Linking ≠ endorsement.
⇧ Oklahoma hit by its second-strongest earthquake ever: USGS | Reuters
Oklahoma was struck by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake on Saturday morning, the second-strongest quake ever recorded in the state, which has experienced a surge in seismic activity in recent years, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
Oil fields have boomed in Oklahoma over the past decade thanks to advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, and seismologists have said the state’s frequent earthquakes may [may?] be linked to oil production activities.
The state has been recording about two-and-a-half earthquakes a day of a magnitude 3 or greater, a rate 600 times greater than observed before 2008, the Oklahoma Geological Survey said in a report last year.
⇧ Feds give Florida $50M to improve public housing – Washington Times
A mere drop in the bucket with holes in its bottom:
Federal officials are giving Florida nearly $50 million to improve public housing across the state.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says it will provide Ohio’s public housing organizations with $74 million for capital improvements.
⇧ Why Nashville’s FirstBank isn’t diving into commercial real estate – Nashville Business Journal
An old-fashioned banker: cautious:
As Adam has previously reported, surging land costs and outside investor appetite in Nashville has boosted top-end office space rent in Nashville to historic highs. Such eye-popping totals are leaving a lot of us asking the question: How long can this heyday last?
⇧ No bubble in D-FW home prices, Zillow senior economist says | | Dallas Morning News
“Dallas is actually the least oil dependent market in Texas,” he said. “Places that are less diverse — like Houston — were obviously hit.
⇧ Nashville to donate 13 properties for affordable housing
In a first for Nashville, Metro government is prepared to give away 13 surplus city properties — along with grant money — to nonprofit organizations that have committed to building affordable single-family homes.
The city has now agreed on a preliminary plan to divvy out the parcels — as well as spread around $500,000 in grants from Metro’s affordable housing fund — to three nonprofits that are to pursue either affordable for-sale homes or rentals.
Members of the housing trust fund commission on Wednesday discussed perhaps starting a partnership with the nonprofit The Housing Fund that would enable incentives to go to for-profit developers instead of only nonprofits.
Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced the acquisition and preservation of five apartment buildings consisting of 19 units of rental housing whose tenants and residents had been served with Ellis Act eviction notices.
⇧ Financial Reform | Better Markets
Unfortunately, many … reforms have been killed, weakened, or evaded by Wall Street’s biggest derivatives dealers who are protecting billions in profits and bonuses. Worse, the CFTC’s inaction seems to condone some of the worst practices of the biggest dealers, particularly their efforts to kills SEFs [Swap Execution Facilities], transparency and competition.
⇧ Legislative Analyst’s Office urges private construction to fix housing crisis, cites flaws with rent control — California Apartment Association
The LAO report also debunks some myths about the impacts of residential construction. For example, many believe that new housing doesn’t help low-income families because new homes tend to cater to wealthier households. While this tends to be true initially, residences initially built for the rich aren’t tied to that market forever.
“New housing generally becomes less desirable as it ages and, as a result, becomes less expensive over time,” the study says. “Market—rate housing constructed now will therefore add to a community’s stock of lower—cost housing in the future as these new homes age and become more affordable.”
How much cheaper is a 20-year-old 3,000 square foot luxury house? Is it cheaper enough for someone needing affordable housing to purchase? No.
Governments must mandate that housing of the proper size and with the proper finishes be constructed in sufficient numbers that people needing rent control now would be able to afford market-rate rentals or purchases.
Where’s the profit in it for developers and landlords and managers? Subsidies need to be sufficient to guarantee the profits.
People need housing now. They shouldn’t be expected to live in hovels or to have to wait years or even decades for properties to deteriorate into affordability.
⇧ Everything that’s wrong with the Super Bowl’s worst ad – The Washington Post
There’s a great deal of truth in this article, but better automation of the process is still a good idea.
… Quicken Loans? … the lender touts a new “rocket mortgage” — a mortgage so easy to obtain it’ll feel like you’re ordering a Beyoncé single on iTunes! Just push a button, get a giant loan. The app promises a massive, complex financial transaction and life decision “shrunk to fit the hands of a child.”
Some people are trying to make others believe that, that same ease is coming soon to the whole insurance industry. Well, things will continue becoming easier, but it will take a long time before the “system” knows so much about all the details of your property and risks, etc., that it won’t have to ask you to answer plenty of questions.
