A Place the Entire Family Can Call Home

Every Thursday, Henk and Elly Oving take care of their young grandchildren. They don’t have to travel far. They just go downstairs.

The Ovings share a five-story home in Amsterdam — two apartments stacked on top of each other and joined by a central staircase — with their daughter Jantien and her husband, Auguste van Oppen.

“It’s two fully independent houses that are intertwined with one another,” said Mr. van Oppen, an architect who could just as easily be describing the 4,900-square-foot home’s two households.

The van Oppens and the Ovings are among a growing number of families sharing multigenerational residences. From Amsterdam to Australia, architects like Mr. van Oppen and his team at BETA, the local firm he co-founded with Evert Klinkenberg, are designing striking homes that make cross-generational care for aging baby boomers and overworked parents as easy as a walk down the hallway.

In a home in Amsterdam called the 3 Generation House, two apartments are joined by a central staircase.CreditOssip van Duivenbode
“It’s about being there together,” said Mr. van Oppen, who designed the home along with Mr. Klinkenberg. “It’s about being there for one another.”

The trick is coming up with designs that incorporate privacy, senior-friendly spaces and flexibility for the future. At the same time, the concept can help address one of today’s more stubborn issues — housing affordability.

Multigenerational homes allow family members to maintain their independence while benefiting from interdependence.

In the 3 Generation House, as it is called, the van Oppens opted for the 1,750-square-foot lower level to take advantage of direct access to the garden for the children, while the in-laws, retired and in their 60s, chose the 1,870-square-foot upper level with an elevator. “We wanted more privacy and the roof terrace,” Mr. Oving said.

Including subtle details like wider doorways and level, uninterrupted floors, their apartment has been designed to be senior-friendly — but discreetly so.

“It doesn’t look like a senior apartment, but it is,” Mr. van Oppen said.

Similarly, in Helsinki, the actors Vilma Melasniemi and Juho Milonoff built House M-M, a three-story home that includes a ground-floor apartment for Mrs. Melasniemi’s grandmother.

“We had long conversations about degrees of privacy,” said Tuomas Siitonen, who designed the timber-clad home, “so they could all live quite close to each other, and the grandparents could take care of their kids, and they could take care of the grandmother, but still everyone could live their own lives.”

The house is on land owned by Mrs. Melasniemi’s parents, who still live nearby in the 100-year-old home where she grew up.

The fully accessible 270-square-foot ground-floor apartment, which was financed by Mrs. Melasniemi’s parents, includes its own entrance and sheltered outdoor space. There is also a common garden area that can be shared by all members of the family.

“When we were building the house, I asked my father to draw the line on paper: Which is the land that we pay for, which is our common space and which is the land of their house,” Mrs. Melasniemi said. “I liked that he made it, as he knows the garden and he knows what he likes to think is their space.”

Mrs. Melasniemi’s grandmother, who was 91 when she moved in, has since died.

“My father got the opportunity to visit and talk to his mother every day,” said Mrs. Melasniemi, who has two children.

But the home is already being used for another phase in its planned long life.

“We discussed the kind of life span of the house,” Mr. Siitonen said. “We thought of how they could use the space when the kids move out, and then when the grandmother passes away. And of course, in the future the parents, one or both of them, might move in there. So it was kind of like we thought of things in five years and 10 years and 50 years.”

As with the 3 Generation House, which was designed to allow for expansions and conversions as the family evolves, House M-M was designed so that the children’s rooms, on the second floor, could be combined. Mrs. Melasniemi and Mr. Milonoff could then move down and turn the spaces on the upper floor into a studio. “And then maybe one of the kids could move into the apartment where the grandmother used to live,” Mr. Siitonen said. “Now it’s rented.”

In Kent, England, Caring Wood is another multigenerational home built with the future in mind. Commissioned by the in-laws of the architect James Macdonald Wright, of London-based Macdonald Wright Architects, it was designed by Mr. Wright and Niall Maxwell, of the firm Rural Office for Architecture, as a country house for the 70-year-old couple and the family’s three daughters and seven grandchildren. “There’s 15 of us,” Mr. Wright said. “The idea really was that we would all spend as much time as possible there.”

Set on 84 wooded acres, the family home takes a pinwheel shape with four corner apartments, one per family.

These are connected to the home’s common spaces, including a central inner courtyard where a family tree cast in glass by the artist Colin Reid sits in the center of the courtyard’s shallow pond.

The shared courtyard of Caring Wood, designed by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell, of the firm Rural Office for Architecture.
“Internal walls are all partitions, so they can be reconfigured,” Mr. Wright said. In terms of lifetime use, he said, “there is a lift that gives access to all levels of the house.”

