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Building an OECD Housing Strategy

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Building an OECD Housing Strategy

  1. 1. Horizontal Project HOUSING Building an OECD Housing Strategy
  2. 2. Building an OECD Housing Strategy Why is housing important? Housing market bubbles are at the root of many financial crises. Indeed, during 2007-08, house prices collapsed in several countries, marking the onset of the global financial crisis (Figure 1). In the past few years, house prices have been increasing rapidly in many countries, and they are now above their pre-crisis level. In addition, the growing importance of housing in household balance sheets raises the sensitivity of aggregate consumption and investment to changes in house prices. Housing policies also influence economic developments through their impact on the mobility of workers, access to quality jobs and education. Furthermore, housing developments affect environmental outcomes, including through interactions with urban land-use patterns, residential energy consumption and transport systems. Rising house prices undermine housing affordability, particularly for low-income households and in fast- growing urban areas (Figure 2). Access to affordable housing is crucial for achieving a number of key policy objectives, including poverty and homelessness reduction, equality of opportunities and sustainable growth. Access to affordable housing is also important in a context where population ageing is likely to lead to structural shifts in housing demand. Source: OECD Economic Outlook database and OECD Analytical House Price database. Figure 2. The cost of buying a flat in large cities has increased considerably for middle-income families Number of years of annual income needed to buy a 60 square meter flat in the country’s capital city or financial centre, for a median income couple with two children. Source: Under Pressure: The Squeezed Middle Class, OECD 2019. Housing market developments influence the distributionofincomeandwealthashousingisoneof thelargestspendingitemsinhouseholdbudgetsand often the largest asset in household balance sheets (Figure 3). Housing is, therefore, a fundamental driver of the accumulation and the distribution of wealth and debt within and across generations. Figure 3. Housing is the chief asset of the middle class Source: Housing, wealth accumulation and wealth distribution: evidence and stylized facts, OECD (2019) forthcoming. Figure 1. House price and business cycles are tightly linked Annual real percentage change, OECD average BUIILDING AN OECD HOUSING STRATEGY 3 -6 -4 -2 0 2 4 6 8 10 1971 1973 1975 1977 1979 1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 House price GDP 6.8 7.4 10.3 10.2 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 1985 1995 2005 2015 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% DEU AUT USA CAN FRA NLD GBR FIN AUS OECD IRL BEL LUX PRT NOR ITA EST GRC LVA ESP SVN POL HUN SVK Housing (main residence) Other real estate Other real assets Other financial assets Deposits
  3. 3. How can policies affect housing? Tackling the challenge policy-makers face in delivering affordable quality housing while addressing financial stability risks and economic efficiency goals requires the development of multi-pronged housing policy strategy. It requires addressing issues that cut across many policy areas, including social housing, urban land use regulation, financial regulation, taxation, local public finance, welfare support, transport policies, housing standards, rental regulation and the enforcement of competition in related activities (e.g. construction, real estate). Some issues are specific to regions or groups of countries. For example, in many central and eastern European countries, formerly government owned housing was sold to individuals or households who are not able to maintain the buildings or up-grade their energy efficiency. A successfulhousingstrategywillalsohavetobridge the different interests of multiple stakeholders. Moreover, the growing importance of digital platforms in the housing market has implications for efficiency and welfare. While platforms have reduced entry costs of providers of short-term accommodation, they may reduce supply of affordable housing and drive up house prices and rents. This has raised new regulatory issues in a number of cities. The Horizontal Project “Building an OECD Housing Strategy” responds to the 2018 MCM Statement of the Chair encouraging the OECD to strengthen its work in the housing area with a view to developing a comprehensive approach in analysing housing marketsandprovidingpolicyadvice.Italsoresponds to the 2017 Ministerial Council Statement