Vancouver is on pace to lose its status as Canada’s second largest housing market to Montreal.

While still Canada’s most expensive city for housing, a recent collapse in sales has led the value of real estate transactions substantially lower. That leaves Montreal’s soaring market poised to overtake the Pacific coast city’s.

In January, the total dollar value of real estate transactions in Vancouver fell to C$1.7 billion ($1.3 billion) on a seasonally adjusted basis, the weakest level since 2013 and down 42 percent from a year earlier, according to data released Friday by the Canadian Real Estate Association. Meanwhile, the value of transactions in Montreal reached C$1.63 billion to start the year, an increase of 18 percent from last January. Montreal — which has much cheaper homes, but more transactions — hasn’t been this close to Vancouver since 2008.


Montreal is the business capital of the largely French-speaking province of Quebec and Canada’s second largest city by population. But it was left out of the boom that saw home prices in Toronto and Vancouver surge to levels that made those cities unaffordable and prompted a rush of regulations to slow down them down.

Housing Heat Creeps East

Vancouver’s real estate market is about to be overtaken by Montreal’s

These measures have included new regional taxes on foreign buyers in Toronto and Vancouver that aren’t in place in Montreal. Higher interest rates and tougher rules for mortgage lending also seem to be having the biggest effect on the country’s priciest markets.

January saw home sales in Montreal climb the fastest in a decade as lower prices and a booming economy lured buyers. Sales in the city advanced 7.1 percent from December, the fastest pace since May 2009, and the number of units sold reached a record. Montreal’s gains are well ahead of identical moves in Vancouver and Toronto where sales rose 1.2 percent, and double the national increase of 3.6 percent.


There’s far less concern Montreal will show the signs of overheating seen in Canada’s two other major cities, given price differentials.

“Much of the recent price appreciation and sales increases, that really reflects the strength of the economy,’’ Marc Desormeaux, an economist at Bank of Nova Scotia, said by phone from Toronto. “Montreal remains relatively affordable.’’

Montreal’s benchmark home price was C$349,300 in January, up 6.3 percent from a year earlier. That’s still far less than the Vancouver price of C$1.02 million, which is down 4.5 percent.

Canada’s largest city Toronto still has by far the most real estate transactions, reaching C$5.4 billion to start the year, albeit greatly reduced from the C$8.5 billion in activity seen at the beginning on of 2017.

Source : Bloomberg

America’s 10 worst states to live in

Far be it for us to dent your home state pride, but the fact is that there are ways to objectively measure quality of life, and some states do not measure up as well as others. Our Quality of Life category in America’s Top States for Business, worth 300 out 2,500 total points, looks at factors such as violent crime rates, area attractions, health care, and environmental quality, based on our Top States methodology and sources. These are the 10 worst states to live in this year.

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10. New Mexico

This state calls itself the Land of Enchantment. But by the numbers, that borders on false advertising. In 2016, the most recent full year of statistics available from the FBI, New Mexico recorded the second-highest violent-crime rate in the country and the highest rate of property crime. In the first quarter of 2018, the Albuquerque Police Department reported a 50 percent increase in homicides from the year before. New Mexico had the fourth-highest rate of drug deaths in the United States last year, and more than 22 percent of its children live in poverty.

2018 Quality of Life score: 113 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Crime, health

Strengths: Attractions, air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 9th worst (tie)

9. (tie) Mississippi

One of this state’s most famous natives was Elvis Presley, who was known to have a penchant for peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwiches. Too many Mississippians appear to be following his example. Mississippi has the second-highest obesity rate in the nation. Mississippi had the nation’s highest cardiovascular death rate in 2017 and the second-highest rate of cancer deaths. Also last year, Gallup found Mississippi had among the highest levels of economic anxiety in the nation. The Magnolia State takes its nickname from a sturdy, robust tree that is abundant in the state. Mississippians might want to look around themselves for some inspiration.

2018 Quality of Life score: 111 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Health, inclusiveness

Strengths: Low crime, air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 7th worst

9. (tie) South Carolina

Today it is known as the Palmetto State and tourists flock to its 187 miles of coastline, historic sites and a fixture of cultures. But the state loses points due to a high crime rate. In addition, South Carolina is one of America’s unhealthiest states, with one of the highest incidences of diabetes in the nation.