While privacy is built in, Mr. Wright said the children, ages 3 to 17, have no qualms about breaking it down. “They kind of just charge in between all of the individual apartments,” he said.

In Torekov, Sweden, a coastal village north of Malmo, the firm Maka Arkitektur designed a multigenerational weekend home for a mother and the families of her three children, currently including three grandchildren.

“Torekov has always been a kind of generational meeting point for the entire extended family,” said Daniel Hedner, the home’s architect along with Ylva der Hagopian.

In Torekov, Sweden, the firm Maka Arkitektur designed a multigenerational weekend home for a mother and the families of her three children. It has a main building with two wings and a semi-detached guesthouse set around a shared courtyard.

In Torekov, Sweden, the firm Maka Arkitektur designed a multigenerational weekend home for a mother and the families of her three children. It has a main building with two wings and a semi-detached guesthouse set around a shared courtyard.

Forming an outdoor courtyard that serves as a connecting social space for the family, the 1,740-square-foot home comprises a main building with two wings.

A slightly detached 280-square-foot guesthouse has its own kitchenette and bathroom.

“Access to separate rooms, nooks and corners for privacy are essential in multigenerational houses,” said Ms. der Hagopian, Mr. Hedner’s associate, “as well as generous social space that can gather a lot of people.”

Though large families living together is not a new idea, and mother-in-law apartments are common in many places, purpose-built multigenerational homes are largely “a new phenomena in Western society,” Mr. van Oppen said. But they have a strong tradition in Asian society.

That figured into the thinking of a couple with Asian roots who commissioned Charles House, a multigenerational home in Melbourne, Australia. “For them it was kind of a natural way to have a house,” said Andrew Maynard, whose firm, Austin Maynard Architects, designed it.

For this project, Mr. Maynard turned the traditional Australian “granny flat” (normally akin to a shed out back) on its head by incorporating it into Charles House as an adaptable space on the ground level. Although multigenerational homes are not typically part of Australian culture, Mr. Maynard said the country could certainly benefit from them.

“Sydney and Melbourne are among the top 10 of the most unaffordable cities to own a home in the world. And there’s a whole generation of younger people, millennials, who just can’t even buy into the market,” he said.

Source: nytimes

Foreign Money Still Driving B.C. Housing Market Despite Ownership Data: Expert

Most homeowners in British Columbia’s hot housing market live in the province, but one expert says that doesn’t mean foreign money isn’t to blame for high prices and speculation.

Of the 2,156,920 residential properties in B.C, 5.5 per cent were owned by foreign individuals or foreign non-individuals such as non-individual a corporation, trust or state-owned entity, according to the Canadian Housing Statistics Program from Statistics Canada.

Josh Gordon with the Simon Fraser University School of Public Policy says the study only looks at someone’s residency, not where they got the money to buy the property.

“The CHSP data looks at the stock of housing, not necessarily the flow of housing market participation,” Gordon said. “There’s been a misuse of the word domestic (speculation) because the data is about residency. If a resident is using foreign money, then that can’t be chalked up to domestic factors.”

He said even those B.C. residents who are speculating on housing may be relying on foreign participation in the market.

“Are they speculating on the arrival of substantial amounts of foreign money and ownership? If that’s the case, then just because there are a lot of domestic speculations does not change the fact that the overall market is being driven by the impact of outside money.

Gordon says if that’s the case, then foreign money could still be driving the market even though only five per cent of homes are officially owned by foreigners.

“If that’s the case, then just because there are a lot of domestic speculators, does not change the fact that the overall market is being driven by the impact of outside money.”

He points to the slow down in the housing market, particularly in the Vancouver-area as the province introduces policies to curtail the flow of foreign money and as capital controls are controlling the money arriving from China.

“Policy has been on the right track on the provincial level,” he said. “The market has slowed down and prices are starting to fall as we would expect if we thought the major issue was foreign ownership.

Source: citynews1130

Hey, Middle Class, the Housing Crisis is Coming for You Next

Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the Southeast’s biggest cities, is short 34,000 affordable housing units. A booming job market has attracted 100,000 new households to the city since 2000, and supply hasn’t kept up with demand.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, there are more families than available places to live, a shortage of about 54,000 units. It’s the most severe manifestation of pricing pressure in a state where housing costs can run higher than both Las Vegas and Phoenix. This deficit comes after a year when Salt Lake City led the nation in homebuilding.

In Columbus, Ohio, the housing market has cooled after ever-higher prices exhausted buyers who simply can’t keep up with rising costs.

