Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for October 6th, 2008

Health Canada Report on Climate Change

with 7 comments

Cyclingmama reports on the Livable Region Blog

Health Canada’s grim report on Canadian health and climate change. This report was supposed to be made available early this year but had been suppressed by the Harper government because of its damning evidence. Now Health Canada has finally published it on its website, but it is not available for download because, according to HC, it is too big. They say it is only available by snail mail with a 2-4 week waiting period.

The Smog Blog was able to access it and has made it available electronically through the following link.

http://www.desmogblog.com/harper-government-suppresses-climate-report-now-available-here

By the way that process means using a service called scribd – and I found that troublesome thanks to the need for registration and the use of javascript. So you can get the whole thing here instead without the need for either

Human Health in a Changing Climate

Yes it is a large file but if I can host it I do not see why the Government can’t. By the way if you see a “snap shot” that says the file is broken, ignore it – it isn’t. I just tried the link and it works fine. The download is 11.5MB.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 6, 2008 at 10:48 am

I bought a house at exactly the wrong time

with one comment

Miro Cernetig

Well it is not often that you see an opinion column with a heading that directly repeats your own experience.

I too bought a house just before the market here tipped over. And the other news this morning is the prediction that the Canadian economy will go into a recession next year.

And, just like Miro, all my RRSP is in mutual funds – and mine are all invested in Canadian companies. So I have not looked at how they are doing either – and I don’t have to wait for a statement, I could look on line anytime.

But maybe Miro needs to adjust his thinking. You do not buy a house as an investment, or even a store in value. You buy it as somewhere to live. And either way you pay. Now rents here, despite the shortage of units to let, have been lower (usually) that the mortgage – and certainly less than the mortgage plus utilities, tax, and fees for water, sewage, waste disposal and maintenance. In my case the place I was renting was so small I was also paying for storage space and laundry as well. And since mortgage payments are largely interest very little actually goes into increasing your equity until you near the end of the amortization. So the calculation I made was not made on will prices fall – because my crystal ball is not very good at those kind of questions. It was based on: ‘Do I like living here? (no) Would I be happier with somewhere better suited  (or adaptable) to my needs? (yes)’ The other thing I looked at was would the money used to buy the house be better kept elsewhere? With interest rates low, and the prospects for continuing growth in share prices also looking doubtful,  the money I did have was not even keeping pace with inflation, as the tax man takes a chunk of those low interest payments.

While the outgoings now are not too different to when I was renting, the place is mine and, subject to the strata council, I can do with it what I think needs to be done. So now I actually enjoy where I am living and I have enough space for my children (and other guests) to stay with me. Would I have got it at a lower price if I had waited? Probably, but then that is likely to be a trend that will continue for some time. So it is still a case of hanging on while the prices are falling because otherwise that regret mechanism kicks in again.

“Coulda, woulda. shoulda…” is one of those mantras that drives you nuts. No-one can predict with sufficient accuracy the optimum time to buy or sell on the way the market is going – mostly it is pure dumb luck that someone hits the timing just right. It is much more likely that you will miss the optimum, since that is a brief period. So all you can do is hang on in there. And anyway, everybody has to live somewhere, and it is the living that matters, not the expected profit when you come to sell, which anyway just goes into another property, mostly.

What I think is interesting is the real estate man who says “There just isn’t enough supply for the people who want the stuff in the centre of the city.” Except that many of the condos he sold are to people who do not live in them. They were investment properties, or somewhere to stay a few weeks of the year for people who own in several cities. I suspect that some people in both groups are going to be forced by circumstances to off load some of these units. I think quite a lot of these owners will either be Americans or affected by the credit crunch and stock market fall. The real shortage of supply is still affordable housing for people who would like a place of their own. And the region as a whole is still going to be attractive to people who live in other places but would like to move here. The biggest shift I would expect under the current circumstances are towards the upper end of the market. The entry level here has always been tight and with continued inward migration to this region will remain in demand. Proportionately value losses at the bottom end are likely to be smaller than at the middle. The top end is just so silly that I have no way of judging what multi-millionaires will do, but some of them will go bust.

And just as a rising market must fall, sooner or later, so a falling market will pick up again. Which is why investment advisors are usually stressing to ordinary folks, stay in the for the long term, don’t churn the stock(because you will lose in transaction costs what you might gain on small rises) and try not to sweat the short term gyrations.

I would like to think that most Canadians recognize that the world is changing and that we are actually quite well placed to make the most of the opportunities. What would be disastrous, not just for us but the world in general, is if we continue with “business as usual”: for the last sixty years have been anything but usual in the history of humans on this planet. It is very human that many people are turning away from the environment to the economy in this election,  as though the two were not inextricably linked. And picking short term fixes for the economy will do nothing for dealing with the long term issue of how we survive on a planet which is going to become much more difficult for us to inhabit if we persist in trying to keep on doing what we have done in recent years.

There are a lot of things to worry about, and they are bigger and much more worthy of attention than the numbers on your house valaution or your mutaul fund statement.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 6, 2008 at 8:56 am

Posted in Economics