2018 Quality of Life score: 111 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Health, high crime

Strengths: Attractions, air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 15th worst

7. Oklahoma

Oklahoma has the fourth-highest rate of on-the-job deaths in the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state also has a high obesity rate. Regular exercise does loads to improve general well-being and quality of life, yet only about half of Oklahomans report that they exercise frequently, or at all.

2018 Quality of Life score: 106 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Health, high crime, lack of inclusiveness

Strength: Air quality

6. Missouri

Missouri has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the nation. In 2017 the state reported 600 murders, an 11 percent increase from the year before. Missouri could also stand to show some more inclusiveness. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the state lacks protections against discrimination for LGBT people, as well as discrimination laws related to employment, including protections for age and marital status.

2018 Quality of Life score: 101 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: High crime, health, lack of inclusiveness

Strength: Air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 5th worst

5. Indiana

The Crossroads of America is not known for its tolerance of the cross-section of Americans who live and work there. After intense outcry from business leaders and others, the state in 2015 adjusted the deeply controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act soon after it was signed into law by then-governor Mike Pence. The changes, also approved by Pence, helped ease fears that the law could be used to justify discrimination. But Indiana still lacks explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, age or marital status.

2018 Quality of Life score: 100 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Lack of inclusiveness, health

Strength: Attractions

2017 Quality of Life rank: 6th worst

4. Tennessee

With the fifth-highest violent-crime rate in the nation, the Volunteer State could still use some people to step up and start a neighborhood watch program. They might also want to volunteer for a smoking cessation program to help address the state’s alarmingly high rate of premature deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every 100,000 people in Tennessee, nearly 9,500 people die before the age of 75. That is more than 30 percent higher than the national rate. And with no statewide antidiscrimination protections based on marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity, the state could stand to be more welcoming.

2018 Quality of Life score: 96 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Crime, health, lack of inclusiveness

Strengths: Attractions, air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 9th worst

3. Alabama

Alabama has one of the highest crime rates in the nation, the lowest concentration of mental health providers and no statewide protections against discrimination of any sort. Even so, Alabamans — or as some prefer, Alabamians — are feeling a bit better about their lot in life this year versus one year ago, with nearly two-thirds telling Gallup they feel “active and productive.” That helps the state improve on its last-place ranking in this category last year, even though Alabamans don’t exactly practice what they preach: Fewer than half say they exercise frequently.

2018 Quality of Life score: 87 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: High crime, health, lack of inclusiveness

Strength: Air quality

2017 Quality of life rank: Worst in the nation

2. Louisiana

How’s Bayou? Not so good in Louisiana, one of the fattest states in the country, with the highest rate of infectious disease, according to the United Health Foundation. The state suffers from high crime and pollution, plus a fair amount of economic anxiety, scoring just 1 out of 25 on Gallup’s 2017 Economic Confidence Index. And despite anything you might have heard or seen on Bourbon Street, the state lags in inclusiveness, with no protections against discrimination based on marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

2018 Quality of Life score: 82 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Health, high crime

Strength: Attractions

2017 Quality of Life rank: 2nd worst

1. Arkansas

Arkansas calls itself the Land of Opportunity, but some might beg to differ. While the state does provide protections against discrimination based on race, sex, religion and national origin, it lacks such protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status and age. And it is one of only three states that bars localities from enacting wider protections of their own. According to the most recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16 percent of Arkansans reported frequent mental distress. That is the second-highest rate in the nation.

2018 Quality of Life score: 81 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Lack of inclusiveness, health, high crime

Strength: Air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 4th worst

Source: CNBC

The church with the $6 billion portfolio

Recent years have been good to the church and the rest of its campus. St. Paul’s Chapel, near the World Trade Center, escaped destruction during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and now gleams after a fresh coat of paint. After a cleaning in September, Hamilton’s white marble obelisk also sparkles. Soon the entire church — and a new $350 million glass tower under construction behind it — will, too.

It makes sense. If a founding father can get a 21st-century update, so can the church where he is buried. Especially since the church in question is very, very rich.

While many places of worship are warding off developers as they struggle to hold on to their congregations and buildings, Trinity is a big-time developer itself.

The church has always been land-rich. And it has long had its own real estate arm, which controls ground leases and office space rentals in the buildings it owns. But now it finds itself with a newly diversified portfolio worth $6 billion, according to the current rector, the Rev. Dr. William Lupfer.

