Homes with indoor plumbing up from 55% in 1940s to 99% now
This year's Children's Defense Fund report finds roughly 1.2 million public school students were homeless in 2011-2012, 73 percent more than before the recession. More than one in nine children lacked access to adequate food in 2012, a rate 23 percent higher than before the recession.
@amprog - Housing a homeless person costs $21,000 less than doing nothing
Portside - The countrys fastest-growing cities are now those where housing is more affordable than average, a decisive reversal from the early years of the millennium, when easy credit allowed cities to grow without regard to housing cost and when the fastest-growing cities had housing that was less affordable than the national average. Among people who have moved long distances, the number of those who cite housing as their primary motivation for doing so has more than doubled since 2007.
Rising rents and the difficulty of securing a mortgage on the coasts have proved a boon to inland cities that offer the middle class a firmer footing and an easier life. In the eternal competition among urban centers, the shift has produced some new winners.
Oklahoma City, for example, has outpaced most other cities in growth since 2011, becoming the 12th-fastest-growing city last year. It has also won over a coveted demographic, young adults age 25 to 34, going from a net loss of millennials to a net gain. Other affordable cities that have jumped in the growth rankings include several in Texas, including El Paso and San Antonio, as well as Columbus, Ohio, and Little Rock, Ark.
Rebecca Burns, In These Times - After decades of decay, public housing in the United States could soon be relegated to the dustbin of history, thanks to a new Obama administration initiative called the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. A pilot launched last year in response to a $26 billion backlog in needed repairs, RAD will hand over 60,000 units of public housing nationwide to private management by 2015. Though thats only a fraction of the nearly 1.2 million public housing units that provide a safety net for more than 2 million people, housing advocates worry that RADs reforms are a Trojan horse for sweeping privatization of a crucial public asset.
In the wake of the Great Depression, a surge of tenant activism helped usher in public housing as a federally funded, locally administered program to address poor living conditions in urban areas. But the program came to be viewed less as a public good and more as housing of last resort, giving rise to a cycle of demonization and neglect, followed by pernicious reforms. RAD is the latest in a series of initiatives to address the underfunding of public housing with a familiar free-market solution: handing off state-owned assets to private actors who receive public subsidies in exchange for an increasingly involved role in managing housing for low-income tenants.
Though public housing residents have been assured that RAD will fund long-overdue repairs while keeping housing affordable and preserving tenants rights, similar promises have been broken by would-be free-market saviors before. Critics say RAD shares key features with past privatization initiatives that have displaced hundreds of thousands of public-housing residents. In the last decade and a half alone, more than 100,000 units of public housing have been lost to demolition or sale.
PBS - In many cities throughout the U.S. it is now a crime to beg, loiter or sleep in public. Its getting harder to be homeless in America.
Laws that criminalize homelessness are cropping up in cities throughout the country, while simultaneously, a national shortage of shelter beds and housing options is roiling the system.
Since 2001, the U.S. has lost nearly 13 percent of its low-income housing according to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty that surveyed 187 cities.
groups report found that laws placing restrictions on loitering,
begging, sitting and lying down in public have increased nationwide
since 2009. Eighteen percent of cities now ban sleeping in public
and 42 percent of cities ban sleeping in vehicles.
From Skid Row to high school graduation, Los Angeles supports homeless students academic success Homeless professor protests conditions of adjuncts
And thats a problem, NLCHP Executive Director Mary Foscarinis told NPR, because it makes it difficult for individuals to get back on their feet.
Its really hard to get a job when youre homeless anyway, or to get housing, Foscarinis said. You have no place to bathe, no place to dress, no money for transportation. But then if you also have an arrest record, its even more challenging, she said.
In May, city officials in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, passed a series of ordinances cracking down on public drunkenness, urination and sleeping on sidewalks all in an effort to help the homeless and preserve the citys quality of life, city spokesman Matt Little told USA Today.
The city of Fort Lauderdale has a distinguished history of compassion toward those in need, Little said. Protecting our quality of life and business environment ensures continued funding for humanitarian needs.
NLCHP says an overwhelming increase in urban homelessness after the recession and a widespread initiative to revitalize cities downtown areas incited the crackdown on the homeless.
When your editor lived in Washington, he was struck by how little attention was given by the media to the demolition of public housing units. There was, it seemed, a placid assumption that the residents would be taken care of by programs like Section 8 housing, essentially quiet subsidies for landlords and developers. Now, with gentrification in full force, Section 8 is the target.
Washington City Paper - Last month, word spread among the residents of the Museum Square Apartments about a notice posted in the building informing them that theyd have to come up with $250 million or lose their homes. It wasnt a ransom note or a mob warning, but to the tenants in the Mount Vernon Triangle residence, it might as well have been.
