meet the HUDs housing quality criteria and must be kept up to those criteria for as long as the landlord receives housing assistance payments. Whats more, the property owner will extend the services that were agreed upon as was mentioned in the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with the public housing authorities. The landlord cannot charge the tenant any extra money except that of the reasonable rent and cannot accept any amount of payment that is outside the contract. Although required to follow fair housing laws, landlords are of no obligations to take part in the housing voucher program. Therefore, some landlords can refuse to accept Section 8 tenants. This may be due to several reasons such as: • Not desiring the government to get involved in the landlords business, as in conducting a full inspection by government workers of the premises for HUDs housing quality standards and the probable redress that may follow. • Concern that the tenant or members of the household will fail to keep proper maintenance of the unit. • Finding that the programs rent price is below the landlords expectation. • Not willing to take matters to court to evict a tenant. According to HUD requirements, judicial action is required to evict section 8 tenants, even if there were other legal procedures allowed. • Depending on state laws, it may be against the law to refuse to accept a tenant just because they have Section 8. Landlords have only past eviction, credit, criminal history and other general means of disqualifying a potential tenant. Other landlords, however, seem to have no beef against accepting Section 8 tenants. This could be because of: • The long waiting list can provide a vast reserve of potential tenants. • Generally on-time payments sent by the PHA for its share of the rent. • Tenants are motivated to take care of the low income housing unit to avoid paying for damaged property. Owing a previous landlord money can be ground for a tenant to be disqualified from the program. 3. Public Housing Authority The public housing program manages the voucher program locally. It provides a qualified household with housing subsidy that allows the family to look for a decent housing unit. The PHA signs a contract with the landlord promising to provide regular housing assistance payments for and on behalf of the tenants. Should the landlord fail to comply with their lease contract obligations, the PHA can immediately discontinue sending assistance payments. The PHA will re-assess the households income and composition for any changes at least once a year and must conduct an annual ocular inspection of each unit to make sure that it complies with HUD quality standards. Research appears to suggest that the section 8 program has yielded a lot of happy and productive results. It helps millions of households live above poverty level, have more money to spend on food and health care instead of rent, and improve their quality of life. It has helped families to move into safer neighborhoods and has reduced the number of homeless people. As a result, it has also lowered the incidences of anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional problems.
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