Gen Z Eying Real Estate Trends

photo by Thomas Tolkien

The Washington Post along with its content partner National Association of Realtors quoted me in Eye on the Future. It reads, in part,

The suburbs as we know them are in flux. Many of the country’s bedroom communities have traditionally been known for their single-family homes and a lack of walkable public spaces. That’s changing as condos, sprawling townhome complexes and apartment buildings now dot areas where single-family homes would have been built.  Developers are building walkable public spaces to accommodate young families leaving cities but still seeking urban-like amenities.

 Another wave of change is expected in the next five to 10 years. That’s when members of Generation Z-those born on the heels of millennials-will become homeowners. Experts say they’ll transform areas that are sandwiched between major cities and suburbs into districts with an urban feel and amenities, without the hefty price tags major metros demand.

That transformation is already starting to happen. “Many of our ‘suburbs’ are actually neighborhoods in Los Angeles, particularly the San Fernando Valley,” said Kathryn Bishop, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty in Studio City, Calif. and member of the National Association of Realtors. “In the Valley, many neighborhoods have become mini ‘cores.’ Sherman Oaks, Encino and Woodland Hills have office towers, good restaurants and night-life business creating their own city areas.”

It’s no surprise that the younger generation needs to find an alternative to the sky-high costs of urban living. The Economic Policy Institute noted in 2016 that folks who live in San Francisco face a cost of living that’s 52.9 percent above the national average. For New Yorkers, living costs were 49.4 percent higher. The country’s least-affordable place to live was Washington D.C., where residents faced costs 63.5 percent higher than the national average.

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“Since the financial crisis there has been an increase in multigenerational households, driven in large part by financial limitations and insecurity as well as by marital status and educational attainment,” said David Reiss, professor of law and research director at he Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School.  “Young adults are more likely to live at their parent’s home in recent years than they have been for more than a century.”

Housing Finance Reform, Going Forward

photo by Michael Vadon

President-Elect Trump

Two high-level officials in the Treasury Department recently posted Housing Finance Reform: Access and Affordability Going Forward. It highlighted principles that should guide housing finance reform going forward. It opened,

Access to affordable housing serves as a cornerstone of economic security for millions of Americans. The purchase of a home is the largest and most significant financial transaction in the lives of many households. Access to credit and affordable rental housing defines when young adults start their own households and gives growing families options in choosing the quality and location of their homes. Homeownership can be an opportunity to build wealth, placing a college education within reach and helping older Americans attain a secure retirement. Whether they are aware of it or not, some of the most momentous decisions American families make are shaped by how the housing finance system serves them.

Financial reform has sought to reorient financial institutions to their core mission of supporting the real economy. The great unfinished business of financial reform is refocusing the housing finance system toward better meeting the needs of American families. How policymakers address this challenge will be the critical test for any model for housing finance reform. The most fundamental question any future system must answer is this: Are we providing more American households with greater and more sustainable access to affordable homes to rent or own? It is through this lens that we will assess the performance of the current marketplace and evaluate a set of policy considerations for addressing access and affordability in a future system. (1-2)

These principles of access and affordability have guided federal housing finance policy for quite some time, particularly in Democratic administrations. They now appear to fallen by the wayside as Republicans control both the Executive and Legislative branches.

President-Elect Trump has not yet outlined his thinking on housing finance reform. And the Republican Party Platform is somewhat vague on the topic as well. But it does give some guidance as to where we are headed:

We must scale back the federal role in the housing market, promote responsibility on the part of borrowers and lenders, and avoid future taxpayer bailouts. Reforms should provide clear and prudent underwriting standards and guidelines on predatory lending and acceptable lending practices. Compliance with regulatory standards should constitute a legal safe harbor to guard against opportunistic litigation by trial lawyers.

We call for a comprehensive review of federal regulations, especially those dealing with the environment, that make it harder and more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes.

For nine years, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been in conservatorship and the current Administration and Democrats have prevented any effort to reform them. Their corrupt business model lets shareholders and executives reap huge profits while the taxpayers cover all loses. The utility of both agencies should be reconsidered as a Republican administration clears away the jumble of subsidies and controls that complicate and distort home-buying.