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After being instrumental in changing the zoning laws in Hudson Square, a neighborhood between West Houston and Canal streets, Trinity Real Estate has entered into a joint venture that gives it a majority stake in 12 buildings that contain 6 million square feet of commercial space. A lucrative deal with the Walt Disney Co., valued at $650 million, was signed last year.

And as it builds its glass tower — which will house administrative offices, public gathering spaces and, yes, commercial tenants — Trinity is also renovating the interior of its historic church, which is expected to cost $110 million.

Trinity has been able to do all this because it’s been a savvy manager of its resources. It is also, as a church, exempt from taxes.

But some wonder about the ethics of a religious institution being such a power player in the world of New York real estate.

“What is the fundamental economic issue going on that churches deserve tax exemption and can build up a lot of wealth?” asked Rachel M. McCleary, a lecturer in the economics department at Harvard University and co-author of the coming book “The Wealth of Religions: The Political Economy of Believing and Belonging.

Trinity’s current affluence can be traced to a gift of 215 acres from Queen Anne in 1705. (The church was first chartered, under King William III, in 1697, a few decades after the British took over New Amsterdam.) Trinity still owns 14 acres of that original land grant, mostly in Hudson Square.

At the time Trinity received the land, of course, there was no separation of church and state. “They were a favored religion, and that gave them a leg up,” McCleary said. “The question becomes, How are they to be viewed in a pluralistic religion market, and what is their response in that market today?”

Patti Walsh, a spokeswoman for the church, wrote in an email that Trinity handles such a market by working closely with other organizations to help them further their mission. “We currently work with many partners in New York City and around the world to build neighborhoods, to help develop clergy and lay leadership for the church, and to help our partners resource their ministries.”

The current Trinity is the third church to be built at Broadway and Wall Street. Designed in a Gothic Revival style by Richard Upjohn and completed in 1846, the brownstone building was the tallest structure in the city for decades, and one of the first to be declared a landmark.

It’s “a place where you can get away from the noise and experience the aesthetic beauty and quiet,” said the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson, vicar of the Episcopal parish of Trinity Church Wall Street.

But now that the church is at the center of the development boom in Lower Manhattan, it’s less of an oasis of calm and more of a contributor to the very noise and disruption from which longtime residents have sought a reprieve.

There is the new tower, which topped out late last year, and will have 17 floors of office space in addition to a nine-story base devoted to parish and community use.

And as part of the church interior’s “rejuvenation,” as the parish leadership calls it — the first extensive renovation in decades — the nave is closed and scaffolding reaches to the 65-foot-high ceiling so conservation experts can inspect stained-glass windows and the integrity of the ceiling. There will be three new organs, ergonomically contoured seats for the old oak pews and stained-glass pendant lights that will be controlled by an iPad. The church’s famous altarpiece, donated by the Astor family, will be restored and placed on rails so it can be moved back and forth depending on the type of service or event.

The project, overseen by Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects, which restored St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown, is a shining example of stewardship. The New York Landmarks Conservancy awarded Trinity a prestigious Chairman’s Awards last year.

These projects stand in stark contrast to other houses of worship around the city, many with dwindling congregations, struggling to pay heating bills and keep the roof from leaking.

Indeed, a section of falling ceiling was one of the latest indignities suffered by the Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church, in East Harlem, built in the Gothic style in the 1870s. It is now slated for demolition after the pastor, the Rev. Dr. Richard N. Hayes, gave up on the structure following years of “repair, repair, repair,” he said.

Hayes has struck a deal to sell the church, which is not a landmark, to a developer — a plan that will provide money for a new church to be built on an adjacent lot. The likelihood that the developer will raze the historic building has divided the congregation and prompted an outcry from neighbors and preservationists.

“For decades the preservation of churches has been a major issue,” said Andrew Dolkart, a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. No longer. “It’s become a crisis,” he said.

Although attention in recent years has focused on the shuttering of churches by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, the problem affects all denominations, said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, which is surveying religious properties in the five boroughs.

Congregants have resorted to doing patchwork repairs themselves; pastors solicit donations in emergencies. Recently, the front door blew off the Immanuel-First Spanish Church in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was rehung, but remains irreparably damaged. A replacement will cost as much as $9,000, said the Rev. Dr. Hector B. Custodio, known to all as Pastor Benny. He has collected $1,200.

Many religious leaders have become experts in applying for grants and organizing capital campaigns.