calling on the OECD to help governments improve their policies in a number of areas, including housing. Horizontal Housing Project: Objectives and expected outcomes The objective of the Horizontal Project is to develop a framework, indicators and a policy toolkit to help governments design and implement coherent policy strategies to ensure that housing sector developments are consistent with policy goals such as a better functioning housing market in terms of housing supply, quality, affordability, poverty reduction, access to public services, labour market efficiency, economic resilience and a clean urban environment.The framework will highlight potential trade-offs and synergies between policy goals when designing housing policies. New indicators to be assembled as part of the Horizontal Project include more granular, internationally comparable data on house prices, including across regions within countries, rents and land-use regulations, building on earlier OECD work. Household wealth surveys will also be used to measure the contribution of housing to gross and net wealth inequality between different socioeconomic groups. 4 BUIILDING AN OECD HOUSING STRATEGY
  4. 4. Key outcomes through better policy settings are greater resilience at the macro and micro levels (i.e. preventing excessive mortgage leverage at the household level), the removal of policy-related obstacles to labour mobility, reductions in housing- related inequalities and improved environmental quality. The indicators identified as most pertinent willenrichthehousingdimensionoftheOECD’swork on measuring well-being.The framework, indicators and toolkits underpinning the Housing Strategy will be developed with a view to mainstream them into core OECD economic advice, in particular through the Economic Surveys under the aegis of the Economic and Development Review Committee. Main activities The project will take a cross-cutting approach to how policies can enhance housing outcomes at the country, regional and household level. Avenues for policy action will be explored along the following lines. Housing, economic resilience and performance The housing sector has been experiencing boom- and-bust episodes creating large distortions and adverse externalities in many countries. The combination of inelastic housing supply with the very elastic lending capacity of financial institutions and other frictions makes the housing sector particularly prone to price bubbles and painful corrections. These characteristics of the housing market are often exacerbated by policy distortions. In a majority of countries, the tax treatment of housing, which is biased in favour of both homeownership and debt financing, is conducive to excessive mortgage borrowing and leverage. At the same time, regulations, including of land use, and other distortions (e.g. lack of competition in construction) that restrict the supply of housing further contribute to fuelling house prices beyond levels that would be consistent with underlying factors. This limits access to affordable housing. The work will scrutinise the evidence to identify multidimensional policy actions to achieve greater economic resilience and more affordable housing. Housing, labour mobility and the modern job market The ease of moving residence geographically has implications for the functioning of the labour market as it affects the job-matching process and use of human resources. Policies magnifying the cost of moving, which range from high transaction taxes to non-transferable, or simply uneven access to preferentially priced housing, including social housing, can trap workers in unemployment or low-productivity jobs. This poses an obstacle to the mobility of workers towards dynamic markets and, as a result, affects economic efficiency. The already high economic and human cost of such obstacles to mobility may rise in the coming decades, as the transformation of labour markets increases the premium on mobility and adaptability. BUIILDING AN OECD HOUSING STRATEGY 5 A key expected output of the project is to bring together the insights that the OECD bodies and directorates have developed in the area of housing to enhance policy coherence across the many dimensions of housing challenges. The OECD has been building expert knowledge in key areas of housing, including the project on Housing and the Economy, the Affordable Housing Database, the project on Spatial Planning Instruments and the Environment (SPINE) and the work on the Governance of Land Use. The Horizontal Project will pull together, expand and cross-fertilise these contributions to deliver holistic, whole-of- government,actionablepolicyadvicethatwilllayout policycomplementaritiesaswellaspolicytrade-offs.
