Crawl Across the Ocean

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ignatieff, Cabinet Shuffles, Electronics Recycling and Housing Prices

Not much to say, just figured it had been a while since the last post, and what with being on vacation next week and all, thought I'd better say something. Since I've gone to the trouble of logging into blogger, here are a few random thoughts - mostly other people's but a few of mine.

Cabinet Shuffles - Imagine if you went to a parent teacher interview to talk about how your son/daughter was doing in high school - and you were informed that the school principal had decided to do a teacher shuffle. Chemistry would be taught by the erstwhile gym teacher. Art by the French instructor. French by the math teacher. Math by the history teacher. Personally I wouldn't be too impressed. Are all federal ministries so interchangeable that you can just move people randomly around from being in charge of one to another and it doesn't do any harm?

In short, the whole concept of the cabinet shuffle has always been kind of mystifying to me.

Meanwhile, from David Rees, here's a hilarious take on Michael Ignatieff's (typically) absurd Iraq War mea culpa from the NY Times last week.

On a happier note, I was wondering the other day how I was going to get rid of an old laptop which was broken beyond all repair when I saw this post from Sacha. As of August 1, a new provincial government program goes into effect whereby you have to pay an extra fee when you buy certain electronics, and in return you are able to dump said electronics without paying any kind of dumping charge.

Sacha also links to a fascinating (for a certain type of person, anyway) detailed breakdown of what goes into B.C.'s dumps.

Regarding my post from a week or two ago on the Vancouver housing market. The biggest reason for me to think that prices might just keep going up here is that they seem to be doing that in some other places around the world, notably England. So, if there, why not here? But the odd thing about the English housing market is that even though prices have been going higher and higher, there has been little increase in the supply of housing.

The government even commissioned a study (The Barker review) on the situation.

Some notes from the report that resulted,
"Demand for housing is increasing over time, driven primarily by demographic trends and rising incomes. Yet in 2001 the construction of new houses in the UK fell to its lowest level since the second world war. Over the ten years to 2002, output of new homes was 12.5 per cent lower than for the previous ten years."

and from the review's interim report...

Formal estimates of supply responsiveness suggest that housing output in the UK responds relatively weakly to changes in house prices. Against a background of rising demand, this will contribute to higher house prices than might otherwise be the case:

• international comparisons show that the supply of housing in the UK is less price
responsive than in most other major economies. Our housing supply is only half as responsive as the French housing market, a third as responsive as the US market,
and only a quarter as responsive as the German housing market;

• studies also show that supply has become less responsive over time. Before the war, it was up to four times as responsive as it was through most of the post-war period;

• the responsiveness of housing supply has declined further in the 1990s, falling
almost to zero, implying no change in housing output in response to the increases in price. Increasing demand has therefore fed directly into higher house prices.

Which raises the obvious question: if prices are so high why don't developers build more houses and make easy money? The Barker report, as far as I can tell, writes this off as being simply due to a shortage of land, which seems somewhat odd.

Of course, if it was true that entire country of England was running out of land, and that this was causing the supply of housing to flatline despite rising prices, that would be a pretty solid indicator that Vancouver, almost as densely populated as London and somewhat lacking in land compared to England, was destined for ever increasing prices.

Except that in Vancouver, higher prices still seem to mean higher supply. See here, for example. Note that while housing starts haven't matched the peaks of the late 80's/early 90's, population growth is a fair bit lower now than it was then as well.

Anyway, I don't know what's up with the lack of housing in England. Maybe they are out of land, or there is too much nimbyism, or there is a refusal to build upwards rather than ever outwards, but whatever's got the English housing supply down, it doesn't seem to be affecting Vancouver.


  • To find the electronics recycling site nearest you (in BC):

    Depot Locations

    By Anonymous Deanna, at 4:51 PM  

  • Argh. Sorry, that link doesn't work.
    This one will.

    Depot Locations (really, truly this time)

    By Anonymous Deanna, at 4:54 PM  

  • The BC e-waste recycling initiative is a lot better than doing nothing, but it's not without flaws. It doesn't have any provision for re-use of perfectly functional older components, and there's some concern that a lot of plastic components won't be properly disposed of. More info here.

    By Anonymous Jeff Davis, at 9:44 PM  

  • Sorry to be thick Declan,

    But you've got me......

    I can't quite grasp the equivalency of the the two situations re: the continuing rise if one has a shortage of supply and the other doesn't?

    Regardless, does that this mean that the ability to lose your house in Vancouver if you were to become catastrophically ill is a point in favour of Mr. Wells' rather 'interesting' argument for for a two-tiered health care system?


    By Blogger Gazetteer, at 10:16 PM  

  • Deanna - thanks for the link.

    Jeff, the linked piece makes some fair points. In particular, the lack of incentive for manufacturers to make things that are easier to reuse/recycle/dispose is a weakness, but still, it's better than nothing.

    Gaz - no, it is I who didn't explain clearly - (in paticular, a poor choice of verb tense in the sentence, "The biggest reason...") - what I was trying to say was that the difference in supply between the two situations alleviates my concerns that there might have been an equivalency between us and England.

    i.e. I see that house prices in England keep going up and up so I worry they might do the same here. But countering that, I see that the supply situation is much different here vs. in England, reinforcing my ealrier conviction that house prices in Vancouver will fall at some point (relatively) soon.

    I'm sure Wells won't lose his house under a two-tier system, so I don't imagine he's too concerned one way or the other.

    By Blogger Declan, at 11:09 PM  

  • Thanks Declan.

    I've got it now re: real estate.

    Regarding Mr. Wells' house....You may be right....but once the thin of that wedge gets fat and cleaves things in two and then crushes the public one (might be worth gazing back towards old England on that one too), he just might have to give up one of his time shares.

    By Blogger Gazetteer, at 11:17 AM  

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