“The sweet spots are still a challenge, but there’s no sweet spot in the high end,” Andrew Show, a local realtor, told the Columbus Dispatch.

Three of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, all far from the craziness of real estate in coastal markets, all building at a relatively speedy clip, and all with popular neighborhoods, boasting year after year of rising prices, have become too expensive for a greater number of potential owners and renters.

When policymakers and pundits talk about the nation’s affordable housing crisis, they usually talk about the forces that deny low-income Americans reliable and accessible housing near better jobs and educational opportunity. And they should; it’s not just a national crisis and widespread policy failure, but a moral crisis for the world’s richest nation.

But new research shows that the shocking realities of the nation’s affordability crisis—8 million renters pay more than half their income on rent, and the country is short 7.2 million affordable housing units, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition—have begun to metastasize and impact the middle class.

A new paper by Jenny Schuetz, a housing policy fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, found that some of the severe affordability issues impacting low-income Americans have crept into the lower-middle class and, without action, will get worse.

In “Cost, crowding, or commuting? Housing stress on the middle class,” Schuetz looked at census data to find the impact of a decade when housing costs rose faster than average incomes.

Her nuanced conclusions suggest that, on an aggregate national level, there isn’t a middle-class housing crisis. High-cost metros like Seattle and San Francisco unquestionably have challenges, and, of course, low-income households are stretched like crazy. But it depends on how you look at the data.

If you break down the nation into five income groups, the crises faced by the fifth group—or the lowest-income—are increasingly being seen within the fourth group, the lower-middle class. The fifth of the country with the lowest income spends 60 percent of their money on housing, while the next-lowest fifth spends 40 percent, both significantly higher than the 30 percent recommended by economists.

“The issues facing low-income Americans are now showing up in lower-middle-income Americans, and I think that’s something we should worry about,” says Schuetz. “It’s a national pattern. That group is spending more money on rent everywhere, in Cleveland and not just in California.”

Other studies point to a similar kind of strain. Research from Berkadia, a Berkshire Hathaway company, found that the lower-middle income bracket, which it qualified as earning $35,000 to $49,999 between 2012 and 2017, has been hit hard, with 6 percent growth in rent-stressed families during that time period. Cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Omaha, Nebraska, have become challenging for renters, with 40 percent or more of families identifying as rent-burdened.

It’s easier to focus on the extremes of the housing shortage, both the rising levels of poverty and homelessness and the seven-figure spec mansions of the tech jet set. But the creeping cost of housing is pinching a middle class already struggling with flat wages, rising child care costs, and the skyrocketing price tag of a four-year college degree.

This “middle-class squeeze,” as a 2014 report by the Center for American Progress illuminated, was about new constraints, and how “the costs of key elements of middle-class security rose by more than $10,000 in the 12 years from 2000 to 2012, at a time when this family’s income was stagnant.”

Housing unaffordability isn’t the cause of the crisis, per se. But with the cost of everything else rising, it’s not surprising that formerly stable families feel squeezed by even slight increases in housing costs, and that overall growth is hampered by a middle class barely able to pay the bills and put their kids through school.

Aren’t we already in a crisis?

Middle-class Californians, many of whom have recently moved to other, more affordable, areas in the West, like Boise, Idaho, and most new homebuyers looking to buy in the nation’s largest cities, would probably tell you there’s long been an affordability crisis across the income spectrum.

And it’s an issue that’s grown over decades: According to a 2017 report done by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, the median price of single-family housing in the U.S. outgrew the rise in median household income by 390 percent between January 1986 and July 2017.

Schuetz’s analysis for Brookings found that lower-middle-income renters and homeowners continue to be forced to make the traditional trade-offs, sacrificing a combination of cost, commute time, and home size for proximity to big-city job markets. It’s all part of the agglomeration crisis, the clustering of jobs and opportunities in specific metros.

What Schuetz has identified as a newer aspect of the problem is the decision by city governments to cut back on housing production via restrictive codes and zoning, which only drives up land prices (the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy found that the cost of land skyrocketed by 76 percent from 2000 to 2016). Big, productive, and progressive cities have hampered their housing supply with very deliberate policy choices.

“Waving our hands and saying we can’t do anything to fix it gives a pass to local government who have made very bad decisions,” says Schuetz. “As the cost burden of housing keeps inching its way up the income spectrum, if we don’t see that as a problem and change the housing delivery system, it will become a middle-income crisis in more widespread terms.”