“We learn none of this in seminary,” said the Rev. Anne Sawyer, rector of St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, which is trying to raise money to replace faulty copper gutters that funnel rainwater into the building.

But sometimes the tactic works. The Church of St. Anselm and St. Roch, for example, a domed Byzantine Revival structure in the South Bronx, recently received a $40,000 grant from the Landmarks Conservancy.

Some churches have allowed developers to build on their property. Residents of Morningside Heights in Upper Manhattan were still recovering from an apartment tower being erected on the campus of St. John the Divine in 2008, when the church gave the go-ahead for a second project — to be built just steps from the landmark cathedral, in 2015.

And then there is the sale of air rights. Under the new East Midtown zoning laws, landmark religious institutions are able to transfer air rights (the space over their buildings) to developers who can apply those air rights within a 78-block area. St. Patrick’s, St. Bart’s and Central Synagogue, which supported the new rules, are all expected to sell their air rights.

The New Yorkreligious institutions that are safest from destruction, it seems, have either been declared landmarks or are land-rich. Trinity Church is both.

In 2005, Trinity hired Carl Weisbrod, an urban planning expert, director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and founding president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, to lead the church’s real estate arm. Weisbrod initiated the 2013 rezoning of Hudson Square, which allowed for the construction of residential buildings. This set off a frenzy of development in the area and greatly enhanced the value of Trinity’s holdings.

Trinity then diversified, entering into a joint partnership with Norway’s Norges Bank Investment Management, and managed by developer Hines, which also has a small stake in the project, involving the church’s holdings in Hudson Square.

Since 2015, proceeds from the partnership have totaled $1.73 billion and have been folded into a range of other investments. In 2017, the latest year for which an audited financial statement is available, Trinity’s portfolio yielded a net return of $301 million.

Trinity’s wealth enables it to support other churches (it has its own grant department with a formal application process). It has given away $10 million a year and plans to ramp up its contributions, according to the church spokeswoman, Walsh. It also finances its own humanitarian efforts, including a 325-unit affordable residence for older people and those with disabilities, as well as brown-bag lunches for 35,000 annually.

About six years ago, nearly half of Trinity’s vestry — a group of parishioners who function like a board of directors — resigned because they felt the church wasn’t doing enough to help those in need. But two congregants who were part of the upheaval — including Jeremy C. Bates, who filed a lawsuit that led to the institution making its financial records public — believe the church has turned a corner. “I feel we are more unified,” Bates said.

There is a point to be made about the importance of paying attention to the bottom line. Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, a New York City landmark with a nonprofit real estate arm that focuses on affordable housing and community development, overextended itself and was forced to sell off properties to satisfy debts.

“We were just trying to do good where others were not doing it,” said the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of the church. “We did what we could, hit a bump, and had to sell off real estate.”

Lupfer sees the new Trinity tower as a “ministry tool” for his congregation and considers its costs part of its mission spending. Trinity’s website describes the project, rather modestly, as a “new parish building.”

But it is considerably more than that, and the development process has not been without controversy.

Trinity’s original proposal — a modernist design by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects replacing a pair of smaller buildings from the 1920s — was to include luxury apartments.

It did not go unnoticed.

“When Trinity Church announces it has got to take down buildings that may have had some attraction for the neighborhood and replace them with something almost double in size and mostly residential, some people may have looked at a religious institution and asked questions they may not have asked of a commercial developer,” said Anthony Notaro, the chairman of Community Board 1, covering the area south of Canal Street.

To its credit, say members of the community, the church invited the public to weigh in on the plan for the tower’s podium, holding a series of workshops in St. Paul’s Chapel.

As a result, art studios and public gathering spaces were added to the tower’s base, which will also contain a Sunday school, a basketball court and a computer lab.

“Like a 92nd Street Y,” said Jackson, referring to the popular cultural center on the Upper East Side. Trinity expects to move into its new offices this fall, with the public spaces opening the spring of 2020. The church plans to reopen this Christmas.

Trinity appears to have it all: a vibrant congregation, well-tended church buildings, a shiny new tower promising robust amenities — and abundant resources.

In some respects it might even resemble the megachurches of the suburbs, with their broadcasting stations and satellite churches to which they beam the Sunday service. Trinity’s own broadcast room is being updated in the renovation, as are other back-of-house spaces. A large split-screen monitor in the new sacristy will allow the clergy to track activity in the sanctuary as well as in St. Paul’s and in the parish-house portion of the new tower.

