(Laura Vecsey, former sports columnist and political writer, still writing after all these years, now often about real estate. Laura has written about the disparity of homes for young people starting out. That touched my wife and I who had jobs and our own home in our early 20s, because it was possible. Please read Laura's piece and and make comments on her site. GV.)
The odds are unfairly stacked against the next generation of our kids
NOV 3, 2022
I keep running the numbers, and looking at the markets, and taking into consideration the reality of being 60 with a 24-year-old daughter who makes minimum wage and is likely to never earn much more on top of that, and it only further confirms that nothing adds up, and nor will it ever.
I don’t think I’m alone. Hardly.
All around us, we see 20-something and even 30-something offspring whose jobs options, pay scales and housing needs keep them living at home, or bouncing back home when a roommate flames out or rental costs balloon beyond affordability.
It’s not news, yet it continues to be startling. The Federal Reserve is trying to cool home prices with its fourth consecutive jumbo rate hike. More listings are taking price reductions, fewer homeowners are opting to sell now that mortgage rates are over 7 percent.
A $300,000 home — which is now below the national median price! — is out of reach for first-time buyers, or any buyers with fixed incomes. That in turn pushes rents higher as more people compete for fewer options, which then pushes a lot of young people back home.
That makes what’s taking place a societal buzz kill as much as a financial wack job. Young people are stuck! Parents are stuck, or worried, or frustrated, or racking their brains trying to understand why kids these days talk about van life. If they haven’t exactly given up, they can see they’re being squeezed and left to hold the bag.
While there’s been great talk about the flexibility the pandemic caused since workers could go remote and relocate from affluent coastal cities for bigger homes in less pricey environs, I get the feeling that what we read about generally only scratches the surface of the repercussions we’re experiencing from so many cataclysmic events so close together.
Today, a real estate article in The New York Times makes plain what we already see.
“Historically, first-time buyers made up about 40 percent of the market. But the share of first-time buyers fell to 26 percent during the 12-month survey period, from July 2021 through June 2022, plummeting to the lowest level since the trade association began tracking such data in 1981,’’ reports Ronda Kaysen.
The headline was a little bracing, especially since it underscored the way the wealth of white Americans, particularly those around my age, is accelerating the inequity:
“Older, White and Wealthy Home Buyers Are Pushing Others Out of the Market”
I think I’ve been part of that equation, which is another startling thing to consider. In using our knowledge of real estate, and capitalizing on some ability to invest, and our willingness to move or act on good opportunities, Diane and I have been in markets where housing prices have risen 20 to 50 percent in a matter of three to five years.
Seattle. Baltimore. Long Island. Saratoga Springs. The past 20 years has been an explosion of housing wealth, the results of which are finally and dramatically squeezing the American Dream.
We considered it our good fortune to be able to use these “tools for wealth” if only to make sure we don’t have to eat cat food G-d willing we live to our actuarial table destination. But it’s all coming home to roost, so to speak.
We look out and see the devastating impact high housing costs has had on the lives of a lot of people, including the kids of our friends and families, including the increasing number of homeless people begging for food money on the corners of downtown Saratoga Springs.
Meanwhile, this small city continues to attract second and third home buyers who recognize it as a pocket of affluence. That reality only further compels people who can afford good things to aggregate here. Housing has always been a way to self-select your neighborhood, but the impact now is far more exclusionary.
That’s sad. That has an impact down to the way the next generations can be part of a community. Having your own home, regardless of how modest or grand it is, really is such an important part of separating from your parents; establishing yourself as an individual; setting up a nest for your own new tribe.
It’s the place where you embrace your own life, where you run it and pay for it and agonize over it and fix it and mow the lawn or change a lightbulb or learn how to cook better or …. everything! I can’t imagine my life being the same without the experience I had buying my first home.
My first home: A $73,500 Dutch colonial at 731 Hampton Ave. in Schenectady.
In 1988 or so, five years after graduating from college, I had moved to Albany and worked at the Times Union newspaper. After two years of renting up here, my partner and I decided to start looking at what we could afford, and where we wanted to be. Not the suburbs. Not in Albany. Not in Troy. We wanted urban but safe and walkable to stuff. Within weeks, we found a Dutch colonial house in the Upper Union section of Schenectady.
The house was two blocks to restaurants and shops, and right across the street from Central Park — a huge and lovely public park with a swimming pool, hiking trails, cookout grills, hills and paths and a rose garden. There were hardwoods and a formal dining room, a sunroom and a bright rear den behind French doors.
Three bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a level lot and detached garage. It was $75,000, and we paid $73,500, having borrowed $5,000 or $7,000 from my parents and using whatever cash I had to put down.
Over the few years we owned the place and lived there, I had such an incredible sense of security, of peace, not because things were smooth-sailing 100 percent of the time but I could always sit on my porch and read a book. I could go in the yard and rake the leaves. I could walk to the park or the library or the deli for lunch.
Mortgage rates were over 10 percent back then, so it’s not like the payment was “cheap.” But getting to own something as substantial as a handsome single-family home, and to have such a place to run my life … it was the demarcation point in my life that let me know: I was on my way.
To where? That is another question!
There have been many houses along the way. We were the kind of high-flying Americans riding the gravy train of the Web 2.0 wave and tech surge to this place we’re all at now — a place where there’s scant little middle ground left between wealth, or at least financial stability, and the cliff people are either falling off or can never climb.
It all seems to have pitted us into another division. People who can have their own home, or homes. And people who never will. Unaffordable. Unfair.
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© 2022 laura vecsey
548 Market Street PMB 72296, San Francisco, CA 94104
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.