A warning to Winnipeggers ready to finance their lives away on a stucco snout house (oh-so loved by the Free Press' guest editorial column writer) in Waverly West: the robust housing market will soon be as stylish as pleated slacks, perms, and denim dresses.
Just don't expect to find that out by reading the local paper: you'll have to pick up the Globe and Mail, National Post, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or pretty much any major paper that isn't the once-major Winnipeg Free Press, where life carries on as if the housing bubble will live forever. While they remind readers that the inevitable has been prolonged, publications less bound to advertising dollars from developers almost unanamously proclaim that the American housing boom is about to collapse, and that Canada's is expected to follow suit. In today's Wall Street Journal, for example, E.S. Browning writes:
"Sales of new homes fell more than 4 per cent in July, and sales of previously occupied homes fell that month to the lowest level since 2004. Housing inventories are building and prices are falling in some markets. Banks with big mortgage lending departments are warning that profits could suffer. Consumers who refinanced mortages in order to buy new cars and high-definition television sets are turning more cautious."
And like a poor man who went to the races and bet his last penny on the wrong horse, Winnipeg would have much to lose from a housing collapse. Here, suburban development greatly outpaces population growth, and excercizing this sprawl-without-growth formula for decades has meant a greater and greater physical expansion of city services that are paid for by a tax base that thins (not only as new, thinly-populated developments grow outward, but as the dense populations of old neighborhoods thin out, as most have for the past 35 years). When the local housing boom fully depletes (I'm thinking right around the time the first Waverly West houses are built), the hopes, dreams and financial well-being of people living way beyond their means in a new McMansion, simply because "there's never been a better time" to do so, will crumble like the neglected streets they drive on.