The Federal Housing Administration, which provides taxpayer-backed guarantees in the mortgage market, should no longer support high-income individuals, and the public should not be financially exposed by risks taken by FHA officials. We will end the government mandates that required Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and federally-insured banks to satisfy lending quotas to specific groups. Discrimination should have no place in the mortgage industry.

Turning those broad statements into policies, we are likely to see some or all of the following on the agenda for housing finance reform:

  • a phasing out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, perhaps via some version of Hensarling’s PATH Act;
  • a significant change to Dodd-Frank’s regulation of mortgage origination as well as a full frontal assault on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau;
  • a dramatic reduction in the FHA’s footprint in the mortgage market; and
  • a rescinding of Obama’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Executive Order.

Some are already arguing that Trump and Congress will take a more pragmatic approach to reforming the housing finance system than what is outlined in the Republican platform. I think it is more honest to say that we just don’t know yet what the new normal is going to be.

The Republican Housing Platform

photo by DonkeyHotey

The Republican Party adopted its platform earlier this week.  The short housing platform is worth reading in its entirety:

Responsible Homeownership and Rental Opportunities

Homeownership expands personal liberty, builds communities, and helps Americans create wealth. “The American Dream” is not a stale slogan. It is the lived reality that expresses the aspirations of all our people. It means a decent place to live, a safe place to raise kids, a welcoming place to retire. It bespeaks the quiet pride of those who work hard to shelter their family and, in the process, create caring neighborhoods.

The Great Recession devastated the housing market. U.S. taxpayers paid billions to rescue Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the latter managed and controlled by senior officials from the Carter and Clinton Administrations, and to cover the losses of the poorly-managed Federal Housing Administration. Millions lost their homes, millions more lost value in their homes.

More than six million households had to move from homeownership to renting. Rental costs escalated so that today nearly 12 million families spend more than 50 percent of their incomes just on rent. The national homeownership rate has sharply fallen and the rate for minority households and young adults has plummeted. So many remain unemployed or underemployed, and for the lucky ones with jobs, rising rents make it harder to save for a mortgage.

There is a growing sense that our national standard of living will never be as high as it was in the past. We understand that pessimism but do not share it, for we believe that sound public policies can restore growth to our economy, vigor to the housing market, and hope to those who are now on the margins of prosperity.

Our goal is to advance responsible homeownership while guarding against the abuses that led to the housing collapse. We must scale back the federal role in the housing market, promote responsibility on the part of borrowers and lenders, and avoid future taxpayer bailouts. Reforms should provide clear and prudent underwriting standards and guidelines on predatory lending and acceptable lending practices. Compliance with regulatory standards should constitute a legal safe harbor to guard against opportunistic litigation by trial lawyers.

We call for a comprehensive review of federal regulations, especially those dealing with the environment, that make it harder and more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes.

For nine years, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been in conservatorship and the current Administration and Democrats have prevented any effort to reform them. Their corrupt business model lets shareholders and executives reap huge profits while the taxpayers cover all loses. The utility of both agencies should be reconsidered as a Republican administration clears away the jumble of subsidies and controls that complicate and distort home-buying.

The Federal Housing Administration, which provides taxpayer-backed guarantees in the mortgage market, should no longer support high-income individuals, and the public should not be financially exposed by risks taken by FHA officials. We will end the government mandates that required Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and federally-insured banks to satisfy lending quotas to specific groups. Discrimination should have no place in the mortgage industry.

Zoning decisions have always been, and must remain, under local control. The current Administration is trying to seize control of the zoning process through its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation. It threatens to undermine zoning laws in order to socially engineer every community in the country. While the federal government has a legitimate role in enforcing non-discrimination laws, this regulation has nothing to do with proven or alleged discrimination and everything to do with hostility to the self-government of citizens. (4)

Here are some of the policy proposals that I think it gets right: abolishing Fannie and Freddie in their current form as hybrid public/private corporations; implementing regulation that promotes responsible underwriting and protects against predatory lending; and banning discrimination in the credit markets.

There is a lot of coded language in the platform, however. And that coded language may be inconsistent with some of those goals. For instance, the opposition to the Obama Administration’s attempts to reduce de facto segregation in the housing markets through such initiatives as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation undercuts the claim that the party opposes discrimination in the housing market.

It will be a long, strange trip to the November election. The direction of federal housing policy must be counted as one of important issues at stake.

