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Two somewhat useless housing polls

I tweeted two polls today. The first one is mostly useless:

It asked whether developers should build more 3-bedroom apartments/condominiums. And not surprisingly, the vast majority of people voted yes. Of course, the problem with this poll is that it says nothing about the overall affordability of these larger suites. (We’ve talked about this many times before on the blog.)

So it is akin to asking: Should Mercedes put this concept car into production and make it widely available? My answer would obviously be yes. It’s a sweet car. I would like one. But I also don’t like spending money on depreciating “assets”, so in the end I probably wouldn’t buy it. That said, if you’re in the market for a sweet 3-bedroom condominium, I could sell you one right now.

The second poll is this one here:

My overly simplistic view of taxes is that it is generally good practice to tax the things you want less of — you know, things like cigarettes and pollution — and reduce taxes on the things you want more of — you know, things like housing and income.

The irony of this poll is that the vast majority of people voted for road tolls as the way to increase municipal funding. But in practice, this is not what we do at all! We heavily tax new housing and we are extremely reticent to even accurately price the usage of roads and highways.

Here in Toronto, I guess we kind of tried a few times, but in the end it never passes. Part of the problem, I think, is visibility. New home taxes are easy to hide from consumers. It is also easy to just vilify big bad developers. Road prices, on the other hand, are highly visible and they hit you repeatedly.

Perhaps what we ought to do is become more transparent about the charges that are levied on all new housing. I bet most people would be surprised.

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