If this is what the housing market can produce in a good economy, what will happen to homebuilding if we fall into a recession? A report from the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank found that during the last 10 years of economic expansion the annual rate of single-family home starts was 25 percent below ’90s levels. The current rate of construction relative to the number of households is at its lowest levels since the ’50s, the earliest date at which this kind of reliable nationwide data is available.

Schuetz believes cities need to ramp up affordable housing production. Will newly rising metros like Denver, Austin, and Nashville act in time to stem rampant price inflation? Or will they fall into the same trap as other, larger metros?

There are also increased calls for state-level intervention, to overrule failed policies at the local level. The repeated, and so far unrealized, push for SB 50, California’s transit-oriented zoning bill, as well as the successful passage of statewide rent control in Oregon, demonstrate the public’s hunger to have governors and state legislatures step in and use the tools at their disposal to put pressure on local governments.

“Local governments have no incentive to change, and actually have incentive to dig in their heels on these issues, so ultimately, I think that’s going to require probably state intervention, like withholding funds,” says Schuetz.

Without some kind of relief on the horizon, the middle class will be locked out of many areas due to housing strain. And like all Americans suffering from the affordability crisis, they’ll lose out—a loss for the entire country.

“The highest-opportunity neighborhoods have become gated communities, and you can’t move in unless you’re a millionaire,” says Schuetz. “To the extent that high housing costs discourage anybody from moving to a place to find a job, have new ideas, and contribute to a society, we should worry about that. That’s fundamentally damaging to opportunity, and that’s going to hurt the vitality of our most productive regions.”

Source: curbed

Debt Blamed in Credit Crisis Could Help Canada With Housing Risk

The type of securities blamed for triggering a credit crisis in the U.S. a decade ago could now be part of the solution in Canada, where a cooling housing market is a key risk to its $1.7 trillion economy.

The Bank of Canada is discussing ways to encourage a more robust market for residential mortgage-backed securities with potential investors. Only about C$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) of Canadian uninsured mortgages have been pooled in RMBS deals, or about 0.1% of the country’s mortgage debt, according to rating company DBRS Ltd.

No lender has widely marketed such a deal since September, when private lender MCAP sold C$254 million of the notes.

While previous efforts to kick-start an RMBS market have borne little fruit, this time may be different as Canadian home prices are rising at the slowest pace this decade amid higher interest rates, regulatory changes and tax increases designed to reign in surging prices, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver.

“While lenders are very well equipped to manage normal market risks, I suspect they are rather unwilling to take on the additional risk of future government intervention in the housing markets,” said Andrey Pavlov, a professor of finance at Beedie School of Business of Simon Fraser University in Greater Vancouver.

“Therefore, lenders are likely more interested today than they have ever been in hedging their residential real estate exposure, and mortgage backed securities would be a good way to do so.”

Lenders create mortgage-backed notes by packaging property loans into securities of varying risk and returns — too much risk it turned out during the U.S. financial crisis when shady loans made it into MBS tranches.

There’s been little evidence risky mortgages have become a feature in Canada. In addition, mortgages are “full recourse” in most of the country, meaning lenders can pursue borrowers even after they’ve walked away from the property.

On top of raising funds, the sellers of the underlying assets can reduce the regulatory capital they have to set aside to cover eventual losses should they meet certain conditions, including selling significant portions of the lower rated, higher risk bond tranches.

Longer Term

The notes are repaid as borrowers pay down debt. The legal duration of the bonds could be significantly longer than the expected repayment rate suggests.

This could be a useful tool for lenders to offer longer-term mortgages in a country where most of the home loans have a 5-year term. The repayment of the bonds can be adapted to the repayment of the underlying collateral.

Up until 2016, Canadian lenders relied heavily on Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp., the country’s national housing agency to insure mortgages with down payments of less than 20% and then packaged those loans into mortgage-backed securities to fund obligations.

But as part of its efforts to curb taxpayer exposure to the housing market, the government made it more difficult to get insurance. The market for uninsured mortgages took off — MBS based on the debt less so.

“There’s an ongoing education job around investors just to highlight the difference between that product and the CMHC product, and we are investing in that so that the market grows over time,” Bank of Montreal Chief Financial Officer Tom Flynn said in an interview last week. The RMBS “market is not nearly as developed as the CMHC mortgage bond market is. I would say our hope is over time that market will grow, and the banks generally I believe are interested in issuing that product.”

Mortgage Market Shifts

Uninsured mortgages represent almost 60% of all home-loans extended by the country’s large banks

The Canadian Fixed-Income Forum, a Bank of Canada-led group made up of participants in the bond market, has been working since at least last year to analyze the conditions and incentives that would be required to expand interest in the asset class, according to the minutes of their meetings.