⇧ Why Rocket Mortgage won’t start another housing crisis | Urban Institute
Plenty of truth in this one too!
Despite the snazzy name, the Rocket Mortgage is not a new mortgage instrument; it’s just a tool to more efficiently collect information for applications.
⇧ Ellie Mae earnings highlight big bank exit from mortgage business | HousingWire
Jon Marino recently wrote in a CNBC article that fourth-quarter earnings from big banks showed a retreat away from mortgages as more nonbanks step up to fill the gap.
The article highlight’s the success of nonbank Quicken Loans in the mortgage business.
From the article:
Quicken is part of a group of lenders, many of them online only, that substantially grew their footprint in the mortgage lending business as banks have retreated in the wake of the global financial crisis. In early 2014, nonbank lenders became the primary source of new mortgages, and in the time since have increased their lead over credit unions, large banks and smaller traditional loan providers, according to industry data.
This doesn’t mean that Ellie Mae is losing business from big banks.
For the last two years, household debts have been slowly rising, although they remain well below where they were in 2008. That trend continued in the final quarter of 2015, with overall household indebtedness rising by $51 billion to $ 12.1 trillion. Auto loans, student loans and credit card balances all increased while mortgage balances were little changed.
An important barometer of household financial health is the percentage of this debt that is in some stage of delinquency, and that percentage has been steadily dropping. Only 2.2% of mortgage debt was in delinquency, the lowest since early 2007. Credit card delinquencies also declined, while auto loan and student loan delinquencies were unchanged.
⇧ Air Pollution Is Fourth Leading Cause Of Death Worldwide: Polluted Air Claims 5.5 Million Lives Per Year : SCIENCE : Tech Times
It turns out that more people die from household and outdoor air pollution than from alcohol, drug abuse and unsafe sex as vehicle exhaust, power plants, manufacturing plants and burning of coal release small particles into the air that are harmful to human health.
In the U.S., air pollution is the 13th highest risk factor for premature death killing 80,000 individuals in 2013.
⇧ Fresh water crisis: Four billion people face water scarcity, says study – CSMonitor.com
Fresh water on Earth is scarce and getting scarcer — we know that. In 2015 the World Economic Forum ranked “water crises” as the top risk facing the planet.
But authors of a recent report published Friday in the journal Science Advances say previous studies have underestimated the severity of water scarcity around the world. Instead of impacting around two billion people as researchers previously suggested, it’s more along the lines of four billion, say Dr. Mesfin Mekonnen and Dr. Arjen Hoekstra at the University of Twente in Enschede, Netherlands.
“Little interest in water has been shown in the meat and dairy sectors, which is surprising given the fact that the meat and dairy sectors contribute more than a quarter to the global water footprint of humanity,” says Hoekstra.
⇧ Study: NASA Satellite Shows Rising Seas Slowed By Increasing Water On Land |
“We always assumed that people’s increased reliance on groundwater for irrigation and consumption was resulting in a net transfer of water from the land to the ocean,” said lead author J.T. Reager of JPL, who began work on the study as a graduate student at UC Irvine.
“What we didn’t realize until now is that over the past decade, changes in the global water cycle more than offset the losses that occurred from groundwater pumping, causing the land to act like a sponge — at least temporarily. These new data are vital for understanding decadal variations in sea level change. The information will be a critical complement to future long-term projections of sea level rise, which depend on melting ice and warming oceans.”
What that doesn’t mean is that sea levels aren’t rising or that groundwater-pumping doesn’t matter.
⇧ Pollution is scaring away top recruits for global companies
Is the water contaminated? Is the air toxic? If the answer is yes, corporate executives are saying “no thanks.”
Many young people, and plenty of older folks, are unaware that the US shipped industrial jobs overseas to ship environmental pollution there with those jobs. It was part of the national debate at the time published right in the mainstream media. I remember it well.
I opposed it, not because I wanted to retain the pollution but because industry should be (should have been back then) reformed to stop polluting.
⇧ Unmask the foreign buyers stashing cash in American real estate | New York Post
The United States as a whole has become a magnet for unsavory people because its real-estate developers and lawyers are not legally required to know who their clients are, as Swiss banks now must.