Could big, muscular churches become the new normal in New York as smaller churches vanish?

The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, of Judson Memorial Church in the West Village, certainly hopes not. Smaller houses of worship provide not only the beauty of their historic structures, she argued, but also crucial social services as well: soup kitchens, food pantries, art programs and gathering places for community meetings.

“We need help — technical assistance, policy relief,” Schaper said. She maintains it is a mistake when churches get into the real estate game on their own. The sale of air rights, she pointed out, has led to “gentrification and its partner, racism,” as demolished religious institutions are replaced by luxury housing, often resulting in the displacement of longtime neighborhood residents.

Judson Memorial, designed by Stanford White in the Romanesque style, with stained glass by John La Farge, is a designated city landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The church is putting on a new roof after a $3 million fundraising campaign, but it must turn around and raise $4 million more because it has heating issues and a broken elevator.

The elevator is a serious concern, since the church has removed the pews in the sanctuary to allow for “hyperuse,” as Schaper put it, by a variety of groups. Because these rentals yield important revenue — they make up over a third of Judson’s $1 million annual budget — worship services now take place on the second floor. Judson provides services to 150 undocumented immigrants a week, among others.

Schaper has started a movement called Bricks and Mortals, with the goal of coming up with collective solutions so that no church has to go it alone. One idea is for the city to create an air-rights bank that would allow the rights “to be monetized, but not abused” — put into a bank for the development of affordable housing, for example.

“My fear is that the very thing that makes New York so lovely and interesting — the variety of our culture — is threatened by congregations becoming restaurants and high-end apartments. It’s almost as tragic as losing the beautiful buildings.”

Source: New York Times

Jamaica: Conviction Of Developer Is Major Victory For Real Estate Board

The Real Estate Board has hailed the conviction of real estate developer Devon Evans as a major victory after he was found guilty of fraudulent conversion arising from the sale of an apartment unit on Wellington Drive, St Andrew.

Chief executive officer of the board, Sandra Garrick, believes that the recent development sends a good signal.

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“This is a significant victory as the board wants to send a loud and unequivocal message to all developers or anyone in the real estate industry who callously and blatantly tries to swindle innocent persons out of their hard-earned money,” she said.

“What we have here is a case of wanton disregard for the purchasers, which often robs persons of a lifetime dream, which they have sacrificed so much for,” Garrick said.

Evans, of North American Holding Co Ltd, was found guilty by Parish Judge Marcine Ellis in the Corporate Area Parish Court on January 9, 2019, after being charged on July 23, 2017.

According to evidence presented by Clerk of Court Ruel Gibson, Cecil and Ingrid Batchelor made a down payment of $8.5 million to Evans in 2008. The Wellington Drive apartment was to be completed in 2009. However, after realising that no construction had begun, the couple demanded the refund of their deposit.

An alternative unit was offered to the couple after they filed a complaint with the Real Estate Board and the police in 2010, and an additional $7.4 million was requested to acquire the unit. Despite making this additional payment in 2013, it was not until 2016 that the Batchelors were able to secure the unit.

The court found that Evans deliberately sought to take the $8.5 million down payment from the Batchelors, under false pretence.


These 3 U.S. cities make list of world’s 10 least affordable housing markets

Three cities in the U.S. made the list of the world’s least affordable housing markets. No surprise, they are all in California.

Among the top 10, San Jose ranked No. 5, Los Angeles No. 6 and San Francisco No. 8. on a list compiled and released this week by urban planning consulting firm Demographia.

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For the ninth consecutive year, Hong Kong claimed the top spot as the least affordable city in the world. The median property price in that city climbed to 20.9 times the median household income in 2018, according to the study,up from 19.4 in 2017.

By comparison, the median property price was 9.4 times the median household income in San Jose, 9.2 times in Los Angeles and 8.8 times in San Francisco.

Demographia’s study analyzed 309 metropolitan areas in eight countries, concluding that 29 were “severely unaffordable.” The U.S. claimed 13 of those severely unaffordable markets – more than any other country.

But, the U.S. is also home to all of the nine major affordable markets on Demographia’s list.

Among the most affordable major housing markets in the world, Pittsburgh and Rochester, New York, were tied for No. 1, followed by Oklahoma City; Buffalo, New York; Cincinnati; Cleveland; St. Louis; Indianapolis and Detroit.


