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Report On Business Global responses to hot housing markets: from taxes to tightened rules

While many governments are facing challenges from hot housing markets, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong generally face the same issues as some Canadian cities.

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Hot housing markets – and how to cool them – are challenging many governments.

Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong generally face the same issues as some Canadian cities: a strong economy, low interest rates, immigration, tight supply and at least some impact from the flows of global capital.

Australia

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The story in Australia, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, is similar to that of Vancouver: a housing price boom fuelled by factors that include a strong economy and overseas buyers.

Last spring, the country's banking regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, made what looked like a small move, putting a cap on interest-only lending to 30 per cent of all new loans, down from about 40 per cent before. Australia's Treasurer, Scott Morrison, in December called the move a "scalpel-like change."

Read more: New B.C. housing measures are 'bold steps,' minister says

Read more: Canadians with B.C. vacation homes to be hit with new tax

Prices did not immediately fall but appear to have peaked. In Sydney, prices had surged about 75 per cent in five years – similar to Vancouver – but in the final three months of 2017 fell by 2 per cent, which is similar to what has happened to prices of detached homes in Greater Vancouver since last summer.

New Zealand

Homelessness was estimated last year at 1 per cent of New Zealand's population, the highest level of any developed country. It was just one stark sign of a bigger problem in housing. The issue was a key decisive factor in an election last fall in which the National Party was ousted after about a decade in power and a Labour-led coalition took charge.

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The market for housing in New Zealand is completely broken," Grant Robertson, the new Finance Minister, has said.

The country has banned foreigners from buying existing homes. More measures are planned.

Westpac, the country's largest mortgage lender, predicts housing prices will fall 5 per cent in New Zealand, with a slightly larger decline in Auckland, over the next four years.

Hong Kong

Authorities in the city with the world's most expensive housing have been slowly working for a decade to rein in the market.

Since 2014 through last spring, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), which acts as the city's central bank, made eight moves to make it more difficult to get loans to buy housing.

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Last May, the HKMA told commercial banks to reduce ratios of loan to property value – reducing the leverage at work in the market.

It has not as yet been enough. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's Chief Executive since last summer, sounded exasperated in December. "It's impossible for the government to curb property prices," Ms. Lam told Radio Television Hong Kong in comments reported by Bloomberg. "Despite the several rounds of cooling measures by the government, prices didn't drop. Some even suggested that those measures had pushed up prices instead."

This large four-bedroom detached house in Toronto that backs onto a ravine sold for $302,000 over the asking price.
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