Finally, despite years of lobbying by law-enforcement officials, the federal government is starting to crack down on this loophole.
… Cases have shown that shell companies not only conceal sleazy foreigners but also have enabled American criminals who have defrauded Medicare, embezzled from public schools, scammed the elderly and made illegal contributions to American political candidates.
… the flood of buying by persons unknown is damaging the housing market. Between 2010 and 2015, the average square-foot price of a residence in New York City jumped from $1,000 to $1,450, an increase of 45%.
Identifying the buyers of luxury apartments may not lower your rent overnight. But it would certainly make foreign criminals think twice ….
Locally based landlords can help a deteriorating housing stock, said Heidi Powell, past president of the Greater Allegheny-Kiski Board of Realtors and owner of RE/MAX Dynamic Realtors in Freeport.
In Arnold, where the city has been razing blighted buildings, investor-owners help the town by rehabbing buildings on the verge of demolition, said Tom Dunn, Arnold’s community development director.
“Granted, there are those who don’t care who their tenants are,” said Dunn. “But there are a number of landlords who are good for the city.”
⇧ Hamilton cracking down on blighted, nuisance properties | www.journal-news.com
Scharf said the Nuisance Appeals Board process “significantly reduces the time period from nuisance declaration to a rehab or demo.”
The ordinance also reduced some time frames for compliance — allowing the city to move more quickly on some nuisances, but not all.
Take a look at the photo. What in the world …?
⇧ GERMANY: Basic Income initiatives in Europe in the leading magazine “Der Spiegel” | BIEN
In the interview, Häni and Kovce emphasise that one of the core motivations for a Basic Income is the social transformation from alienated work into intrinsically motivated, freely chosen activities. They believe that, if provided a guaranteed, unconditional Basic Income, most people would continue to be active and work to create value, albeit on a radically different fundament. To achieve such a change, Häni and Kovce acknowledge that a long process will be necessary, but they stress that this process is one which has been initiated already, due to recent changes in working conditions and the evolution of the economy in the second, third and now the fourth industrial revolutions.
⇧ Context may be everything when it comes to the Phillips curve – Equitable Growth
… the slope of the Phillips curve has declined. This means that inflation will increase less for a given decrease in the unemployment rate. At the same time, inflation expectations have become, in economics-speak, incredibly “well-anchored.” Investors believe quite strongly that U.S. inflation will stay around 2 percent and that the Fed will fight to maintain their (now explicit) target.
This anchoring means the curve resembles its 1960s form where changes in the unemployment rate affect the level of inflation, as opposed to its “accelerationist” form where changes in the unemployment rate affect the change in the inflation rate. To put this finding in the terms that University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers used this past fall, it means we should be more focused on the level of wage growth than its trend at the moment.
I’ve been saying that for years.
⇧ The Negative Rates Club by Daniel Gros – Project Syndicate
… the United States and the United Kingdom are now growing strongly enough to exit their expansionary policies and raise interest rates ….
Creditor countries’ central bankers must stop trying to manipulate their economies with more potentially counterproductive monetary easing. Instead, they should allow the recovery to run its course, even if that happens slowly, and wait for the base effect of lower oil prices to disappear.
The recovery really isn’t well established, and we need fiscal spending via currency issuance without governmental borrowing.
⇧ Economics and history: Economic history is dead; long live economic history? | The Economist
… it is widely believed amongst scholars, policy makers and the public that a better understanding of economic history would have helped to avoid the worst of the recent crisis.
That’s where I stood and still stand.
⇧ mainly macro: Austerity’s apologists on the left
… now is the time to invest in the future, and the public sector must take the lead in this. The failure of the Conservatives to invest over the last 10 years, in everything from housing to flood defences, needs to be reiterated ….
⇧ Chinese Start to Lose Confidence in Their Currency – The New York Times
… pessimism … becoming the consensus.
The term “democracy” is nowhere to be found.
⇧ The evasive predictive ability of core inflation | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal
Pablo Pincheira, Jorge Selaive, and Jose Luis Nolazco:
… core inflation is an important predictor of headline inflation for a subset of countries in our sample, but only a subset. This is important, since variables of economic activity, traditionally used to predict inflation in Phillips curve type of models, have lost their predictive power in recent years. For countries in which core is not a relevant predictor for headline inflation, the search for accurate predictors must continue, but in the meantime, our findings suggest a careful weighting of the traditional exclusion of food and energy prices when assessing the size of monetary stimulus.