Run-Down Buildings Are Hot Property in Land-Scarce Hong Kong

Hong Kong developers are increasingly acquiring and revamping old buildings as land gets more expensive. The number of applications for compulsory sales — allowing developers to gain full control of an apartment block after securing 80 percent ownership — climbed to a six-year high in 2018, government figures show.

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“A red-hot government land sales market in 2017 and early 2018 and large plots on offer — which translates into bigger lump-sum investments — effectively shut out a lot of small-to-medium sized developers,” said Denis Ma, head of research at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. These companies were forced to focus on breathing new life into old buildings to sustain their development pipelines, he said.

During the height of the property boom between early 2017 and mid-last year, land sold at government tenders fetched increasingly eye-watering prices. Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. paid an unprecedented $3.2 billion for a residential site near the city’s former airport in May, almost one-and-a-half times the previous record set in November 2017.

Source: Bloomberg

Major global housing markets are taking a hit

Major global markets that once seemed insulated from the housing slump are getting caught in the slowdown.

Cities like London, Hong Kong and New York are grappling with a more tepid market, Bloomberg reported. According to a Knight Frank index of high-end properties in 43 cities, luxury residential prices are growing at the slowest rate since 2012.

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“If New York and London are catching a cold, the primacy is large enough that they might have an impact on the overall market,” Albert Saiz, a professor of urban economics and real estate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Bloomberg.

Hong Kong property values are seeing the longest decline since 2008, while Sydney is experiencing the worst real estate downturn since the 1980s. In outer London neighborhoods, prices fell for the first time since 2011 — and in Manhattan, the median condo price recently slid before $1 million for the first time in three years.

Because home values in global cities tend to move in tandem, shifts in these markets have the potential to create a broader ripple effect internationally, the report said.

The slowdown comes after governments’ concerns about unsustainable price appreciation led to measures that sought to limit flows of international money. These moves to reduce foreign purchases have caused values to stall or fall in cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto, Vancouver and Stockholm, according to the report.

In the U.S., developers’ focus on the high-end market has created an influx of million-dollar condos — while lower-end home prices have been driven up by limited supply. Now, in a climate of rising interest rates and financial market volatility, markets are slowing.

“For a long time, you could talk about big, important issues like Brexit or tax policy change in the U.S. — each one of them seemed to hit a major market but didn’t really cross over,” said Dan Conn, chief executive officer of Christie’s International Real Estate. “What happened this year is that the trade battles started to make this, instead of a regional conversation, much more of a global conversation.”


Hong Kong ranked world’s least affordable housing market

Hong Kong has been ranked the world’s least-affordable housing market for a ninth straight year.Not only did it retain the notorious title, homes in the city got further out of reach for most residents, according to Demographia, an urban planning policy consultancy. The city’s median property price climbed to 20.9 times median household income in 2018, up from 19.4 times a year earlier.

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Vancouver was ranked the second-most unaffordable market, leapfrogging Sydney — where the housing boom has gone into reverse . Melbourne came in fourth, followed by San Jose and Los Angeles. London was the worst European city, coming in equal 10th with Toronto.

Things may get easier for home-buyers as property markets from Hong Kong to London join a global downturn. Hong Kong housing values have endured their longest losing streak since 2008, prices in outer London neighborhoods have fallen for the first time since 2011 and Sydney home owners are grappling with the worst real estate slump since the 1980s.

The Demographia study covered 309 metropolitan markets across eight countries, including Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S., as of the third quarter of 2018. Twenty-nine major housing markets were classed as “severely unaffordable.”


U.S. Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Resigns Over Disagreements With Housing Policy

A top Department of Housing and Urban Development official is leaving the agency following disagreements with other members of the Trump administration over housing policy and the White House’s attempt to block disaster-recovery money for Puerto Rico, according to five people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, second-in-command at the agency helmed by Ben Carson and widely regarded as HUD’s most capable political leader, is said to have grown frustrated by what a former HUD employee described as a “Sisyphean undertaking.”

Patenaude cited personal reasons when she submitted her resignation on Dec. 17. “It’s a bittersweet farewell to HUD,” Patenaude said in an interview.

She denied that internal conflicts played a role and said she looks forward to spending time with her husband at their home in New Hampshire. “These jobs are all-consuming,” she said. “There are no ulterior motives. I’m not mad at the administration.”

