The Landed Newsletter No. 37, November 2018

Welcome!

In Landed Newsletter No. 37,  a price correction and a massive reclamation project in Hong Kong, new taxes in British Columbia, bank and builder scandals in Japan, apartments for adults with autism, high-tech surveillance and much more.

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The Landed Newsletter highlights news and resources that you can use to make better real estate decisions, whether you are buying, renting or investing. With a focus on Asia and the Pacific Rim, The Landed Newsletter covers trends, legal and environmental developments and technology.

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Market News

Canada

British Columbia introduced an annual speculation tax on empty homes that ranges from 0.5% for BC residents to 2% for foreigners.

Vancouver elected a new mayor who campaigned on plans to triple the city's vacant home tax and build 25,000 affordable, non-profit rental homes.

Concerns about data privacy are dogging Sidewalk Labs' planned smart city in Toronto. Former BlackBerry CEO Jim Balsillie made critical comments about the development and a high-profile adviser to the project, technology entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar, resigned. The former privacy commissioner of the province of Ontario, who had been a consultant to the project, also quit.

New research into Toronto's demographics show that white residents represent 73% of the population in the city's wealthy neighborhoods and just 31% in its low-income precincts. Whites comprise 49% of Toronto’s population.

Canada's largest bank says the cost of home ownership in Vancouver and Toronto is "off the charts" and likely to get worse. September home sales in Vancouver are down 40% from 2017.

New research by Bloomberg suggests that condo-flipping was not the main reason for rapid increases in home prices in Vancouver and Toronto. Growing populations and a shortage of new supply are more likely culprits. Bloomberg also has an interesting backgrounder on the effects of Chinese money on Vancouver's economy.

China

Developer Country Garden faced violent protests after cutting prices at new developments in Jiangxi and Shanghai by 30% and 25%, respectively. The protesters had recently paid full price for units in the developments. Developer Vanke, meanwhile, is facing protests over the construction quality of its homes.

Mainland developers are also under threat from plans to ban sales of uncompleted homes.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong's red-hot property market appears to be chilling. The government withdrew a plot of land on the Peak from a sale after it failed to meet a US$6.2 billion reserve price. Investors who bought a US$5.5 billion office building are suffering from buyers remorse.

In her second annual policy address, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed the reclamation of 1,700 hectares of  land—which could house 1.1 million people—at a cost of up to HK$500 billion (US$63.8 billion). The proposal was greeted by a protest march by an estimated 5,800 people, many of whom believe that using old industrial buildings, brownfield sites or agricultural land would be better solutions to Hong Kong's housing shortage. Some protestors see the reclamation project as a means for the government to enrich local property developers. Meanwhile, developer Gordon Wu proposed an even larger reclamation, covering over 3,000 hectares.

The historic Excelsior Hotel will be redeveloped into an office building with an overall budget of US$650 million. The hotel's owners put it up for sale in June 2017, but withdrew the property after receiving disappointing offers.

Indonesia

Authorities raided the home of Lippo Group Deputy Chairman James Riady, in an investigation linked to the conglomerate’s US$21 billion Meikarta real estate project, which is being marketed as the “Shenzhen of Indonesia.”

A tsunami in Palu, Sulawesi, killed at least 1,400 people and destroyed 1,700 homes.

Japan

Homebuilder Sekisui House was scammed out of ¥5.5 billion (US$49 million) by criminals who falsified documents to change the ownership of a parcel of land in Tokyo's Shinagawa ward.

Following an investigation into ¥200 billion in improper loans, many of which used forged documents, regulators banned Suruga Bank from making new property loans for six months. Suruga has been a popular choice for mortgages among residents of Japan who are not citizens or permanent residents.

Two companies that make shock absorbers that protect buildings during earthquakes have admitted to falsifying test data for their products. Over 1,000 building in and outside Japan are believed to be affected.

Singapore

Singapore introduced new regulations to reduce the number of "shoebox apartments" being built in the city.

Thailand

From 2019, the Bank of Thailand will require a minimum down payment of 20% for new mortgages worth 10 million baht and above, and for the purchase of second homes.

Trends and Ideas

Climate change

Bloomberg looks at investors who are using climate change as a theme and buying everything from seawalls to emergency housing.

Design

In Phoenix, Arizona, a 81,000-square-foot, $15.4 million apartment has been built specifically for adults with autism. The 55-unit building includes security features, 24/7 staff, barriers blocking out street sounds, nontoxic materials and special lighting to mitigate sensory issues.

Expropriation

The city of Ekurhuleni, South Africa, announced plans to expropriate 350 hectares of private and publicly owned land without compensating the owners.

Investment migration

The Economist has an interesting look at the business of passports for sale—something I covered extensively in Landed Global—as well as how wealthy people are using using this as to legally minimize their tax bills.

Technology

The Real Deal has a roundup of how technology is disrupting the real estate industry. Originally published in February, the story covers artificial intelligence, virtual reality, beacons, construction robots, smart buildings and more.

Techcrunch queried leading manufacturers of smart home equipment about the data they are sharing with police departments and was greeted with a wall of silence.  As Forbes said, “a smart home is a surveilled home.”

Landed News

This newsletter is now being translated and summarized in Japanese for members of the Japan-America Real Estate Coalition Office. For more information, please contact Arisa Homma (admininfo@jareco.org)

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Landed Newsletter No. 37 was published on October 31, 2018. Boo!