Linking ≠ endorsement.
⇧ HUD seeks to snuff out smoking in housing – Wisconsin Gazette
Public housing across the United States may go smoke-free in two years if a rule proposed by U.S. Housing and Urban Development takes effect.
The rule would require more than 3,100 public housing agencies to carry out policies prohibiting lighted tobacco products — including pipes, cigars and cigarettes — in living units, common areas, offices and outdoor areas within 25 feet of office buildings or housing.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke ….
25 feet doesn’t work when smokers smoke upwind from open windows during warm months.
Frankly, I just don’t understand anyone not having given up smoking long ago. Why people are still starting is beyond me.
As for landlords, you have a right to consider the fire dangers as well. Smoking still causes plenty of fires in the US every year.
⇧ Smoking fire safety outreach materials
This is good advice, but quitting is vastly better.
⇧ When an Apartment Contains Lead Paint – The New York Times
Metro New York City centric but interesting stuff …
This article runs contrary to the recent flurry of articles claiming Millennials want to own at an ever-increasing rate (due to closing in on the time to have children, etc.).
Renting is the new black, says a recent study published by Trulia. The report from February highlights the nationwide increase in renting and the subsequent decline of homeownership across multiple age groups in the last decade. Notably, older millennials are waiting longer than ever to take the leap into homeownership, choosing rents over mortgages, unlike their parents’ generation. And while many American cities have seen impressive increases in renting in recent years (Las Vegas, for instance, is almost 50 percent renters), San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, and Austin are among the top cities whose residents are saying bye-bye to homeownership.
⇧ The World Is Headed for Bear Market Territory – The Daily Reckoning
Central banks have created the false confidence that an external force will support markets. But that force has nothing to do with the real economy or global economic conditions. Central banks’ main purpose now is to sustain the larger private banks and financial players while providing markets the boost they need to pretend the economy’s healthy.
Last year, I told interviewers that we were transitioning to destruction. I said we’d see lots of volatility and that it would increase. We’re seeing that now. A lot of instruments these central banks have used and continue to use are reaching their limits. They may be able to buoy stock markets day to day, but they won’t be able to keep them up for long.
The only way they won’t is if the average investor decides not to continue gambling, but where else should those investors place their money? They don’t know. There really isn’t a completely safe place that will return much if at all.
Our only hope is systemic change to the entire economic system away from laissez-faire but not toward central command or completely decentralized either but democracy.
⇧ House prices: why are they so high?
A major cause of the rise was that banks have the ability to create money every time they make a loan. During the period in question the amount of money banks created through mortgage lending more than quadrupled! This lending was a major driver of the massive increase in house prices.
⇧ China’s trilemma—and a possible solution | Brookings Institution
… what to do? An alternative worth exploring is targeted fiscal policy, by which I mean government spending and tax measures aimed specifically at aiding the transition in China’s growth model. (Spending on traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges is not what I have in mind; in the Chinese context, that’s part of the old growth model.) For example, as China observers have noted, the lack of a strong social safety net—the fact that Chinese citizens are mostly on their own when it comes to covering costs of health care, education, and retirement—is an important motivation for China’s extraordinarily high household saving rate. Fiscal policies aimed at increasing income security, such as strengthening the pension system, would help to promote consumer confidence and consumer spending. Likewise, tax cuts or credits could be used to enhance households’ disposable income, and government-financed training and relocation programs could help workers transition from slowing to expanding sectors.
That would be the very least they could do. They ought to leapfrog the rest of the world by being the first major nation to institute a guaranteed living wage.
⇧ Wendy Carlin in the FT: Teaching what matters in economics | The CORE Project
… failures may be traced to complacency among economists that a largely unregulated market economy would take care of itself.
But economics is not fighting the last war. In the past three decades, experimental methods have shown that people are more fair-minded and moral, and less calculating than the so called Economic Man of the textbooks. The fact that we are nicer and not quite as clever as economists once assumed has direct implications for policies to address problems of financial instability, climate change, and economic disparity. The new research greatly expands the set of politically viable and economically effective policies to ensure a sustainable planet and to level the economic playing field.