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Patenaude was the main administrator running the agency for much of her 16 months as deputy secretary, according to political and career HUD staffer.

She is departing at a critical moment for HUD, as its largely inexperienced political ranks grapple with the fallout of a prolonged partial government shutdown.

Her impending departure, planned before the shutdown began Dec. 22, hurt the agency’s ability to anticipate and plan for the closure, according to career and political staffers. HUD is under fire for not renewing hundreds of expired affordable-housing contracts before the shutdown went into effect, jeopardizing the budgets of property owners and the housing stability of low-income tenants.

Housing advocates and HUD employees described Patenaude’s departure as a blow to an agency in which the morale of career staffers has deteriorated under Carson.

“She knows the HUD building, the issues, the policies and the politics. She was an especially strong and important counterpoint to Secretary Carson’s early lack of knowledge on any of the issues that he was expected to lead on,” said Diane Yentel, president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “When she battled some of the more ideologically far-right members of her administration, she typically won.”

Patenaude’s departure reflects a broader pattern of political appointees with expertise who are leaving the administration.

Her confidants say there was not one blowup that precipitated her resignation but rather a series of incidents that left her feeling frustrated. The former HUD employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to damage working relationships with the agency, characterized Patenaude’s job as “pushing this rock uphill over and over again only to have it fall back down.”

Patenaude disagreed with the agency’s handling of an Obama-era fair-housing rule requiring communities receiving federal funds to address long-standing patterns of racial segregation, according to three people with direct knowledge of internal HUD debates. Carson had suspended the 2015 rule,calling it “burdensome.”

Patenaude told The Washington Post she did not support the rule as written by the Obama administration but said she wanted to educate communities about the law as the agency deliberated on a path forward. She said policy discussions continue.

“My position was we had a moral and legal obligation to get it right,” Patenaude said. “Policy discussions are a series of explorations, and Secretary Carson and I are absolutely aligned on the need to educate America about fair housing.”

Patenaude had palm-size cards made listing the classes protected from housing discrimination — factoring race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability and familial status — and distributed them widely. One agency official said Patenaude hoped the effort would help allay concerns of career employees and advocates that Carson’s team does not care about civil rights.

Last fall, Patenaude expressed concern over the Trump administration’s intervention in disaster-recovery money that Congress had appropriated for Puerto Rico and states hit by hurricanes.

President Trump in late September grew incensed after hearing, erroneously, that Puerto Rico was using the emergency money to pay off its debt according to two people with direct knowledge of Trump’s thinking.

Trump told then-White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and then-Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney that he did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico, because he thought the island was misusing the money and taking advantage of the government, according to a person with direct knowledge of the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive internal deliberations. Instead, he wanted more of the money to go to Texas and Florida, the person said.

“POTUS was not consolable about this,” the person said. Patenaude told White House budget officials during an early December meeting in the Situation Room that the money had been appropriated by Congress and must be sent, according to two people with direct knowledge of the meeting. She assured them that HUD had proper oversight of the funds.

Patenaude, who had visited Puerto Rico more than half a dozen times during her tenure, was about to make her final trip to the island as deputy secretary and wanted to ensure that Mulvaney’s team corrected any misinformation transmitted to the president, said a HUD official who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Patenaude told The Post: “I didn’t push back. I advocated for Puerto Rico and assured the White House that Puerto Rico had sufficient financial controls in place and had put together a thoughtful housing and economic development recovery plan.”

In her meetings with Puerto Rico’s governor and other officials, Patenaude made it clear the territory would need to establish an oversight structure and meet other conditions to receive federal funding, said Carlos Mercader, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Washington.

“Pam Patenaude showed the most commitment to Puerto Rico of any of the public officials inside the Trump administration,” said Mercader, who accompanied Patenaude on several of her visits to the island. “From the governor down, we are all grateful for everything she did.”

The week before Patenaude resigned, the U.S. territory received authorization to request future drawdowns for their long-term recovery efforts, including the development of affordable housing.

“She didn’t want to abandon Puerto Rico,” said the HUD official. “Once she felt like she left Puerto Rico in a good place, she felt like she could leave.”

The partial government shutdown has delayed Puerto Rico’s ability to access the first $1.5 billion of its nearly $20 billion in HUD disaster-relief funds.

Patenaude is the third senior political appointee with housing experience to leave HUD in recent weeks. Neal Rackleff, the assistant secretary of community planning and development, left in December. Michael Bright, executive vice president and chief operations officer at the Government National Mortgage Association, or Ginnie Mae, announced his resignation last week.

