July: Vancouver imposes a 15% tax on foreign real estate speculators; September: home sales drop by a third


Vancouver has been wracked by a white-hot property bubble driven primarily by offshore speculators, mostly Chinese, who have driven up the price of housing beyond the means of working Vancouverites, crippling the city's daily life as workers, students and families struggle to find somewhere -- anywhere -- to live. Read the rest

California's 40-year-old ban on property tax raises has made the rich a lot richer


In 1978, California ballot initiative Proposition 13 capped property taxes at 1% of assessed value and increases at 2% per year, creating a massive hole in the ability of cities to fund their operations, which has only been partially plugged by hiking sales taxes and utility rates, regressive moves that disproportionately shift the burden of civic services to low-income households. Read the rest

London luxury property prices plummet after Brexit vote


A Russian home-buyer pulled out of a "agreed offer" of £6.95m for a six bedroom Kensington flat, now it's listed for £6.75m; a three-bedroom in Swiss Cottage is down to £1.05m from £1.5m; a £1.1m 2-bedroom in Whitechapel is now £720,000; a 2bm maisonette in Notting Hill fell from £1.59m to £1.35mk; a £1.3m 5br in St. Reatham is down to £850,000 and estate agents have mutually agreed to go back to calling it Streatham. Read the rest

US Treasury Dept wants to know which offshore crimelords are buying all those NYC and Miami penthouses


It's an open secret that the world's luxury property boom is being driven by crooked rich people in the former Soviet Union, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa who have looted their homelands and want to stash the money out of reach of any new dictators who might come along and change which oligarchs are favored and which are not. Read the rest

Cybercrime 3.0: stealing whole houses

Articles in the UK and US press describe fraudsters who used public document registries to steal entire houses, using forged documents to list the houses for sale, transferring title to them, and disappearing (or attempting to) with a lot of money in their pockets.

Funny because it's true: "Tories to build thousands of affordable second homes"


The UK humour site Daily Mash nails the UK's transformation into a Torified, bank-centric place where the need for shelter is a vulnerability to exploit in order to enrich yourself at the expense of the people around you with a brilliant short piece: "Tories to build thousands of affordable second homes." Read the rest

Tube-map labelled with one-bedroom flat rental rates


Since the crisis, the number of people renting in the UK has sharply increased, but the number of landlords has decreased, as a smaller and smaller number of richer and richer people control the destiny of more and more Britons. Read the rest

Interactive map of the swathes of England owned by offshore tax-dodgers

Whole regions of England are now owned by holding companies in tax-havens "from Panama to Luxembourg, and from Liechtenstein to the South Pacific island of Niue." Read the rest

For sale: one volcano supervillain lair

The Volcano House, "a saucer shaped mid-century icon perched on top of a 150-foot cinder cone," is $650,000 or best offer -- but you'll have to commute to the Mojave. Read the rest

Los Angeles is selling off some very odd lots, including a sidewalk corner

The 50 properties for sale on behalf of the City of LA are unusual and encumbered, the weird offspring of zoning rules, surveyors' errors, and complex subrights, like the "air rights" over a given piece of land. Read the rest

How Seattle's economic boom is destroying the city

Jeff writes, "While reading Cory's recent post about leaving London reminded me more of the unaffordable real estate in Vancouver, British Columbia, it resembles some of the dramatic effects of Amazon and other technology companies driving incredible growth and development here in Seattle. Read the rest

Real estate bubble drives urban blight

The West Village's unique identity made it one of the most valued real-estate spots in the world, which is why its bohemian tenants are being forced out by landlords who jack up the rent and leave the place empty until they can convince a multinational to sign a lease -- it's Mark Jacobs versus Jane Jacobs. Read the rest

Loopholes let billionaires duck NYC property tax

The rules for tax on NYC condos is so sinister and stultifyingly boring that it's not really surprising that they disguise a raft of loopholes that let the richest New Yorkers duck the property taxes that keep the city running. Read the rest

Victorian mansion for sale with spaceship attic

There are lots of £3,250,000 mansions around London's Crystal Palace, but there aren't many whose attics have been converted to spaceship control rooms. The estate-agent-ese in the posting is enough to melt your eyeballs, but I gather that this place is has 8 bedrooms, is about 7,000sqft, and is both Gothic Grade II and Victorian Grade II listed (or possibly these are interchangeable).

11 bedroom detached house for sale (via Geekologie) Read the rest

Should you short the London property bubble?

Economist Tim Harford answers my question: How would you short the London property bubble? in a column that also asks the important question: should you? Read the rest

How would you short London?

Here's a finance riddle: how would you short London's property bubble? House prices are up GBP50K in the last six months, our freeholder is making noises about either buying or forcing us out in order to build a giant tower, and they sold off Scotland Yard (!). They say the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent, and I've been marvelling at the irrationality of London's property market since I moved there in 2003. Just for the sake of argument, if you wanted to put a bet down on a property value crash, how would you make it? Read the rest

Facebook passwords: many employers can snoop them, and don't need to ask

US senators are calling for action on employers' habit of demanding employees' Facebook passwords, but no one seems to notice that many companies configure their computers so that they can eavesdrop on your Facebook, bank, and webmail passwords, even when those passwords are "protected" by SSL. In my latest Guardian column, "Protecting your Facebook privacy at work isn't just about passwords," I talk about how our belief that property rights -- your employer's right to control the software load on the computer they bought for your use -- have come to trump privacy, human rights and basic decency.

Firms have legitimate (ish) reasons to install these certificates. Many firms treat the names of the machines on their internal networks as proprietary information (eg accounting.sydney.australia.company.com), but still want to use certificates to protect their users' connections to those machines. So rather than paying for certificates from one of the hundreds of certificate authorities trusted by default in our browsers – which would entail disclosing their servers' names – they use self-signed certificates to protect those connections.

But the presence of your employer's self-signed certificate in your computers' list of trusted certs means that your employer can (nearly) undetectably impersonate all the computers on the internet, tricking your browser into thinking that it has a secure connection to your bank, Facebook, or Gmail, all the while eavesdropping on your connection.

Many big firms use "lawful interception" appliances that monitor all employee communications, including logins to banks, health providers, family members, and other personal sites.

Read the rest

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