Everyone who lives at Museum Square, located at 401 K St. NW, receives a Section 8 housing subsidy from the federal government. Most of the residents are Chinese, and many are elderly, speak little English, and live on fixed incomes, often as low as a few hundred dollars a month.
When we first realized that this was happening, we were panicking, says Jianhong Wang, 76, whos lived in the building for eight years. We couldnt sleep at night.
Museum Square tenants receive a project-based Section 8 subsidy. The residents all pay 30 percent of their income; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development covers the rest of the rent. The buildings Section 8 contract is set to expire on Oct. 1, and last fall, the property owner, the Bush Companies of Williamsburg, Va., informed HUD of its intent not to renew the contract. Bush, listed on some documents as W. H. H. Trice & Company, which appears to share the same address, followed up with the notice to the tenants in June naming the price theyd have to pay to stay.
Under D.C.s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, when a property owner sells a building, the tenants have the right of first refusal to buy it, either themselves or through an agent like a developer. Typically, this means theyre able to match whatever price is offered by a prospective buyera price determined by the market. But the Museum Square case is unusual because the building owner isnt planning to sell the property, but demolish it.
John Atlas and Peter Dreier, 1994 - By the late 1960s, the housing industry convinced Congress to replace public housing with privately owned, subsidized housing (Known by their statute numbers: Sections 236, 221d, and 8) that gave private developers tax breaks, low-cost mortgages, and rent subsidies to house the poor. These inefficient and costly programs led to widespread political abuses and eventually to the HUD scandals of the 1970s, which were repeated in the 1990s.
Strategic Practice - The story of [Chicago's] Cabrini-Green's demolition uncovers a string of broken promises. At first, they said there would be one-to-one replacements. They offered residents vouchers to rent apartments on the private market, while also allowing more landlords to opt out of Section 8 (meaning there would never be enough private rentals available). They hyped the benefits of mixed income developments where subsidized residents would live side-by-side with residents paying full-market rates. They failed to mention that such developments would have built-in incentives to slowly push out the subsidized residents.
Ben Austin, Harper's, 2012 - Today, what seems harder to fathom than the erasure of entire high-rise neighborhoods is that they were ever erected in the first place. For years the projects had stood as monuments to a bygone effort to provide affordable housing for the poor and working-class, the reflection of a belief in a deeper social contract. And although that effort had by most accounts failed, the problems represented by the likes of Cabrini-Green persist, and nothing remotely adequate has been built to replace what has been demolished. Chicago has yet to complete the Plan for Transformations 15,000 family units, and even that number would fall woefully short of need: when the CHA opened its public-housing waiting list in 2010, more than 215,000 families applied. Since only about a third of the units in the mixed-income buildings are reserved for public-housing tenants, hundreds of these developments would have to be built all across Chicagoin a market glutted with foreclosures and short on buyers. In numerous cases the cleared sites that public-housing residents hoped one day to repopulate were still vacant lots. Only 2,100 former public-housing residents, and fewer than 400 from Cabrini-Green, currently live in mixed-income buildings citywide. Most of the others were uprooted and replanted in unfamiliar areas no less uniformly poor and blackthough now they had to manage without the support networks and extended family that had surrounded them in public housing.
Open Mic - University of North Carolina Charlotte researchers released a study on Monday that tracked chronically homeless adults housed in the Moore Place facility run by Charlotte's Urban Ministry Center in partnership with local government. Housing these people led to dramatic cost savings that more than paid for the cost of putting them in decent housing, including $1.8 million in health care savings from 447 fewer ER visits (78% reduction) and 372 fewer hospital days (79% reduction). Tenants also spent 84 fewer days in jail, with a 72% drop in arrests.
The median new house size in America has dropped ten percent in three years. . .And front porches are back
But not in Florida where high speed rubber stamping of foreclosure is underway.
WHAT A REAL STIMULUS MIGHT LOOK LIKE
- Reduce credit card interest. As one politician once put it, "I'd frankly like to see credit cards rates down. I believe that would help stimulate the consumer and get consumer confidence moving again.'' Another politician responded by offering a bill in the Senate to cap credit card interest at 14%. The Senate voted for it 74-19. The first politician was that radical president, George Bush, in 1991. The other politician was that well known progressive, Alfonze D'Amato. Why are Obama and the Democrats more conservative than Daddy Bush and D'Amato?
- Start a movement to nationalize banks. Progressives led by Robert LaFollette did this in the 1930s, giving FDR cover for his more moderate solutions. Today, all the political pressure is coming from Wall Street, which tilts policies in that direction.
- All measures must put the interest of the ordinary citizen first. Neither the GOP nor the Democrats are doing that.
- Deemphasize tax cuts. They are far less effective than many think.
- Emphasize programs that will cheer people up and where they can see things changing for the better. Among the Wall Street bailout scam's many faults was that no one could tell what was happening as a result. Good economies need optimism.
