However, Gareth Morgan’s concern about Bank policy and the housing market IS actually a legitimate area to raise concerns about Bank policy. His view boils down to this statement:
The problem with demand for property in New Zealand is one that has arisen as a legacy from a long history now of Reserve Bank prudential policy combining with selective tax policy to provide a toxic little no brainer for property investors.
Simply put, he feels that prudential policy overtly favours housing, thereby creating the equivalent of a “tax wedge”.
So it is NOT a criticism of monetary policy and the PTA per se – but of the institutional financial framework set up by the RBNZ, which in turn has led to some type of “inefficiency” or “misallocation of resources”.
I’m not convinced, but I’m leaving my mind open. I have had similar thoughts in the past, but have in the end ruled them out – it would just take some firm evidence to lead me to re-evaluate my priors 😉 .
Update: As if by magic, the RBNZ has a speech up defending their framework here. Given this speech has been booked in for some time, it isn’t a direct response. However, I would note that they point out that risk-weighting in housing is higher here than in a number of other countries (so the capital requirement for a pool of loans on housing is higher in NZ 😉 ).
Risk-weighting are set for the capital adequacy ratio for a reason, and as a result we need to articulate why these are wrong or inappropriate. Furthermore, it isn’t clear to me that prudential policy has had a “long history” of being pro-housing – instead it has always seemed that retail banks have been pro-housing due to the fact that they see these loans as relatively lower risk, which shows up in relative interest rates and the availability of credit. As a result, for the argument to be made needs more analysis – the burden of proof is on the analysts making the claim that prudential policy is a “causing too much investment in housing”. A little bit more analysis in terms of numbers and counterfactual models is in order – and if these show the result and the argument could persuade more people – including the RBNZ 🙂
Note: His movement from excessive demand for investment in housing as an “investment vehicle” to a complaint about affordability is also tenuous at best – excessive investment demand lead to a larger stock of property (that is how we get the “misallocation of investment”) and lower rents. The yield on property falls, and ownership becomes more expensive … but the cost of buying “housing services” actually falls. So does this imply that Bank is making housing services more affordable? We need to be a bit more careful not to mix up issues here!