⇧ Market Fundamentalism | WEA Pedagogy Blog
My point exactly:
Market fundamentalism, then known as laissez-faire, was routed and banished from academia in the wake of the Great Depression, which was an obvious demonstration of the need for regulation. The financial industry was chained, and banks were prohibited from speculation by the Glass-Steagall Act and other regulation in the 1930’s. This led to a prosperous golden age of capitalism which lasted for about half a century. However, history repeats itself because no one learns from it. The Reagan-Thatcher era heralded the start of a new era of de-regulation, which has led to a massive concentration of wealth at the top. The finance moguls pressurised Clinton into repealing the Glass-Steagall act in 1999, which, after a short interval, led to the greatest financial crisis ever seen in history. It is free market fundamentalism which enables the rampage of uncontrolled capitalism which is threatening to destroy the globe and society in its unquenchable thirst for profits. Unless humanity as a whole can chain this monster, as was done after the Great Depression, the future looks bleak.
⇧ As monetary policy reaches its limits, it’s time for governments to spend | Business | The Guardian
Governments should borrow ….
No, no, no, no. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
Governments should create money without borrowing!
Otherwise, the article is fine.
⇧ Can factory-built homes curb the housing crisis? | KALW
There are a few main reasons why this factory is faster than building on site: 1) you don’t have to deal with weather delays—being indoors means you can even work night shifts; 2) the assembly line means the work is more efficient; and 3) you can do all the foundation work over at the site at the same time as the modules are getting built, so you don’t have to wait to finish building down before you can start building up.
It won’t take long before all the kinks are ironed out. Manufactured housing is the wave of the future. There’s even 3D printing of housing now.
I should think that within a decade, manufactured housing quality will outstrip pretty much all other methods except the highest-end craftsmanship. Even that will eventually be outdone by technology though and probably sooner than later.
⇧ NASA confirms February 2016’s shocking global warming temperature record.
Update, March 12, 2016: Data released Saturday from NASA confim that February 2016 was not only the warmest month ever measured globally, at 1.35 degrees Celsius above the long-term average—it was more than 0.2 degrees Celsius warmer than the previously most unusually warm month ever measured: January 2016. The new NASA data confirms unofficial data released earlier this month showing a dramatic and ongoing surge in the planet’s temperature—if anything, that data, upon which the previous versions of this post were based, were an underestimate. On Twitter, Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which maintains the NASA temperature database, noted that February’s temperature record was “special” and commented simply: “Wow.”
⇧ 7 Smart Strategies for Remodeling Your Bathroom
A $15,000 bath remodel will recoup almost 75% of those costs when it’s time to sell your home ….
So how do house flippers make money rehabbing and upgrading bathrooms? The smart ones never over do it for the type of house and the area, and they always start with a house purchased at below market price but that’s repairable within budget allowing for their profit margin. Plus, they often do the labor or part of it themselves.
⇧ Americans Think the Robots Are Coming for Many Jobs, But Not Their Jobs – Real Time Economics – WSJ
About two-thirds of Americans expect robots or computers within the next half century will take over many of the jobs now performed by humans.
But not their jobs.
“Even as many Americans expect that machines will take over a great deal of human employment, an even larger share (80%) expect that their own jobs or professions will remain largely unchanged and exist in their current forms 50 years from now,” the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank, said in a new report on public expectations for workforce automation.
That’s a significant disconnect.
Well, barring some huge global setback, what I’m doing will definitely not exist as human work. It will all have long since been automated.
⇧ As Americans Take Up Populism, the Supreme Court Embraces Business – The New York Times
The early 20th-century approach closely associated with Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis saw big business as a political problem, not just an economic one. Big business, the thinking went, was incompatible with democracy both because of its ability to influence public officials and because of the power that big business had over the lives of ordinary citizens.