It conducted a focus group last month with mostly buy side institutions about the disclosure on the underlying collateral and other features they may require. The group, known as CFIF, was scheduled to discuss the issue again at a June 4 meeting.

Data Portal

One way to bolster investors’ confidence in deals would be by setting up a public database of mortgages used in securitization deals including anonymized details of the borrower, property and loan performance, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz said last month. A similar project was supported by the European Central Bank in a bid to re-start sales of asset-backed securities after investors shunned hard-to-value assets following the seizure of the U.S. mortgage securitization market in 2007.

“A loan level data portal is a great idea,” said Imran Chaudhry, a senior portfolio manager at Forresters Asset Management Inc., which manages about C$8.5 billion of assets and has invested in Canadian securitizations. “Issuing public RMBS deals would provide a larger investor base to the issuers and help establish a diversified funding source for them over a longer term.”

The starting point of RMBS as a funding tool isn’t the most attractive for banks as investors may demand an extra yield of 20 to 30 basis points over their senior bail-in debt in a stable market situation, said Chaudhry, who is part of the CFIF. Yet, once a market develops the spreads will tighten and it will make economic sense for the lenders to issue, he said.

Uninsured Surge

All these efforts are occurring at a time when the household debt-to-disposable income ratio in Canada at the end of 2018 hit a record high of 175%, up from 136% in 2006. By contrast, U.S. household debt to disposable income ended last year at 98%, the lowest since 2001, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“A key domestic risk is a sharp correction in the housing market,” officials at International Monetary Fund said in May 21 statement about the state of the Canadian economy. To be sure strong immigration, underlying strength in the economy and an unemployment rate near historic lows argues against such a scenario.

Lenders’ exposure to an eventual downturn may be increasing. According to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, the Canadian bank regulator, the ratio of uninsured over insured mortgages has jumped to the highest since 1997.

At the end of March, the volume of uninsured mortgages surged 14% from a year ago, accounting for about 59% of the C$1.17 trillion of home loans at Canada’s federally regulated banks, while insured home loans fell 7.8% from a year ago, according to data from OSFI. On Tuesday, the regulator announced it was increasing a domestic stability buffer for systemically important banks to 2% of their risk weighted assets from 1.75%, effective Oct. 31, citing vulnerabilities that include household indebtedness.

“To be clear, the system is not broken—it has served Canadians and financial institutions well,” said Poloz in a May 6 speech in Winnipeg. “We should not stop looking for improvement.”

Source: Bloomberg

Australia’s Economy Expands at Slowest Pace in Decade on Housing

Australia’s economy expanded at the slowest pace in almost a decade as a prolonged housing downturn weighed on consumer spending, underscoring the central bank’s decision to lower interest rates.

Gross domestic product advanced 0.4% in the first three months of the year from the prior quarter, statistics bureau data showed in Sydney. The economy grew just 1.8% from a year earlier, the weakest reading since the global financial crisis, as households boosted their savings and cut spending in a classic response to wealth erosion.

Housing slump has made Aussies rein in spending

“The data confirm that the economy started 2019 very softly,” said Sarah Hunter, head of macroeconomics at BIS Oxford Economics in Sydney. “Consumers continue to be battered by weak income growth, and this was added to by the drag from sharply falling house prices.”

The currency was little changed after the GDP release.

The report comes a day after the Reserve Bank cut rates for the first time in almost three years to revive consumption that accounts for almost 60% of GDP, and spur economic growth. Governor Philip Lowe says the easing should encourage hiring and investment and help lower unemployment. The wild card is the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.

The rise in protectionism has prompted Lowe’s U.S. counterparts to consider reversing some of last year’s tightening. Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell signaled overnight an openness to cut if necessary, pledging to closely watch the fallout from disputes between the U.S. and its largest trading partners.


Lowe is expected to ease again this year — with a better than 60% chance of an August cut — to bring the cash rate to a new record-low 1%. Such a level, together with an easing of lending restrictions, should help put a floor under tumbling property prices that have prompting consumers to rein in spending. In Sydney, housing has fallen 15%.

Wednesday’s report showed government spending and exports were key drivers of the expansion, adding 0.2 percentage point apiece. Dwelling investment fell 2.5% and home ownership transfer costs slumped 13% amid the property downturn, collectively shaving 0.3 percentage point from economic growth.

The household savings ratio advanced to 2.8% from a revised 2.6% in the final three months of the year.

Australia’s economy is on the cusp of 28 years of expansion, a developed world record; but growth drivers are thinning with the end of the mining and property booms. Government investment in infrastructure has become an important source of growth and hiring and Lowe, in a speech Tuesday night, encouraged it to keep stoking the economy.

