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What Housing Boom?

By Matthew Yglesias on September 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm

"What Housing Boom?"

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Jeffrey Sachs writes:

The housing boom between 1998 and 2008 was an indirect reaction to the loss of manufacturing. As the US shed manufacturing jobs in the 1980s and 1990s, the Federal Government and Federal Reserve tried to compensate by boosting jobs in construction and other sectors shielded from international competition (so-called non-traded sectors). The Fed cut interest rates and the White House and Congress promoted housing finance, including through reckless deregulation and irresponsible behavior by government-backed entities like Fannie Mae. These efforts produced a temporary boom in housing, followed by the bust in 2008.

I think a lot of people are confused about this. There was, obviously, a huge boom in the price of land in the United States of America during this period. But was there really an extraordinary boom in housebuilding?

At the height of the “boom” we were adding units about as quickly as we were adding them in the late 1970s, when the total population was smaller and China’s “opening up” was just a glimmer of an idea of a possibility. If the Federal Reserve was trying to engineer a homebuilding boom it didn’t really work.

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