May 24, 2013
Housing for everybody?
The four-year housing plan presented by the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration on Tuesday evening is not immune from criticism (no mortgage credit scheme is ultimately compatible with the current levels of inflation which the government continues to ignore) but not even its harshest detractors could deny that it is the most ambitious solution proposed in the last decade and beyond for an increasingly glaring housing shortage — and certainly more serious than the preceding “Shared Dreams” projects so grossly mismanaged by the Schoklender brothers in the name of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. This plan projecting an annual 100,000 housing starts is not just about putting more bricks in the wall —it seeks to replace dollars with peso credits as the financial basis of the market. If successful, this plan would be a genuine case of “growth with social inclusion” by not only providing a Keynesian economic booster in hard times creating 100,000 jobs a year (apparently the government’s favourite number at the moment) but also placing housing within reach of the 80 percent of Argentines earning less than 5,000 pesos a month (according to last Friday’s CTA protest).
Perhaps this plan will fare best to the extent that it sticks to housing and not allows itself to be distracted by collateral aims.
Thus dethroning the dollar should only be a consequence of this scheme, not its primary objective — the idea should be to create a strong housing market beyond dollarization and not crush the greenback by obliterating the real estate industry, removing both the baby and the bathwater. Nor should the benefits be seen as mainly political to regain the initiative by announcing a megaplan of high impact. In terms of political drama, this plan can hardly compete with the uniquely epic dimensions of the YPF expropriation only two months ago (and already almost forgotten in the public mind) — housing announcements lack novelty value (remember Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno’s 2006 plan whereby each rent payment would be a step towards home ownership?). Talking about YPF, there is also the danger of “putting too many straws into the same gourd,” as the local saying has it — if this plan is worth 20 billion pesos, where will the money to develop shale oil come from and why is this scheme working through the social security system instead of the National Mortgage Bank?
But to repeat, even a unilateral plan begging many questions is better than “Shared Dreams.”