As I argued recently in July in Part III of "Death & Taxes" if we all leased our land from the state (ourselves) and were left with only the market rates for the improvements that sit upon the land, housing would be affordable. Owners of the physical improvement of a dwelling, a factory or hospital would not be subject to wild swings in land value. The cost of servicing the land with utilities would be paid for by long term leases. Zoning could be amended when a change in land use was required. The stigma of renting would relax if we all were tenants in common.
As it is now with the state playing monkey business with interest rates (ZIRP and NIRP) and removing credit risk from a lender's balance sheet (CMHC) and reacting with "supra" taxes layered upon individuals deemed to be distorting the market, we end up with more complexity, uncertainty and unproductive investment.
Land management should not be in the hands of short term profiteers. There are alternatives. Land in the Fiji Islands is managed through three complementary systems. Leased land covers 90% of their territory (83% "Native Land", 7% "Crown Land") and 10% of the land is "Freehold". Source
If land costs were built on productivity incentives and protected from the boom and bust of demographic pressure, urban planning departments could create longer term strategies and developers could be more productive on the improvement side of land development. But with very high land costs, the market forces us to build to the minimum of efficiency standards and the maximum of financial rewards.
The crappy little toaster that you call an electric baseboard heater inside an inefficient envelope is indeed just a heat transferring conduit. The condo boom is a commodity arbitrage not an affordable housing plan. (The Condo Game, CBC Doc Zone, January 2015)
History, Charts & Curated Readings
"History, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in.... I read it a little as a duty; but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars and pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all - it is very tiresome." Jane Austen spoken by Catherine Morland in 'Northanger Abbey'
"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement; and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana Vol. I, Reason in Common Sense