Booming residential-property prices spell trouble for the social contract after the pandemic
房价上涨可能给疫情后的社会契约带来麻烦

新居派对 The house party returns-书迷号 shumihao.com

STOCKMARKETS HAVE not had a good September, but their strength for the year as a whole remains a source of wonderment. Less noticed has been the equally remarkable buoyancy of another asset class: housing. Many rich countries are seeing house prices surge even as their rate of infections is rising for a second time. In the second quarter, although economies were under lockdown, house prices rose in eight out of ten high- and middle-income countries. According to unofficial series—which are timelier though less accurate than government data—America’s house prices are up 5% on a year ago. Germany’s are 11% higher. Britain’s hit an all-time high, in nominal terms, in August. The boom shares some causes with the strength of stockmarkets, but reveals more about the pandemic’s effect on economies. It is also more consequential.
股市在9月的表现不太好,但今年的整体势头仍令人惊叹。另一类资产同样表现出众,却不那么引人注意,那就是房产。许多富裕国家的新冠病毒感染率再次回升之际,房价也在飙升。第二季度尽管各个经济体陷入封城状态,但十个高收入和中等收入国家中有八个的房价在涨。根据非官方数据(虽然没有政府数据准确,但更及时),美国的房价较上一年上涨了5%。德国上涨了11%。以名义价值计算,英国房价在8月创下历史新高。房市繁荣与股市强劲有一些相同的原因,但房价上涨更能揭示疫情对经济的影响。它的后果也更重大。

Like stocks, house prices are being supported by loose monetary policy. In the past year the rate at which Americans can obtain 30-year fixed-rate mortgages has fallen by roughly a quarter, to about 2.9%. As well as making monthly mortgage payments more affordable, low rates make houses more attractive, because they depress the returns on alternative safe investments. Other economic policies are also helping. Mass government support for household incomes, as well as mortgage-repayment holidays, have saved jobless workers from having to sell their homes, as they otherwise might. Britain has temporarily suspended stamp duty, a tax on buying houses.
和股票一样,房价也受到宽松的货币政策支撑。去年,美国人能申请到的30年期固定利率抵押贷款的利率下降了约四分之一,至2.9%。低利率不仅让月供更易负担,也让房产更具吸引力,因为它们压低了其他安全投资的回报。其他经济政策也起了作用。政府大手笔补助家庭收入,又允许延期偿付贷款,让失业者免于被迫卖房。英国已经暂停征收购房印花税。

The house-price boom is not just a result of policy, however. Structural forces are at work, too. Job losses this year have been concentrated among low-paid service-sector workers, who are more likely to rent than buy. Professionals who have carried on working from home but cut back on their spending have accumulated cash to splash—and, with time spent at home rising, what better moment to buy a bigger pad? The unequal effects of the pandemic have allowed prices to surge even as banks have curtailed their riskiest loans. In America the share of lending going to the most creditworthy borrowers has been growing. In Britain the boom seems to be being driven by a bidding war among existing homeowners, rather than by first-time buyers who, because they are younger, are more exposed to the economic downturn.
不过,房价飙升不仅仅是政策的结果。结构性力量也在起作用。今年的失业主要集中在低收入的服务业劳动者,他们更有可能是租房子住而不是买房。那些改换成在家中继续工作但减少了开支的专业人士则积攒了可大笔支出的现金——而且既然在家的时间增多了,现在不买个更大的住所,更待何时? 尽管银行已经缩减了风险最高的贷款,疫情带来的不均衡影响还是令房价飙升。在美国,流向信誉最好的借款人的贷款份额一直在增长。在英国,推动房地产市场的繁荣似乎是有房人士而非首次购房者之间的竞价战,因为后者更年轻,更容易受到经济低迷的影响。

Housing is a bigger asset class than equities and its ownership is more dispersed. Booming stockmarkets lead to grumbles about the growing riches of billionaires. Pricey houses make life tangibly harder for swathes of would-be homebuyers who struggle to raise the minimum down-payment necessary to get a mortgage and join the club that can benefit from low rates. The problem is most acute in countries that see home ownership as a rite of passage. In such places high prices drive young people towards leftist populists and threaten the social contract. It is reasonable to hope that the trend towards working from home will help ease the housing shortages around the most vibrant cities, which have been most economically damaging. Yet so far this is not apparent in prices.
住房这个资产类别比股票更大,所有权也更分散。股票市场的繁荣引来人们抱怨亿万富翁财富增长。对于大量想买房的人来说,高房价让他们的生活切实地变得更难了,他们难以凑齐最低首付以获得房贷,加入能享受低利率的房主俱乐部。这个问题在把拥有住房视为人生大事的国家最为尖锐。高房价将那里的年轻人推向左翼民粹主义者,危及社会契约。有些人希望居家办公的趋势有助于缓解最具活力的城市里住房短缺的问题——这个问题带来了最严重的经济损害。这种期望合乎情理,不过到目前为止,它在房价上体现得还不明显。

Perhaps the boom will cool as government support for the economy falls. However, the effect of the pandemic on long-term interest rates is unlikely to change; nor is the desire for roomier homes. Higher house prices could turn out to be an enduring legacy of covid-19. If so, in the 2020s they will deepen the intergenerational tensions that were already emerging in the 2010s. The fact that the economic costs of fighting the disease are mostly being borne by the young mostly to protect the lives of the elderly makes the problem knottier still.
随着政府对经济支持力度的下降,房市繁荣可能会降温。然而,疫情对长期利率的影响不太可能改变,人们对更宽敞的住房的渴望也不会。高房价可能会成为新冠肺炎的一个长期后遗症。如果是这样,2020年代的高房价会加剧在2010年代就已出现的代际矛盾。而让问题变得更加棘手的是这样一个事实:抗击新冠的经济成本主要由年轻人承担,却主要是为了保护老年人的生命。

In the 2010s politicians failed to get to grips with high house prices. They often responded to them by further subsidising home-buying. They should indeed cut stamp duty, which distorts the market, as much as possible. But it is futile to fight long-term price rises caused by low rates and shifts in households’ preferences. Rather, governments should cease to indulge national obsessions with owning property.
在2010年代,政客们没能控制住高房价。他们对高房价的应对方法往往是继续发放购房补贴。他们其实应该尽可能地降低扭曲市场的印花税。但是,对抗由低利率和家庭偏好变化引起的长期房价上涨是徒劳的。相反,政府应该停止纵容国民对拥有房产的执迷。

That means creating a well-regulated rental sector which offers security of tenancy, removing subsidies for owner-occupation and easing planning restrictions to the point where housing no longer looks like a magic money tree accessible only to those fortunate enough to start out with pots of cash. Taxes on property values—and ideally on land values—should also rise. Such levies are an efficient way of plugging budget shortfalls. They would also recoup some of the windfall gains that lucky homeowners have enjoyed.
这意味着要创建一个提供租赁保障的监管良好的租房部门,取消对业主自住的补贴,放宽规划限制,让住房不再像一棵神奇的摇钱树,只有那些一开始就拥有大笔现金的幸运儿才能得到。房产税,最好还有土地税,也应该提高。这些税收是填补预算不足的有效方法,也可以收回幸运的房主所享受的部分意外之财。

To the extent that robust house-price growth represents confidence in the prospects for an economic recovery, it is welcome. But in no other context would the contrast between asset prices and the present condition of labour markets cause as much discomfort for those who are missing the party. ■
如果强劲的房价增长反映了对经济复苏前景的信心,倒还算是好事。但在其他任何情况下,资产价格与劳动力市场现状之间的反差都不会像现在这样,让那些错过了这场派对的人如此不适。