Can we finally start putting an end to ‘American Dream’ magical thinking about home ownership? Or have the last three years still not driven the point home?
“So governments should be neutral about home-ownership, whose benefits have been oversold. People will always want to buy houses: they do not need a shove from subsidies. In America plans to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which buy and guarantee mortgages on the government’s account, are welcome. Tax deductions on mortgage interest should go. So should distorting exemptions on capital-gains taxes; it is better to cut the transaction taxes that make it expensive for people to move.
“Politicians will be loth to cut the value of their electorate’s biggest asset, however. Which is why lots of people are now looking to central banks to intervene when property booms get going. That already happens a lot in Asia; Western central banks are also moving in this direction. The Swedes last year imposed a maximum loan-to-value ratio of 85% on mortgages, for instance. Good. Standing idly by is not much of a policy.”