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Posts Tagged ‘Great Recession’

Among the lesser-reported impacts of the Great Recession, during which time millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure, is the continuing surge in rental housing demand. Demand has inflated rental rates in already costly markets throughout the country. But rental price inflation is not just a problem hitting high cost of living regions in California and New York — it has hit 90 cities nationwide with no end in sight. Rental costs between 2011 and 2012, alone, increased 4 percent nationally, whereas rents in some markets during a broader period — between 2000 and 2012 — have inflated nearly 25 percent, a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University reports.

High demand and short supply means one thing: higher prices. But housing isn’t merely a luxury people can forgo. Increased demand for rental housing post recession does not merely reflect the fact that mortgage lending standards are more stringent, but the reality that many Americans are still attempting to rebound from a downwardly mobile spiral. Just because rents are rising doesn’t mean renters are in a position to absorb the price hikes. To the extent rental property demand is an outgrowth of the economic meltdown and stagnant wages — in spite of job growth in more recent years — it would appear housing reform is a topic seriously overdue for national attention.

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How often have we heard it said by conservative pundits and talk radio personalities that unemployed Americans are inclined to refuse menial work, apparently content to accept government handouts? The list of supposed “shall nots” are numerous: Americans won’t bus tables, clean hotel rooms, harvest crops and, in general, bust our chops. On the flip side, how many times have liberals argued that undocumented labor has little to no adverse impact on American job prospects?

In one key respect, the two sides seemingly agree: American-born workers won’t take “those jobs” anyhow, whereas the undocumented workforce contributes to cheaper goods and services — such are the hands that infuse America with entrepreneurial spirit, after all.

Never mind the reality: The bulk of today’s job growth takes place in the service sector — precisely where the legal and undocumented alike mingle.

But what does one make of it when “reality” is beholden to stereotypes — perceptions so routine, we scarcely question them? (more…)

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If the headline-grabbing Occupy Wall Street movement proves anything, it is that Americans are gravely concerned about the state of our union.

Just as the Tea Party was regarded with suspicion in their initial rallies to reduce government bloat, throngs of leaderless Occupy Wall Street protesters have been derided for their all-over-the-map set of gripes: Wall Street traders who have funneled investors’ money not into the real economy but speculative gambles that have led to questionable lending practices, volatile commodities pricing and taxpayer bailouts; a higher education system that has become a financial albatross to indebted students; legislative favors aimed at Big Business, and widespread unemployment even among the young and the educated.

Arguably, Occupy Wall Street is to Big Business and Banks what the Tea Party is to Big Government and Waste — two sides of the same coin. Both groups — which for the purpose of this discussion are defined as principled participants not to be confused with their salacious or lawless detractors — grasp a large chunk of the problem.

To cure what ails us, Americans must reach for broader and more inclusive views and bigger and bolder solutions.

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