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Global news - around the world in four property stories

  1. 30 December 2018
  2. By Andi Michael

We navigate the globe for some of the most interesting property stories of the last year.

Sometimes it’s easy to become too focused on the UK property market – the ups and downs, the nitty-gritty, the regulation, the house prices, the government intervention – which is why it’s good to remind ourselves every so often that there is a whole world out there where property is also changing hands, supply shortages are causing issues and careful balancing acts are required to ensure the benefits of tourism aren’t outweighed by damage to a local housing market.

Below, we take a look at some of the fascinating things happening in property markets around the world, from Airbnb bans to governments paying residents to leave.

Paid to leave?

As a drastic measure to reduce overcrowding, it was recently revealed that the Japanese government is considering paying residents of Tokyo just over £20,000 (3 million yen) to leave the city for a life, job and home elsewhere.

Tokyo and its surrounding metropolitan area is home to a population of around 38 million people, a number which has grown in recent years even as Japan's overall population has fallen. The dominance of the capital – where almost 9.3 million people live in the 23 central wards that make up central Tokyo - has often been to the detriment of Japan's other cities.

Astonishingly, nearly one of out every three people in Japan lives in the Tokyo area, while the number of people moving to Tokyo has been greater than the numbers moving out for the last 22 years – and is expected to continue on this path for the foreseeable future. It also has one of the highest urban densities in the world, which – as you would expect – is placing intolerable pressures on the city’s infrastructure.

For a long time now, the Japanese government has tried to tempt people away from the capital to cheaper, quieter and smaller parts of the country that are in need of regeneration and investment.
The lure of Tokyo, however, still remains strong, with the Japanese government and most of its major companies based there, as well as the best transport links, top schools and cultural opportunities that other parts of Japan simply can’t match. Which is why the Japanese government is considering more direct and desperate action in the next fiscal year to solve the overpopulation crisis at play.

To Airbnb or not to Airbnb...

Airbnb, one of the fastest-growing brands in the world in the last decade, has also proved to be increasingly divisive. Some cities have placed restrictions on the website’s activities, while others have gone the whole hog and banned it outright.

The site enables people to let their homes, rooms or apartments to visitors – often tourists – all across the globe. In some cases, though, the advertised rentals go against local housing laws and regulations, while the explosion of short-term lets have been criticised for reducing the amount of available supply in the private rented sector – with Airbnb landlords often able to make more from renting out their homes on a short-term basis than they would on a longer-term basis, where stricter rules, regulation and legislation often apply.

In recent years, a number of local city authorities have taken steps to quell, regulate or ban Airbnb and other short-let websites. This has continued in 2018, with the government of Tasmania – the island state off the south coast of Australia – offering between 10,000 and 13,000 Australian dollars to landlords to rent out their spaces for longer terms on lower costs rather than listing them on Airbnb, in an effort to combat a local housing crisis.

In May 2018, Madrid announced plans to cut the number of Airbnb and homeshare listings available in the city to help tackle 'over-tourism'. The proposed rules would prevent apartments from being rented out to tourists for more than 90 days of the year, while whole apartment blocks will no longer be able to be solely visitor accommodation, unless the building is licensed as a hotel.

A host of other cities – from Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and New York to Toronto, Vancouver and Valencia – have also passed legislation to ban or restrict Airbnb as the platform has expanded beyond all recognition in recent years.

A ban on foreign buyers

In August this year, New Zealand announced it was banning most foreigners from buying homes to try and tackle soaring house prices.

Before, the country’s property market was open to investors from all over the world, but the New Zealand government passed legislation in the summer that enables only residents of New Zealand to buy homes.

There has been a rising trend in recent years for wealthy Chinese and American buyers to purchase homes in New Zealand, often outbidding New Zealanders for suburban and luxury properties.
While only around 3% of homes in New Zealand are currently sold to overseas buyers, this number rises to 5% in tourist hotspot Queenstown and leaps up to 22% in central Auckland.

These figures and the belief the New Zealand government has that foreign buyers have helped to drive up house prices, encouraged action to be taken, despite opposition from the directors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) executive board.

Nonetheless, there are some exemptions. Overseas buyers who already own homes in New Zealand aren’t impacted, while foreigners with New Zealand residency status are still able to purchase homes freely. What’s more, as a result of existing free-trade agreements, those from Singapore and Australia can buy homes as they did before.   

As a result of the changes, foreign buyers are also able to make ‘limited investments’ in large apartment blocks and hotels.

Similarly, the UK government – in an effort to make it less easy for overseas buyers to purchase British homes – recently announced a consultation on an extra 1% stamp duty surcharge for foreign investors.

A commuter’s dream

It was recently revealed that Luxembourg – the tiny nation of just over 590,000 people which finds itself sandwiched between France, Germany and Belgium – is set to become the first country in the world to make all of its public transport entirely free.

Under plans put forward by the recently re-elected coalition government, fares on trains, trams and buses will be lifted next summer to ease congestion and improve the environment.

Luxembourg City, which has a population of around 110,000 people, has some of the worst traffic congestion of anywhere on the globe – not helped by the 400,000 people who commute into the city to work on a daily basis. In 2016, for example, a study found that drivers spent an average of 33 hours sitting in traffic jams.

For commuters, of course, the prospect of free public transport would be most welcome, while the idea of less traffic jams, fewer cars on the streets and less pollution is likely to make an area more appealing to live in.

Transport links are often a must-have for buyers and tenants, but commuters often complain about the cost of travel – particularly in major UK cities such as London, Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh.
While public transport being made free in UK cities is a total pipe dream – and something that isn’t even under consideration – any attempts to reduce or soften the blow of transport costs would no doubt go down well with commuters.

We’ve seen the positive effect of Sadiq Khan’s Hopper fare for London buses, which allows passengers to make a second bus journey for free within one hour of starting their first, while the recent ‘Wonderful World of Off-Peak’ initiative encourages more passengers to travel off peak – outside of rush hour – with fares within Zones 2-6 standing at only £1.50.

For any city or town to be successful, it needs to be easy and affordable for people to travel from their home to their place of work – and the distance between the two shouldn’t be too great. Strong, affordable transport links are crucial to making that a reality.

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