  5. 5. Going local. Housing is local by nature While some housing-relevant policies are set across the economy (such as mortgage regulation, a large part of housing-related taxation, some of housing regulation), many policy decisions that drive housing outcomes are set at the local level. A key example is land-use policy, which is overwhelmingly under the purview of local governments, whereas rental-market regulation and housing-related taxation are also often under the control of local authorities, but to a varying extent. Land-use regulations indeed play an important role in driving house prices, especially in the most expensive cities. Theworkwillincreaseknowledgeonthelocaldrivers ofhousingoutcomessothatOECDadviceinthearea of housing can mobilise local policy levers as part of integrated strategies across government levels. To support the analyses, additional sub-national housing-related indicators, in particular house price indices, will need to be gathered for the countries where statistical offices do not yet provide them. 6 BUIILDING AN OECD HOUSING STRATEGY Housing is at the core of Sustainable Development Goals No. 11 and 13 Efficient, climate-compatible, green housing policies are at the core of meaningful progress towards Sustainable Development Goals No. 11 of sustainable cities and communities and 13 of climate action. Policies such as quantitative restrictions, including on building height, urban growth boundaries and other types of zoning can render housing less affordable and influence urban sprawl, with consequences for energy use and pollutant emissions. The OECD’s integrated land use and transport model (Multi-Objective Local Environmental Simulator, MOLES) can be extended andtailoredtoshedlightontheseeffects,contributing to the design of integrated housing strategies that fully incorporate the environmental dimension. Housing and inequality Housing outcomes and policies have distributional effects and can in particular influence equality of opportunities through access to quality jobs, schools and public services. Equality of opportunity is therefore an important determinant of social mobility within and across generations. Policy drivers of housing outcomes are multiple. They include housing-related taxation, public cash and in-kind transfers through housing allowances and the availability of social housing, monetary policy and institutional features of credit markets, and the regulation of rental markets and of land use. All have implications for access to adequate housing and the distribution of wealth across households. The work will deliver an in-depth assessment of the extent to which housing shapes the distribution of wealth. The Horizontal Project will also shed new light on the influence of housing on the joint distribution of income and wealth. It will investigate the role of homeownership, housing wealth, housing inheritance and housing debt in shaping the accumulation of wealth and its distribution. Policy lessons would be drawn, in particular on finding an appropriate balance between the objectives of promoting affordable housing and access to homeownership and that of preventing the build-up of excess leverage, not least among low-income households.
  6. 6. Collaborative ventures across OECD policy communities TheHorizontalProjectwillpulltogether,expandand cross-fertilise contributions from different bodies within the OECD Secretariat to deliver holistic, whole-of-government, actionable policy advice. The work will also bring together the expertise and collective experience of Member and Partner countries through various OECD committees, including the Economic Policy Committee (EPC), which leads the project, the Committee on Statistics and Statistical Policy (CSSP), the Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Committee (ELSAC), the Environment Policy Committee (EPOC), and the Regional Development Policy Committee (RDPC). The project will also involve coordination with the Committee on Fiscal Affairs (CFA), the Committee on Financial Markets (CMF) and the Network on Fiscal Relations across Levels of Government. Housing questionnaire To underpin the policy analysis of the housing market, the OECD Questionnaire on Affordable and Social Housing (QuASH) is being updated and extended. The QuASH questionnaire collects qualitative and quantitative information on outcomes and policies to promote affordable and social housing in OECD countries (such as spending, eligibility for social housing and benefit amounts). As part of the Horizontal Project, the next wave of the questionnaire will cover a broader set of housing-related policies, including rental regulation and transaction costs. A blueprint for achieving an inclusive housing strategy A key deliverable of the Horizontal Project is to develop a framework for addressing the various housing policy challenges. This framework will evaluate policy measures and objectives across multiple policy dimensions in a coherent way rather than evaluating measures within separate silos. Main deliverables The key outputs of the Horizontal Project include indicators and evidence on the effects of policy on housing-related outcomes, advice on housing policies tailored to country-specific circumstances,thematicreportsonthespecificaspectsofhousing,aswellaspolicybriefsandnotes. BUIILDING AN OECD HOUSING STRATEGY 7
  7. 7. Contacts Economics Department Asa Johansson: Asa.Johansson@oecd.org, Head of Structural Surveillance Division Peter Hoeller: Peter Hoeller@oecd.org, Head of Public Economics Division

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