Patenaude, who began her career at HUD as a 21-year-old intern during the Reagan administration, has spent more than two decades in housing policy and economic development, serving as President George W. Bush’s assistant secretary for community planning and development at HUD.

“I’m going to continue to be supportive of the president and his agenda,” she said. “I’m going to be working very hard for his reelection.”

Source: Washington Post

Trump Wall: Past projects show border wall building is complex, costly

President Donald Trump is not giving up on his demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying a physical barrier is central to any strategy for addressing the security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border.

Democrats argue that funding the construction of a steel barrier along 234 miles (377 kilometers) will not solve the problems. A 2018 government report warns of increased risks that the U.S. wall-building program will cost more than projected, take longer than planned and not perform as expected.

Click here to watch weekly episodes of our Housing Development Programme on AIT

Walls and fencing now cover about one-third of the 1,954-mile-long (3,145-kilometer-long) border. Some construction began with former President Bill Clinton in the early 1990s, George W. Bush ramped up the effort in 2006, and Barack Obama built more than 130 miles (209 kilometers), mostly during his first year in office.

Between 2007 and 2015, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spent $2.4 billion to add 535 miles (861 kilometers) of pedestrian and vehicle barriers and other infrastructure along the border.

Trump wants to extend and fortify what’s already in place. But contracting, designing and building new wall systems complete with updated technology could take years, and past experience has shown such work can be complicated and costly.

Here is how much the government has spent on barriers in the states along the Mexican border:


Much of California’s 141 miles (227 kilometers) of border with Mexico was fenced during the Bush administration through a security measure that won congressional approval and had support from key Democrats.

In 2009, the federal government spent about $16 million a mile on a 3.5-mile (5.5-kilometer) stretch in San Diego, using about 2 million tons of dirt to fill in a canyon known as Smuggler’s Gulch. The earthen dam was then topped with layers of fencing.

At the Imperial Sand Dunes, the U.S. built a floating fence of 16-foot-high (5-meter-high) steel tubes that can be raised or lowered as the sands shift. The $6 million-a-mile barrier cuts through a film location for “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” that resembles the Sahara.

Both are examples of some of the rugged territory along the border that can result in higher costs.

The Government Accountability Office estimated in 2018 that new border wall construction averages $6.5 million a mile but terrain, building materials and other factors influence costs. Elsewhere, the Rio Grande’s winding waters and lush vegetation are more challenging for erecting walls than Arizona’s flat deserts.


In 2006, the federal government completed a 30-mile (48-kilometer) stretch of steel barriers to keep people from illegally crossing into the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The barriers were designed to stop vehicles from driving around a checkpoint in Lukeville or up through the desert wilderness. That three-year project had a price tag of $18 million.

More recently, Barnard Construction Co. Inc. of Montana was awarded $172 million for 14 miles (23 kilometers) of new fencing in the Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector. Officials say the total value of that contract could reach $324 million for 32 miles (52 kilometers).


More than a dozen miles of fence were built near Columbus in 2000, stretching from the border town to an onion farm and cattle ranch. A survey done several years later determined that a 1.5-mile (2-kilometer) section that was designed to keep cars from illegally crossing into the U.S. was accidentally built on Mexican soil.

The project was believed to initially cost about $500,000 a mile, while estimates to uproot and relocate the fencing ranged from $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

In 2018, the federal government awarded a $73 million contract to the same Montana-based company to rip out old vehicle barriers and replace them with a new bollard-style wall of tall metal slats and extensive concrete footings along a 20-mile (32-kilometer) stretch near Santa Teresa. That project was finished months ahead of schedule.


Congress last spring approved $641 million for 33 miles (53 kilometers) of construction in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings. Targeted areas include the nonprofit National Butterfly Center, a state park and privately owned ranches and farmland.

In El Paso, construction started last fall in the Chihuahuita neighborhood — the border city’s oldest neighborhood — to replace 4 miles (6 kilometers) of chain-link fencing with a new steel bollard wall. The estimated cost: $22 million.

There has been fencing for decades in cities such as El Paso and San Diego. Once built, increased crackdowns in those areas led to a drop in apprehensions. But authorities have complained that as a result of those efforts, illegal crossings and trafficking activity has been pushed to more remote stretches of the border.


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