By the 1970s, however, leading Democratic intellectuals like John Kenneth Galbraith were arguing that a frontal attack on big business was passé and that the government’s focus should be maximizing economic growth instead. These intellectuals proposed that liberals should make their peace with large corporations and simply oversee them as if they were giant utility companies.
Yes, but Galbraith did not intend the deregulation that occurred.
I think he was wrong and that Brandeis’ position was and remains the correct one.
I opposed Galbraith’s reasoning at the time, and I’m glad I did. I’m only sorry that most of the rest of the nation never really understood the New Deal or TR’s progressivism before it.
⇧ Are Micro-Apartments a Good Solution to the Affordable-Housing Crisis? – The New Yorker
… why … did New York end up with a building oriented around micro-luxury, rather than going entirely micro-affordable? The question seems especially pertinent because the city donated the nearly five-thousand-square-foot parcel of land on which Carmel Place sits. I asked Ingrid Gould Ellen, the director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University, to offer some insight into the city’s approach. While micro-apartments are “a potentially important source of dedicated affordable housing,” Ellen told me, “you could make an argument not to start there.” She cited the early backlash against the idea, and the city’s history with S.R.O.s, in which a safe option gradually became a symbol of urban blight. “The S.R.O. model became stigmatized,” she said. “If micro-units become a form of low-income housing only, it becomes stigmatized.” In other words, going that route might have risked damaging the micro brand among those who seek both market-rate and low-income housing. The observation subtly underscored the importance of optics when it comes to small apartments. An affordable “shoebox,” as it were, was much more likely to be controversial than an expensive one.
I wonder how long it will take before the verdict is in.
⇧ New York City Rent Comparison: What $3,200 Gets You – Curbed NY
Welcome to Curbed Comparisons, a weekly column that explores what one can rent for a set dollar amount in various NYC neighborhoods. Is one man’s studio another man’s townhouse? Let’s find out! Today’s price: $3,200 per month.
⇧ The Smallest House on the Market has Big Charm – Curbed SF
Cute, but a half a million bucks? Wow. I’ll pass.
⇧ City Prepares For Sea Level Rise, Epic Storms, Constant Flooding, General Unease – Curbed SF
We hear a great deal about Florida’s problem but not often about San Francisco’s. It appears that all coastal cities are at serious risk (of course).
The best approach is radically reducing carbon burning while doing massive carbon sequestration via organic soil building.
⇧ N.J. Congresswoman: Fair housing is a key to job accessibility | Opinion | NJ com
Bonnie Watson Coleman:
Ensuring access to affordable housing in vibrant communities, with strong schools and employment opportunities, addresses many other problems at their root. Persistent issues like truancy, crime, and economic instability are greatly reduced when you build diverse mixed-income communities. And ensuring balance in where we place affordable homes brings diversity to every community — a source of strength that no one should undervalue.
That’s how I see it too.
… because of a predominating emphasis on financial information, as well as an increasingly short-term focus of investors, there has been inadequate appreciation for how markets contribute to significant global problems such as climate change, excessive consumption of limited natural resources, pollution, waste and inequality. Part of the solution to these unpriced externalities created by companies’ activities is the development of accounting standards and reporting requirements for nonfinancial information: namely, a company’s performance on the material environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues that affect society and the company’s ability to create value over the long term.
It’s painfully obvious that this TV star doesn’t know where money comes from. Does he really think that the Fed created a $4.5 trillion balance sheet by working? Does he think that the 10s of thousands of people who graduated from public universities around the nation several decades ago, when tuition was essentially free, are all a bunch of deadbeats now? Dr. Phil thinks “There’s no free lunch” is a profundity. What it is, is an absurdity for those who’ve been brainwashed by banksters.
Look, psychologists and economists have discovered that people getting governmental support in the form of free educations are not harmed by the freeness. Public school educations are all that stood in the way of an illiterate population. I’m the product of a primarily public education. Perhaps Dr. Phil attended some public school or schools too and profited thereby, though he’s obviously lacking in some areas.
