Call it the Big Selloff—America is headed toward a future in which fewer people own the spaces they call home. The effective homeownership rate, which excludes borrowers whose homes are underwater, stands at 62 percent, down from 69 percent in 2006, according to a 2010 report by the New York Federal Reserve.
As more people move from owning to renting, apartment vacancy rates have fallen fast, from 8 percent in 2009 to 5.6 percent in third quarter 2011. That’s pushed up rents in all markets by 2.5 percent, including apartments and single-family homes, to an average of $846 nationwide, according to Local Market Monitor, a home price forecaster. For a two-bedroom dwelling, the average rent was at $1,020 in June 2011.
Those trends are just the beginning, concludes a July report from investment bank Morgan Stanley: the United States is becoming a nation of renters and home ownership will keep falling. And that, say some experts, could be good for the country.
This dramatic change, triggered by the 2008 housing collapse, has shifted people’s views of home ownership. The number of those who consider a home a safe investment fell from 83 percent in 2003 to 66 percent this year, according to a survey by Fannie Mae and two other organizations. In another poll last April, commissioned by real estate data firms RealtyTrac and Trulia, 40 percent of renters questioned said they plan never to buy a home. Another reason—many baby boom retirees don’t want the burden of home repairs, rising property taxes and other responsibilities.
All very interesting. But for many working Americans, according to the the Center for Housing Policy, affordable housing, owned or rented, is out of reach. For instance, the center's latest edition of Paycheck to Paycheck took a look at five categories of workers we see a lot of during the holiday season: delivery truck drivers, mail carriers, retail salespersons, retail assistant managers, stock clerks.
Despite sizable declines in home prices since the peak of the housing market in 2006 only one of these five jobs—mail carrier—earns enough to afford to buy housing at typical prices nationwide. ... Rent for a two bedroom apartment is almost as difficult to afford, with only mail carriers and assistant managers able to afford to the national average fair market rent.
These findings underscore the fundamental gap between wages for retail workers and
the cost of housing. Even after record home price declines, retail workers do not generally earn enough to afford to buy a median-priced home. With rents actually increasing (modestly), these workers face considerable difficulties affording their housing costs.
It is also worth noting that housing prices in the third quarter of 2011 – the most recent data available—were essentially the same or higher than they were in the fourth quarter of 2009 in 58 percent of the metro areas studied.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2003:
I went to see The Two Towers last night, and I enjoyed it immensely – although not quite as much as the first Lord of the Rings movie, for esthetic reasons I won’t bother with here.
My real problem with the movie—the one I do want to talk about—is political, and it applies to the entire Lord of the Rings saga. As much as I love and admire Tolkien’s books, and Peter Jackson’s brilliant adaptations, I think it’s probably unfortunate these particular stories are being re-injected into the popular culture at this particular moment in history.
My fears were best captured in a single scene from The Two Towers, in which the traitorous and lecherous Grima Wormtongue accuses one of King Theoden’s bravest soldiers of being a "warmonger." This at a time when the foul orc brigades of the evil wizard Saruman are overrunning Theoden’s kingdom.
The scene is unquestionably effective—and true to the spirit, if not the precise text, of Tolkien’s original. But it also comes dangerously close to an Ann Coulter view of the world, in which anyone who seeks to avoid war is, by definition, either a traitor, a terrorist stooge, or both.
The entire Lord of the Rings saga can—and has been—interpreted the same way: As a parable for our times, a mythic lesson in the virtue and necessity of moral clarity in the face of evil. ...