Unemployment Focus

The RBA needs the economy expanding at 3% or more to drive the jobless rate down to 4.5%, the level at which Lowe now believes will stoke consumer prices sufficiently to return inflation to the central bank’s 2-3% target. But outside government spending and high resource prices — reflected in the terms of trade jumping 3.1% in the quarter — the economy looks moribund.

“For the RBA, today’s data are slightly below its May forecast profile for growth, but recent comments indicate that it remains more focused on the unemployment rate,” said Kaixin Owyong, markets economist at National Australia Bank Ltd. “The RBA will likely be relieved not to make another major change to its growth outlook, although the governor has emphasized that its outlook is conditioned on the cash rate falling to 1%.”

Unemployment climbed to 5.2% in April and job advertisements slumped 8.4% in May, a potential harbinger to further weakness in the labor market.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say

“Several factors may boost household spending and investment in the second half. The government has promised tax cuts and the housing market is showing signs of stabilization. Additional easing may also be in the pipeline.”

The RBA had incorporated a softening of the economy in the first half of the year in its most recent forecasts, predicting 1.75% growth in the 12 months through June before accelerating to 2.75% at the end of the year.

The slowdown, together with the escalating trade war, has prompted economists like Westpac Banking Corp.’s Bill Evans to forecast a further two rate cuts by November, and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Sally Auld to predict another three by mid-2020, taking the cash rate down to 0.5%. Lowe suggested in a speech Tuesday night that this wasn’t his take.

Asked after the address where he saw the lower bound of the RBA’s cash rate, he said: “If you look at what happened in the U.K., the U.S. and Canada, rates got to 0.25-0.5% there, so I think for many economies that’s judged to be the effective lower bound. I’m not anticipating to get to those levels.”

Source: bloomberg

Singapore Property Cycle has Stabilised, says Lawrence Wong

Singapore’s property cooling measures have achieved what they were meant to do, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, but most analysts do not expect them to be lifted in the near future.

Mr Wong told Bloomberg that almost a year after intervening to stem soaring property prices, Singapore has stabilised the property cycle. The measures are now in their 11th month.

“The property market last year, before the cooling measures were put in place, we saw prices rising very sharply,” Mr Wong said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Ms Haslinda Amin in Singapore. “There was a very real risk that prices would outpace fundamentals, and I think if that had happened, then eventually it would lead to a destabilising correction, and I think everybody would be worse off.”

“It was, as we had stressed then, not to bring down prices but to stabilise and moderate the cycle, and I think we have achieved that effect.”

“We welcome investors to our property market, but what we want to ensure is that demand, regardless of whether it is local demand or foreign demand, doesn’t cause the prices to move at a pace that outstrips fundamentals,” Mr Wong said.

JLL senior director for research and consultancy Ong Teck Hui does not expect the cooling measures to be relaxed any time soon, while another analyst said the measures were “timely”, given that the “risks of a financial market shakeout have increased with the escalating US-China trade war and Brexit uncertainty”.

Had the measures not been implemented, the impact of rising geopolitical uncertainty on the property market would have been more severe, said the analyst, who declined to be named. He also said the prices had stabilised for only a short period so far. “Real estate has a longer cycle. It will take at least two to three years to see if they are working,” the analyst added.

The local property market has gone through several rounds of cooling measures, including the latest round that kicked in on July 6 last year to raise the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) rates and tighten the loan-to-value (LTV) limits on residential property purchases.

The ABSD rates for Singapore citizens and permanent residents buying their second and subsequent residential property were raised by 5 per cent for all individuals. LTV limits were also tightened by five percentage points for all housing loans granted by financial institutions.

Since the measures were implemented, transaction volumes have dropped and the private residential price index has shown two consecutive quarters of decline. “So, it seems to be a happy situation from policymakers’ point of view. But it doesn’t make it easier for developers who have to deal with oversupply, or home owners trying to sell their homes,” Mr Ong said.

The total number of unsold completed and uncompleted units has been picking up every quarter since the second quarter of 2017, when it hit a multi-year low of 16,929. As of the first quarter of this year, it stands at 37,799 units, according to JLL.

“I won’t read too much into his comments at the moment. This is more a health check one year on,” Mr Ong said of Mr Wong’s remarks.

Ms Tricia Song, head of research for Singapore at Colliers International, believes the measures will continue to ensure that the market remains sustainable.

“It is premature to predict whether the measures would be eased, but for now at least, we do not think there will be another round of cooling measures any time soon, barring any unforeseen events.”