He’s missing the point of the larger vision Bernie has in mind on the economic front.
⇧ The Daily Shot; March 8  – Global Macro Currents
Another way in which negative interest rates work:
Negative rates make it difficult for central banks to hold euros as a reserve currency – some are not permitted buy bonds with negative yields. The euro balances at central banks may therefore continue to decline as a reserve currency. This of course works well for the ECB as it tries to weaken the euro further.
⇧ Why aren’t you refinancing your mortgage?
More than 3 million borrowers could save $200 a month or more; nearly 1 million could save $400 a month or more. Mortgage refinance applications have increased in the past two months, but millions of borrowers are still sitting on the sidelines, perhaps unaware of the savings, or just too lazy to go through the process.
… or swamped with other things to do to stay alive.
⇧ Real estate’s ticking bomb: Who gets hurt
Investors are insisting on high yield, and the bonds backing commercial mortgages are not giving them that, so they are moving on to other products, leaving a big crack in commercial financing.
⇧ Nobel Prize Economist Says American Inequality Didn’t Just Happen. It Was Created. – Evonomics
Inequality is the result of political forces as much as of economic ones. In a modern economy government sets and enforces the rules of the game—what is fair competition, and what actions are deemed anticompetitive and illegal, who gets what in the event of bankruptcy, when a debtor can’t pay all that he owes, what are fraudulent practices and forbidden. Government also gives away resources (both openly and less transparently) and, through taxes and social expenditures, modifies the distribution of income that emerges from the market, shaped as it is by technology and politics.
Competitive forces should limit outsize profits, but if governments do not ensure that markets are competitive, there can be large monopoly profits. …
A closer look at the successes of those at the top of the wealth distribution shows that more than a small part of their genius resides in devising better ways of exploiting market power and other market imperfections—and, in many cases, finding better ways of ensuring that politics works for them rather than for society more generally.
I don’t call it genius. It’s stupid to be uncooperative and greedy.
⇧ Starving Public Education – The New York Times
Here’s Paul Krugman’s answer to Dr. Phil’s misled and misleading notions about “free lunch” higher education.
… we want to point out a number of mitigating conditions that will operate to cushion, if not actually prevent, any major decline in house prices.
From the borrowers’ perspective, one of the most often cited metrics is that which measures the level of household debt to household incomes. There is no magic ratio that will automatically trigger a significant market decline. No one can answer the question: how high is too high? What is more relevant is the nature of the household sector’s balance sheet.
Table 3 sets out some basic parameters by which to judge the vulnerability of the housing market from the perspective of household wealth. In the past 12 months, households’ net worth to disposable income has increased by more than 2%. At the same time, debt-to-assets remain constant at a very low level of 17%. And, most importantly, owner’s equity in their homes remains constant at 73%, indicating that homeowners have amassed a considerable amount of equity. Hence, there is an adequate buffer within the household sector, providing stability in the housing market.
From the mortgage lender’s perspective, over the past 5 years, the Federal government has tightened up lending practices by:
- reducing amortization periods from 40 years to 25 years;
- reducing the loan-to-value (LTV) lending percentage from 95% to 80%;
- reducing the cap on gross debt services levels, and
- upping the insurance premiums on mortgages with less than 10% down payment.
The commercial banks dominate the mortgage market, capturing over 80% of all mortgages issued. These lenders’ have been relatively conservative in their management of their mortgage portfolio. On average, the major banks have issued mortgages with an LTV between 65-70%, and , in addition, 50-60% of all mortgages are insured (Chart 1). For the industry as a whole, 3% of its total loan portfolio is in uninsured real estate in Alberta. In sum, there is a considerable buffer created by the banks and the insurers in the event of a sharp decline in housing prices. Both borrowers and lenders are reasonably able to maintain stability in the Canadian market.
