Friday, July 03, 2009

Where They Are Now, An Occasional Series

David Miles, the housing market expert and member of the Monetary Policy Committee has this week said that his 'hunch' was that 'we have seen most of the aggregate house price falls'.Much of the coverage has referred respectfully to Miles' work as the author of a 2004 report on the mortgage market. Now it would be easy to make fun of the Miles Review by pointing out that it didn't notice that the mortgage market was in the grip of an unsustainable and ultimately ruinous mania while it placidly made its recommendations. In fact I think we should make fun of it for precisely that reason. Given that his remit was consider whether there had been any 'market failure' in the mortgage sector, it is a shame that he didn't spot the imminent collapse of the mortgage market in the summer of 2007.

Still, even if we overlook the failure to spot the danger of a vast bubble in the housing market, it is interesting that the Miles Review recommended that building societies be allowed to raise a higher percentage of their funds from the wholesale markets rather than from depositors' funds. It was over-reliance on wholesale funds that did for the former building society Northern Rock, remember. It also contributed to the problems at the Dunfermline and West Bromwich Building Societies. If the rest of the mutual movement had increased its use of wholesale funds as Miles recommended, who knows, we might not have any building societies left at all.

Anyway, I have a 'hunch' that, with the economy shrinking at a terrifying rate, public finances looking like a bombsite and unemployment rising rapidly, the housing market still has some way to fall.

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