Source: Straitstimes

Housing Campaigners Celebrate Banning of Letting fees for Tenants

“We know that this one change will not fix the private rented sector. Without strong rent controls, there is still the risk that agents will pass on the cost of fees in the form of rent hikes.

“For too many, the private rented sector remains insecure, unaffordable, and discriminatory. Today we’re celebrating a step in the right direction for renters; now the growing renters’ movement needs to keep building its power so we can transform the housing system for good.”

Acorn, a community union, said it believed some agents were planning to flout the law and continue to charge tenants the upfront fees, which average at £300.

Nick Ballard, national organiser for Acorn, said: “Other than the celebration, today was about putting letting agents on notice, because we know a lot of them will still try to charge fees. We’ll be watching them if they do break the law.”

Scepticism over the enforcement of the new laws centres around what campaigners claim are ongoing attempts to charge such fees in Scotland, even though they were in effect banned in 2012.

“It is unlawful to charge anything other than rent and deposit in Scotland, but unfortunately there’s a complete lack of enforcement,” said Sean Baillie, lead organiser for Living Rent in Scotland. “What we’re finding is that letting agents will charge small fees for signing or continuing, as well as direct debit fees, reference fees, admin fees, and opaque fees with no breakdown. People are often desperate to get a house, so they sign these contracts.”

He added that in the vast majority of cases, letting agents returned the fees when challenged by campaigners.

The law change in England and Wales comes almost three years after the government first promised to end the practice of prospective tenants being forced to pay charges before they could sign a lease.

Source: theguardian

Desperate Buyers Sleeping in Cars to Snap up New-Build Homes

Desperate buyers have been sleeping overnight in their vehicles to make sure they are first in line for homes at a new development.

Eager punters are eyeing a new home at the sought-after Hill Top Park development in Rochdale, where new two, three and four bed properties are going up on the site of a former primary school where the BBC drama Waterloo Road was filmed.

They do shifts in waiting parked cars, while some even order food to be delivered whilst they are camped outside the Gleeson Homes sales office.

The would-be purchasers have also placed hand-written signs in their car windows pointing out their position in the queue and which plot they are targetting.

The main attraction appears to be the price – Gleeson doesn’t list any prices on its website, but the would-be buyers camping out claim three-bed properties are sold for around £160,000.

Charities say Britain is in the grip of an affordable housing ‘crisis’ , with young people and those on low incomes struggling to get on the housing ladder.

When the Manchester Evening News went to have a look on Thursday, there were four vehicles parked outside the sales office and which appeared to belong to prospective customers who had been sleeping overnight.

One young mother from Oldham said she had used a roster of relatives, including her husband to do ‘shifts’ in the car.

So far, her family has spent three nights in the car. She said she expected they would have to remain there until next week or even the week after, depending on when Gleeson releases the as-yet unpriced property she is interested in.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s going to be next week or the week after. They are not telling us when they will be released.”

“I’m hoping it will probably be next week.”

She went on: “Honestly, its the worst procedure. Why don’t they just release all the houses so people can come and reserve a plot they want rather than people queueing up in a car? It’s just a ridiculous process.”

She is waiting for foundations to be dug and first bricks to be laid.

The sign she has erected in her own car says she is first in the queue and she says the manager in the sales officer has agreed this.

Nearby residents, who are already living in their homes aren’t happy either, although they have tried to help by, for instance, by topping up hot water bottles.

One neighbour said: “I don’t particularly like that they are sleeping outside my house, but there’s nothing I can do.”

The resident reported that she first noticed people sleeping in their cars outside the sales officer in the new year.

“I’ve been offering anything I can, anything they need,” she added.

She said she has seen pizza boxes, suggesting some of those in the queue had arranged for food to be delivered.

The Manchester Evening News spoke to a second would-be buyer in her car, a mother-of-two young children, who said: “It’s first come first served. Somebody else can come in (to the queue) if you are not here.”

A statement from Gleeson read: “We have a huge demand for our homes on many of our sites because it is usually cheaper to buy a Gleeson home than to rent one locally.

“The problem that we have is that someone is always disappointed in not achieving what would otherwise be a very positive life-changing experience.

“We cannot stop people sleeping in cars and we have previously tried a ticketing system, but who gets the first ticket and how?

“We sincerely wish that we could provide a house to everyone who wants one and we are sorry if any of our potential customers are disappointed.”

Source: dailypost

Applications for Canadian Permanent Residency hit 35,100 in 5-months

The total number of Invitations to Apply (ITAs) issued so far to Express Entry Candidates who applied for the Canadian Permanent Residency in 2019 has hit 35,100. This is contained in the Canadian Immigration Newsletter which was recently published for May 2019.