Gentrification in NYC

Manhattan-plaza

The NYU Furman Center released its annual State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods (2015). This year’s report focused on gentrification:

“Gentrification” has become the accepted term to describe neighborhoods that start off predominantly occupied by households of relatively low socioeconomic status, and then experience an inflow of higher socioeconomic status households. The British sociologist Ruth Glass coined the term in 1964 to describe changes she encountered in formerly working-class London neighborhoods, and sociologists first began applying the term to New York City (and elsewhere) in the 1970s. Since entering the mainstream lexicon, the word “gentrification” is applied broadly and interchangeably to describe a range of neighborhood changes, including rising incomes, changing racial composition, shifting commercial activity, and displacement of original residents. (4)

The reports main findings are

  • While rents only increased modestly in the 1990s, they rose everywhere in the 2000s, most rapidly in the low-income neighborhoods surrounding central Manhattan.
  • Most neighborhoods in New York City regained the population they lost during the 1970s and 1980s, while the population in the average gentrifying neighborhood in 2010 was still 16 percent below its 1970 level.
  • One third of the housing units added in New York City from 2000 to 2010 were added in the city’s 15 gentrifying neighborhoods despite their accounting for only 26 percent of the city’s population.
  • Gentrifying neighborhoods experienced the fastest growth citywide in the number of college graduates, young adults, childless families, non-family households, and white residents between 1990 and 2010-2014. They saw increases in average household income while most other neighborhoods did not.
  • Rent burden has increased for households citywide since 2000, but particularly for low- and moderate-income households in gentrifying and non-gentrifying neighborhoods.
  • The share of recently available rental units affordable to low-income households declined sharply in gentrifying neighborhoods between 2000 and 2010-2014.
  • There was considerable variation among the SBAs [sub-borough areas] classified as gentrifying neighborhoods; for example, among the SBAs classified as gentrifying, the change in average household income between 2000 and 2010-2014 ranged from a decrease of 16 percent to an increase of 41 percent. (4)

The report provides a lot of facts for debates about gentrification that often reflect predetermined ideological viewpoints. The fact that jumped out to me was that a greater percentage of low-income households in non-gentrifying neighborhoods were rent burdened than in gentrifying neighborhoods. (14-15)

This highlights the fact that we face a very big supply problem in the NYC housing market — we need to build a lot more housing if we are going to make a serious dent in this problem. The De Blasio Administration is on board with this — the City Council needs to get on board too.

Lots more of interest in the Furman report — worth curling up with it on a rainy afternoon.

 

Desvinculado y Desigual = Separate and Unequal

"Plessy marker" by Skywriter - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Plessy_marker.jpg#/media/File:Plessy_marker.jpg

Justin Steil, Jorge De la Roca and Ingrid Gould Ellen, researchers affiliated to the NYU Furman Center, have published Desvinculado y Desigual [Separate and Unequal]: Is Segregation Harmful to Latinos? The authors find that their research on this topic “suggests that segregation may have as negative effects for Latinos as it does for African Americans and that persistent Latino-white segregation is of serious concern as the nation’s metropolitan areas continue to become more diverse.” (74)

More specifically, their research finds that

segregation continues to be associated with significant reductions in educational attainment and labor market success for African Americans, and that the associations between segregation and outcomes for Latinos are at least as large as those for African Americans. For native-born African American and Latino young adults between the ages of 20 and 30, increases in metropolitan-area segregation are associated with significant reductions in the likelihood of high school and college graduation, with lower earnings and employment rates, and with an increase in single motherhood.

These findings are somewhat unanticipated given the long history of intense black-white segregation and the systematic disinvestment in black neighborhoods through much of the last century, when compared to the historically more moderate levels of Latino-white segregation. These findings raise the question of which mechanisms may be at play to generate these differences.

One crucial mechanism seems to be the levels of neighborhood human capital to which whites, Latinos, and African Americans are exposed; they are consistent with the negative associations for both blacks and Latinos and with the differences in the magnitude of the association between them. The white-Latino gap in neighborhood exposure to human capital increases dramatically as levels of segregation increase.

The significance of neighborhood levels of human capital is consistent with existing research on the effects of segregation for African Americans and for immigrants. (73, citations omitted)

This is an understudied and important topic, so it is great that the authors have begun to explore it. They identify a number of research questions that others can take up. Let’s hope some do.