Housing De-Commodification vs Disneyland: Goofy Wins Out!

Disneyland, Hong Kong photo by Sue Waters is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s not our fault. More reputable media made us do it.

So we are reporting a ‘Mickey Mouse’ affordable housing solution in the world’s most expensive city, Hong Kong. The entire cast of Disney cartoon characters has been enlisted to ease that city’s desperate housing crisis. Sort of.

It seems that in the cold-hearted world of land acquisition for profit, we cannot currently blame Warner Brothers’ Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck. But Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are apparently up to their eyeballs in shady land banking deals which are driving up housing prices.

Just kidding.

Hong Kong has apparently requested the use of land owned by Disney’s local Fantasyland for the purposes of temporary housing. It’s not the fanciful story of cartoon land grabbing that we’d prefer to report on. Oh, well.

Read more at MINGTIANDI: Disney Pressed To Help Ease Hong Kong Housing Crisis And More Asia Real Estate Headlines

However, there is other news about changes to housing regulation in Hong Kong that is more encouraging than Disney lending land: Hong Kong Developers Likely to Cut Prices to Avoid Looming Vacancy Tax

Hong Kong developers do not want to be caught short owning vacant units when an impending vacancy tax comes into play. So even before it arrives, the vacancy tax would appear to be having a mitigating affect on housing prices.

A vacancy tax is one strategy to de-commodify housing — by discouraging purchasing unit(s), holding them vacant and selling them purely for investment purposes.

Do vacancy taxes work?

Vancouver, British Columbia is by some measures second only to Hong Kong in the race for the most unaffordable housing in the world. Since 2016, both the City of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia have introduced taxes aimed at cooling Vancouver’s overheated housing market to make housing more affordable. A vacancy tax for foreign buyers was brought in in 2018.

So is it working? A drop in billions of dollars in the value of city housing is an indication that a vacancy tax may indeed be contributing to falling home values.1

For Vancouver homeowners, it’s a catastrophe . . . on paper at least. For those wishing or needing to move to the city — it’s a glimmer of hope.

Read more on the mixed reception to the potential of taxation to help de-commodify housing, in The Tyee: As House Prices Drop, Boo Or Cheer?


  1. See also this earlier post on the effects of the tax: British Columbia Tax Successfully Cools Vancouver’s $$$$$ Housing Market