UBC Theses and Dissertations
Essays in housing and macroeconomy Huang, Haifang
Compared to the previous twenty years, residential investments in the US appear more stable after the mid-1980s. Chapter 2 explores key hypotheses regarding the underlying causes. In particular, it uses estimated DSGE models to examine whether a more responsive interest rate policy stabilizes the housing market by keeping inflation in check. These estimations indeed found a policy that has become more responsive over time. Counter-factual analysis confirms that the change stabilizes inflation as well as nominal interest rate. It does not, however, find the change in policy to have stabilizing effect on real economic activity including housing investment. It finds that smaller TFP shocks make modest contributions, while the biggest contributing factor to the fall in the housing volatility is a reduction in the sensitivity of the investment to demand variations. Chapter 3 constructs a richly specified model for the housing market to examine the empirical relevance of various costs and frictions, including the investment adjustment cost, sticky construction costs, search frictions, and sluggish adjustment of house prices. Using the US national-level quarterly data from 1985 and 2007, we find that the gradual adjustment of house prices is the most important and irreplaceable feature of the model. The key to developing an optimization-based empirical housing model, therefore, is to provide a structural interpretation for the slow adjustment in house prices. Chapter 4 uses US national-level time series of residential investment, price index of new houses, consumption and interest rate to explore whether the US, as a nation, experienced a drop in the price elasticity of supply of new housing. Maximum likelihood estimations with a simple stock-and-flow model found a statistically significant drop of the elasticity from 10 to 2.2, when the quarterly data between 1971 and 2007 are split at 1985. A richer model with mechanisms of gradual adjustment also indicates such a reduction, when existing knowledge about the adjustment parameters is incorporated in the analysis. For the Federal Reserve, an inelastic supply can be a source of concern, because policy-driven demand in housing market is more likely to trigger undesirable swings in prices.
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