- Use revenue sharing. It's a quick way to get money down to the states and cities and to the people who live there. Sure, some of it will get corrupted but far less than is already happening with the phony stimulus packages. The upside is that citizens have a better idea of what is being done on their behalf and have some say in how it is done.
- Fund public works project that have large spin-off benefits and which will be heavy in blue collar employment. These would include new mass transit service and a massive growth of America's rail system. It would deemphasize fixing up existing systems because the spin off benefits are far less. Would it include the much discussed new energy projects? We haven't seen any serious discussion of this. What is the blue collar employment potential of such projects?
- Institute a shared equity program for homeowners in distress under which the federal government buys a portion of the mortgage, renegotiates interest rates with the lenders and then gets its part of the equity back when the house is sold. A similar program could be used for building new homes.
- Decentralize decisions and negotiations on foreclosures and real estate interest rates, using local courts and similar bodies as was done in the 1930s.
- Give the government preferred stock in companies it aids. At one point in the New Deal, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation owned bank shares that would be worth at least $20 billion today.
Americans have been slowly transferring ownership of their homes to the banking system over the last 50+ years. These figures would look much worse if the roughly 1/3 of homes owned "free and clear" (mostly by seniors) were removed from the data, but you can see the trend is toward less equity and more debt. This is not a sign of a prospering middle-class.
CLINTON-BUSH HOUSING BUBBLE BIGGEST IN A CENTURY
Sam Smith, Progressive Review - According to a study by Yale economist Robert J Shiller cited in his book, "Irrational Exuberance," between 1890 and 1990 the sale of the average existing house (not new construction) rose no more that 25% over the inflation corrected value for 1890. In the 1990s, beginning in the Clinton years, that changed dramatically. Between 1997 and 2006 the typical house doubled in value of over the 1890 average. In other words, the Clinton-Bush housing bubble was greatest in over a hundred years. The bright side is that if the average house drops by 50% we'll be right back where we were in 1997.
Throughout the preceding century, houses varied from 85-125 percent of the 1890 average value with the exception of the depression, which for housing actually began during World War I. By 1920,housing prices were down to about 65% of 1890 levels and then began to slowly rise. By 1940 they were back to the 1890 figure. In other words, housing devaluation can be a harbinger of worse to come
PRIMING THE SUBPRIME CRISIS
JAMES MCCUSKER, EVERETT HERALD, WA - In the wake of the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent global economic depression, Congress, among other actions, passed the Glass-Steagall Act which prohibited banks from engaging in securities underwriting. There was money to be made in securities, though, and after a suitable period of penance for their contributions to the crash and depression banks began to agitate for relief from this restrictive law.
The banking industry's whining about Glass-Steagall eventually paid off. . . Few people spoke out against the idea, which was endorsed by America's top banking regulator, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. It is tempting to say that his enthusiasm for the idea, and Congress' action, made sense at the time, but that was not so. In fact, it made no sense then, and makes none now. . .
Banks eagerly bought up low-quality mortgage loans, packaged them up and sold them as securities -- all the while using "three-card Monte" accounting constructs to keep the transactions off their balance sheets. . .
The Federal Reserve, the president and Congress have their hands full at this time. Their first priority is damage control, and that is as it should be. Eventually, though, the economy will right itself, with or without Washington's help, and the president, the Federal Reserve and Congress will have time to consider what got us into this fix in the first place.
If we had to pick a single event that set off this economic stink bomb, it would have to be Alan Greenspan's decision to support the expansion of bank activities into securities underwriting. While the Congress has a mind of its own, it is extremely doubtful that they would have approved this expansion in the face of his objections. He was at the height of his powers then, and his support for the idea made it bullet-proof, politically.
As soon as possible, Congress should extend its damage control operations to put banking back on solid ground, and reconstruct the wall between banking and stock-market gaming.
43% OF FIRST TIME HOMEOWNERS LAST YEAR PUT NO MONEY DOWN
NOELLE KNOX, USA TODAY - As housing prices soared last year, an eye-popping 43% of first-time home buyers purchased their homes with no-money-down loans, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors. The trend is potentially ominous. The real estate market is cooling in some areas, and rates on adjustable-rate loans are creeping up. As a result, some no-money-down buyers could owe more than their homes are worth. The median first-time home buyer scraped together a down payment of only 2% on a $150,000 home in 2005, the NAR found. Already, home prices in many areas are declining, and the "For Sale" signs are hanging in front yards longer. There's now at least a 50% risk that prices will decline within two years in 11 major metro areas, including San Diego; Boston; Long Island, N.Y.; Los Angeles; and San Francisco, according to PMI Mortgage Insurance's latest U.S. Market Risk Index. . .
Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research says that if housing prices fall at least 10%, it could be even more damaging than the collapse of the high-tech stock bubble in 2000. . . Baker and other economists are concerned that many lenders have pushed a series of creative but potentially dangerous loans to help more Americans afford a home.