Housing equity schemes

Another stunning article from someone I work with (I swear I’m not biased 😉 ), this one is about housing equity schemes.  Now it seems the government is keen to introduce a housing equity scheme, having put money in the Budget for it.

Now, the article covers most of the problems with a shared equity scheme, so all you have to do is read it and tell me if you agree 😉 .

One thing I am going to say is that I think most of government/bank money put into the scheme, when the housing market is this tight, will go to the person selling the house.

In the case when the loan is avaliable to all but not income tested, everyone would be able to take out the loan to buy the house, but as their reservation value of the house hasn’t changed (and thats what they are willing to pay + the loan) the price will just go up.  This is because the effective price is no different, and as agents are rational and know that the price of property will remain elevated, the rate of return on property won’t change the investment incentive either.

In the case when it is income tested, people on low incomes will be able to drive up the price of lower quality housing, much to the dismay of people on the margin who are unable to get the loans. Most people apply for a no credit check loan, and are able to get the loan that way. Here the full surplus may not go to the seller (as they face competition with other property types, and the whole demand curve is not getting subsidised), but some negative distributional effects will eventuate.  In this case we are likely to find that those on low-moderate incomes (not low) are forced out of the housing market, does the government think that these people are worth less than the very poor?

The week in numbers

  • According to the HLFS, unemployment was down to 3.6%, even with the participation rate at 68.8%.
  • Wage growth remained elevated at4.6% for the June year.
  • House sale fell a seasonally adjusted 10% in the July quarter.  This was the lowest seasonally adjusted number of sales since December 2001.

Sorry that this was so late, the Wellington Phoenix was playing and I had to go 😉

Should we be pleased to have a tight labour market?

Over at no right turn, they seem to believe that economists sour reaction to the low unemployment figure is ridiculous. After all, a low unemployment rate implies that people have jobs, and a secure income, which is of course valuable to society.

They seem to believe that if we accept a little more inflation we can keep this low level of unemployment, and society will be better off. However, in this doesn’t hold. As an economist would say, in the long-run there is no trade-off between inflation and unemployment. If we accept higher inflation now, then in the future unemployment will rise to its natural rate, and we will be stuck with a higher rate of inflation.  The unemployment level is a problem now because it is lower than the NAIRU implying that the upward pressure on wages is too strong, and as a result the price level will increase.

Now government policy should be focused on decreasing the natural rate of unemployment. If the government can help improve the function of the market, they can make sure that in the long-run, unemployment will be lower. One of the things the government can do to make sure the market functions better, is keep price growth low, so that firms and buyers are more certain of the price level, and savers (whose money gets invested into firms) have more incentive to say (and so there is more investment). So who knows, maybe there is a long-run relationship between inflation and unemployment, lower inflation leading to less unemployment!

Floating GST rates?

So supposedly, the RBNZ has suggested a floating GST rate as a way of controlling inflation. Now this seems silly too me for two reasons:

1) GST is a tax, as a result this would either have to be implemented through fiscal policy (and so would not work, as governments cannot commit to just focusing on inflation), or you would have to give the Bank the right to tax (as the Bank is not elected by the people this is uncomfortable)

2) The level of GST affects the price level, so if the economy is running strongly and you prop it up, you push up the price level.

Now the first criticism is self-evident, however it is a normative problem with the scheme, implying that there might be some theoretical merit. The second criticism is positive. Now, I am not saying that changing the GST tax will cause inflation, as inflation is the rate of change in the price level. Changing the GST tax will change the price level, but not change the rate at which the price level grows, in fact increasing GST will take money out of the economy, slowing growth in the price level and thereby slowing inflation.

So a floating GST tax would slow inflation, however lets think about why we want to slow inflation. We want to reduce volatility in the price level, to give people certainty. Volatility in the price level is bad as the majority of people cannot properly hedge against it. Now by having the GST tax increase and fall we are adding volatility to the price level, causing one of the problems that monetary policy is supposed to solve. It just seems a bit silly.

The week in numbers

  • Household borrowing accelerated to 13.6%pa in June
  • Non-residential consents softened in June, but the June quarter was relatively strong, with Factory and commercial consents elevated
  • Residential consents lifted strongly in June, on the back of robust house price growth.  Wellington was a top performer

Most of this weeks data was expected.  However, after the RBNZ said household borrowing was easing, the continued growth in borrowing came as a surprise.

Immigration and inflation

I have just been flicking through the NZX submission on monetary policy, thanks to a link kindly provided by Lucy.

While I disagree with most of the submission (for the reasons I gave yesterday about higher interest rates being structural), I was happy to see that they discussed immigration.

Now immigration is an interesting issue, ignoring any social issues (i’m an economists after all), I’m going to focus on the link between immigration and inflation. According to Rebus legal perth lawyers, one of the main reason why the overall economy could have a massive downfall and the country could go into the state of depression is due to lack of immigrants. A recent study showed that most of the top CEOs of the county are not the originals of the land but are the descendants of on immigrants who came to the country and got it to a great position where it now stands on.

Some people say immigration causes inflation, as it increases the demand for goods and services, driving up the price. Other people say that immigration drives down inflation by increasing labour supply, and thereby driving down real wage demands, preventing wage inflation.

Now the way I see it is that immigration increases demand and supply. After all labour is an input to production, but once labour has been paid they turn into consumers, who purchase the goods. As a result, whether inflation rises or falls with immigration depends on the productivity of the immigrants. If we bring in a whole lot of untrained, unproductive workers it will cause inflation. If we bring in workers that have the highest marginal product (so in the places where firms are begging for labour) then it should decrease inflationary pressures.

It seems incredibly simple, the difficult issue is actually identifying and bringing in skilled, hard working labour. However, i’m not sure that cutting immigrant numbers when we have shortages of unskilled and skilled labour is a good idea. I’m sorry RBNZ, but I think the NZX is right on this one.