⇧ Exposing the Libyan Agenda: A Closer Look at Hillary’s Emails | WEB OF DEBT BLOG
Qaddaffi was his own worst enemy. He had a huge mouth. If he had handled things correctly in terms of the very first protesters, President Obama never, never, never would have authorized any attacks against him.
What’s more, a gold standard for Africa was an extremely dumb idea and would not have worked well at all.
That said, it is certainly true that Qaddaffi had done many, many things right for the people. Even though he had his big mouth and mishandled the situation, he was mishandled by the Western powers. President Obama should have spoken with him directly and said the right things to calm the situation, just as President Obama should have with Assad in Syria.
⇧ Why I Choose to Invest in Condos & Townhomes Over Single Family Residences [With Example Analysis!]
I like this article by Tiffany Alexy. It’s written well. It’s simplified to make the key points without being too trimmed down. It states the major pros and cons.
Due diligence is key. What is the condo associations’ track record? Get all the condo legal documents in advance to pour over too. Don’t forget insurance in terms of making sure yours jibes with the association’s: that there aren’t gaps that could leave you hanging.
A strong association is better than a loose one with bad-management practices.
Also, screen and manage your tenants well so you’ll stay on the association’s good side.
⇧ 3 Common Pitfalls to Avoid During Your Rehab Projects
Pitfall #3: Skipping Out on Permits
That’s really common.
⇧ Canadian province Ontario plans to trial universal basic income | Americas | News | The Independent
“The basic income offers genuine social security to everyone and sweeps away most of the bureaucracy of the current welfare system,” Lucas told The Independent in January.
It’s a great idea that I’ve been backing since I can’t remember when.
It needs to be above the poverty line too by a substantial percentage. There should be an automatic COLA too. The money should be wired into each account at no cost. Everyone in the nation should have a free account with a debit card. Put together with universal single-payer health coverage and free tuition as long as the student is doing the work would go a long, long way to solving societal ills.
If we could have vastly more direct democracy to go with all of that, we’d be entering bliss. Well, not quite, but things would be much better for everyone.
People could really work and start businesses without so much fear. I think it would be a major boon if not undermined but truly supported.
People who aren’t used to having such funds should be offered help with financial management and such too.
⇧ Fake trade invoicing in China is back, this time to get money out of the country | Business Insider
… investors are now trying to get their capital out through non-traditional means, overstating the value of imported goods from Hong Kong to circumvent Chinese capital controls.
⇧ Exclusive: China to ease commercial banks’ bad debt burden via equity swaps – sources | Reuters
This is an attempt to buy time.
I’ll be amazed if it works.
⇧ Oil Prices Heading For A Fall, Possibly Hard | David Stockman’s Contra Corner
Oil prices should fall, possibly hard, in coming weeks. That is because fundamentals do not support the present price.
Prices should fall to around $30 once the empty nature of an OPEC-plus-Russia production freeze is understood. A return to the grim reality of over-supply and the weakness of the world economy could push prices well into the $20s.
⇧ Louisiana, Mississippi: Thousands of homes damaged in floods – The Washington Post [source updated]
Widespread flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi has damaged thousands of homes, and the risk of rising water prompted additional evacuations Sunday.
At least four deaths have been reported in Louisiana amid the flooding that began last week, and the National Guard has rescued nearly 3,300 residents.
⇧ Hiring boom: O.C. real estate bosses add the most workers in a decade – The Orange County Register
It’s not just Orange County home prices or office towers shooting toward the heavens these days. Local real estate bosses were in a hiring mood last year, adding the most workers to their payrolls in a decade.
I tossed new state employment data into my trusty spreadsheet and found that a broad collection of local real estate industries — from real estate sales and leasing to construction to building supply to lending to architecture to janitorial services — added a total of 13,058 jobs last year, a 5.9 percent jump, to 234,925 workers.
That’s the biggest yearly increase in the number of real estate workers since 2005.