House price inflation can be as harmful as general inflation

News Letter editorial of Thursday November 18 2021:

By Editorial
Thursday, 18th November 2021, 8:38 am
Updated Thursday, 18th November 2021, 11:59 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Another housing survey has confirmed the booming price of homes in Northern Ireland.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that prices jumped in the province over the past year by 11%, to an average figure of £159,000.

This tallies with other surveys which show a sharp rise, and with widespread anecdotal evidence of a buoyant marked in which home asking prices are regularly exceeded.

A vigorous property market is a flash of optimism amid many worrying economic indicators, is it not?

Well it depends which way you look at the matter. Certainly higher prices feed into the sense of wealth that homeowners can have, and so can encourage spending. It also brings cheer to people who bought over-priced homes 15 or more years ago, and have never seen their initial outlay recovered.

It can further be a sign of a healthy economy.

But this surge in prices, whatever it is, is not an indicator of the latter. Its exact origins are unclear, and might include the pandemic having caused people to rethink priorities, and to conclude that it is important to invest in a good house, after the challenges of being confined to home in a lockdown.

Prices are rising in much of the western world, so it is not an NI-specific phenomenon.

But the financial climate in which these home value increases are occurring is an abnormal one. Governments have flooded their societies with money to stave off economic disaster from Covid, and interest rates are exceptionally low.

This is causing problematic side effects such as society and businesses taking on too much debt and high inflation — the perils of which Dr Esmond Birnie describes opposite.

Excessive house price inflation can be as harmful as general inflation.

Among other problems, it shuts young people out of home ownership, and that is good for neither them nor society at large, which has to deal with their understandable sense of exclusion and resentment.

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