According to the newsletter, Canada has issued a total of 35,100 ITAs to Express Entry candidates so far in 2019.

Recall that Nairametrics earlier reported that ITAs candidates rose to 31,250 in April, implying that ITAs issued to Express Entry Candidates increased by 12.3% in just one month.

In recent weeks, Express Entry Candidates received invitations to apply for a provincial nomination through Express Entry-aligned immigration streams in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

Admission targets for 2019: Canada has increased its 2019 admissions target for the three Federal Skilled programs managed by the Express Entry system and is slated to raise them again in 2020 and 2021.

Note that Canada plans to welcome 350,000 new permanent residents by the year 2021. The admissions target for 2019 is 81,400 new permanent residents, which is an increase of 6,500 admissions compared to 2018’s target of 74,900.

How to Improve Your Chances: Express Entry candidates can improve their CRS score in a number of ways, with a nomination through Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program being the most viable in terms of points.

Express Entry Candidates with a provincial nomination for permanent residence receive an additional 600 points toward their CRS score, which effectively guarantees an invitation to apply for Canadian Permanent Residency.

Some Recent Events: The total invitations issued to skilled worker candidates in 2019 hit 4,320 in May 2019. Manitoba invited 196 immigration candidates to apply for a provincial nomination for Canadian permanent residence in an Expression of Interest draw held May 23.

Out of the 196 Letters of Advice to Apply (LAAs) issued, 119 went to candidates in the Skilled Workers in Manitoba Stream60 went to Skilled Workers Overseas candidates, and 17 were issued through the International Education Stream to international graduates of Manitoba post-secondary institutions.

Also, Ontario and Alberta issued new 557 invitations to apply for a provincial nomination for Canadian permanent residence to Express Entry candidates draws held May 15 and 22 respectively with Comprehensive Ranking System scores as low as 301.

Applying on your own: Nairametrics has explained how you can apply for Canadian Permanent Residency on your own. We live in a world where we have many more opportunities today than we did yesterday. So many people can move, travel and build a life in a totally different place from where they were born. Some countries, like Canada, have impressive policies that allow skilled people to earn permits to live and work in Canada.

Source: By Bamidele Samuel Adesoji

Meet Halimah Yacob, Singapore’s first female president

Singapore: Halimah Yacob, 63, has become Singapore’s first female president and started her first day of work as the city’s eighth head of state.

She was named president-elect as the only eligible candidate this week, after two others were disqualified in an election reserved for minority ethnic Malay candidates.

As the former speaker of parliament started her new role on Thursday, Yacob sought to make the Istana, the Singapore president’s official residence, more accessible to the people.

The government changed the presidential election process for this year to ensure the largely ceremonial role isn’t dominated by the majority Chinese group, and so that minorities like ethnic Malays and Indians will get a chance to be represented in some elections that are reserved for their groups.

First ethnic Malay head of state

Halimah’s no stranger to breaking diversity barriers: she’ll be the first ethnic Malay head of state in almost half a century but was also the first female Speaker of Parliament in 2013.

Singapore doesn’t have room to be complacent.

Halimah, known to be an advocate for women’s rights, will be the figure head of a nation that’s lagging behind in putting women in corporate leadership positions.

A Deloitte study released earlier this year shows that Singapore is trailing Asian neighbors such as India, Malaysia, and Thailand in the percentage of board seats held by women.

Women make up 10.7 percent of boards in the city-state, according to the report.

That lags behind the 17.6 percent in Vietnam, the highest in Southeast Asia, and falls far short of the 42 percent in Norway.


Halimah Yacob, 63, comes from member of Singapore’s poorest ethnic minority

She is set to become the first woman president of the island nation

Yacob was a former speaker of parliament

She will will be formally named to the mostly ceremonial post

Her role is aimed to strengthen a sense of inclusivity in the multicultural country

Other candidates fell short of the criteria set for contesting the election

Singapore had decreed the presidency would be reserved for candidates from the Malay community this time

Halimah’s experience as house speaker automatically qualified her under the nomination rules.

Of the 4 other applicants, 2 were not Malays and 2 were not given certificates of eligibility by the elections department

Yusuf Ishak was the last Malay to hold the presidency (1965 and 1970), the first years of Singapore’s independence following a short-lived union with neighbouring Malaysia

The separation of Singapore from Malaysia gave ethnic Malays a clear majority in Malaysia, while ethnic Chinese formed the majority in independent Singapore

Source: Bloomberg

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