⇧ Can the ECB create money for a universal basic income?
If the ECB pays a higher basic income, rising demand could lead to massive inflation, unless production of goods increased at the same pace as demand.
Make that goods and services. Technology will make that possible too. Public employment in community-owned enterprises could handle it instantly even right now.
⇧ How crowdfunding has made flipping houses a lot easier – LA Times
David Berneman isn’t developing an app. His company isn’t venture backed. In fact, his business is about as low-tech as it gets: He buys houses, fixes them up and flips them.
But he too is funded by the crowd.
Democrats have been in power for 8 years with paltry results for the middle class. Real wages have risen steadily in Australia and northern Europe in this period, yet stagnated in the U.S., income disparities widening. Indeed, the mean 2.5 percent real wage gains by German workers in 2015 alone exceeds the cumulative rise in median real American weekly wages since 1979. Wall Street malfeasance goes unpunished. Collective bargaining is not prioritized despite supermajority support for unions as devices to raise wages. The carried interest tax loophole remains wide open. Trade agreements give short shrift to wage concerns. Tax inversions have become commonplace. America has earned a reputation globally as a tax shelter for the rich, worse than Luxembourg or the Cayman Islands. Even long overdue EU steps to close tax loopholes exploited by multinationals are demonized by Obama administration Treasury officials.
Warring on Wages
Some of this dismaying record reflects Republican Party intransigence. But a considerable portion is self-inflicted by President Obama, lending credence to Republican attacks on wage stagnation. Such attacks are disingenuous because higher wages have been a third rail of Republican politics since President Reagan. Its recent history is a litany of wage suppression: a political party determined to slow the recovery while opposing minimum wages, collective bargaining, higher overtime pay, paid sick-leave and the like. They reject linking wages to productivity gains or to CEO pay. That party is centered in corporate America unduly prioritizing profits at the expense of wages. Demographically, it is centered in the American south, home of right-to-work laws. And Republicans have enjoyed some success in expanding right-to-work laws and in torpedoing minimum wage laws to the Midwest, causing regional wage s to drop: the wage differential between the Midwest and the non-union South across all industrial sectors, for instance, fell from $7 per hour in 2008 to $3.34 per hour in 2011.
⇧ Growing millennial population faces barriers to entry in Madison housing market
In light of recent housing trends and reports, the city is debating the possibility of creating new affordable housing to handle the influx of millennials in the Madison housing market.
Madison millennials have a predominant tendency to rent space rather than purchase permanent housing due to certain barriers to entry in the permanent housing market. This keeps rents high and makes the Madison housing market economically inefficient, Matthew Wachter, Madison’s housing initiatives specialist, said.
Morrison said it is possible for the city to drive rents down and alleviate the affordable housing shortage by increasing its supply of affordable housing, but the city will have to subsidize developers for this course of action to be feasible.
“To some extent, it’s not possible to build truly affordable housing right now without subsidies because construction costs are such that you can’t build at a price that allows you to make it affordable to people who are in the lower income bracket,” Morrison said. “It’s true today more so, but it’s true always that it’s difficult to build affordable housing without subsidies, if not impossible.”
“The state contributes a significant amount of the funds that we’re going to put up for affordable housing,” Wachter said.
⇧ Why the New Jersey housing market still sagging
“In New Jersey, housing prices are more than 20 percent below where they were prior to the housing meltdown, so you can see the gap that exists,” O’Keefe said.
“What you have is a situation where people can’t afford to sell their current home because they’d have to go to the closing table with a check rather than walking away with one,” O’Keefe said. “We expect it to be a long slog back. Home prices are going to have to come up considerably before the current residents will be able or willing to list them for sale.”
“It’s going to be a long time, a decade or more, but if inflation starts to heat up the value of the dollar will decline, and since mortgages are a fixed amount at a fixed rate, inflation will work to the benefit of the borrower,” O’Keefe said. “However, virtually all of the stars are aligned against a more rapid rebound in New Jersey.”