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Bedford Hills NY Homes for Sale

Pending sales up 6% | Bedford Hills Real Estate

Strong demand pushed home prices up 14% from a year earlier.

Strong home buying demand continued through the end of August, with pending sales up 6% from a year earlier, even as new listings of homes for sale fell 7% from 2020 levels. Measures of competition, such as the share of homes sold above list price and the number of homes sold in two weeks, are continuing to soften. Still, home prices remain high, up 14% from the same time a year ago.

“More homes were listed this summer, but they were quickly snatched up by home buyers even as bidding wars have become more rare,” said Redfin Lead Economist Taylor Marr. “The market hasn’t cooled off any further than it usually does this time of year, and we expect home buying demand to remain strong through the fall.”

Key housing market takeaways for 400+ U.S. metro areas:

Unless otherwise noted, the data in this report covers the four-week period ending September 5. Redfin’s housing market data goes back through 2012.

Data based on homes listed and/or sold during the period:

  • The median home-sale price increased 14% year over year to $358,250.
  • Asking prices of newly listed homes were up 10% from the same time a year ago to a median of $353,500, on par with where asking prices were in late April. This was down 2% from the all-time high set during the four-week period ending June 27.
  • Pending home sales were up 6% year over year, but down 9% from their 2021 peak hit during the four-week period ending May 30.
  • New listings of homes for sale were down 7% from a year earlier. The number of homes being listed is in a typical seasonal decline, down 16% from the 2021 peak reached during the four-week period ending June 27.
  • Active listings (the number of homes listed for sale at any point during the period) fell 23% from 2020. Active listings were up 14% from their 2021 low set during the four-week period ending March 7, but have declined 3% from their 2021 peak hit during the four-week period ending August 8.
  • 47% of homes that went under contract had an accepted offer within the first two weeks on the market, above the 43% rate of a year earlier, but down 9 percentage points from the 2021 peak set during the four-week period ending March 28.
  • 34% of homes that went under contract had an accepted offer within one week of hitting the market, up from 31% during the same period a year earlier, but down 9 percentage points from the 2021 peak reached during the four-week period ending March 28.
  • Homes that sold were on the market for a median of 19 days, up from the all-time low of 15 days seen in late June and July, and down from 33 days a year earlier.
  • 50% of homes sold above list price, up from 33% a year earlier. This measure has been falling since the four-week period ending July 11, when it peaked at 55%.
  • On average, 4.9% of homes for sale each week had a price drop, up 0.8 percentage points from the same time in 2020, and the highest level since the four-week period ending October 13, 2019.
  • The average sale-to-list price ratio, which measures how close homes are selling to their asking prices, decreased to 101.4%. In other words, the average home sold for 1.4% above its asking price. This measure was down 0.9 percentage points from its peak hit during the four-week period ending July 11 and up 2.1 percentage points from a year earlier.

Other leading indicators of homebuying activity:

Refer to our metrics definition page for explanations of all the metrics used in this report.

Home Sale Prices Up 14% From 2020
Asking Prices on New Listings Up 10% From 2020
Pending Sales Up 6% From 2020
New Listings of Homes Down 7% From 2020
Active Listings of Homes For Sale Down 23% From 2020
47% of Pending Sales Under Contract Within Two Weeks
34% of Pending Sales Under Contract Within One Week
Days on Market Inches Up
Over Half of Homes Sold Above List Price
5% of Listings Had Price Drops
Sale-to-List Price Ratio Drops Further Below 102%
Redfin Homebuyer Demand Index Up 19% From 2020

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redfin.com/news/housing-market

Housing affordability index | Bedford Hills Real Estate

As described in a previous post, NAHB’s recently released its 2021 Priced-Out Estimates, showing that 75.1 million households are not able to afford a median priced new home, and that an additional 153,967 would be priced out if the price goes up by $1,000. This post focuses on the related U.S. housing affordability pyramid, showing how many households have enough income to afford homes at various price thresholds.

The pyramid uses the same standard underwriting criterion as the priced-out estimates to determine affordability: that the sum of mortgage payments, property taxes, homeowners and private mortgage insurance premiums should be no more than 28% of the household income.  Based on this, the minimum income required to purchase a $100,000 home is $22,505. In 2021, about 21.1 million households in the U.S. are estimated to have incomes at or below that threshold and, therefore, the maximum priced home they can afford is between $0 and $100,000. These 21.1 million households form the bottom step or base of the pyramid. Another 19.0 million can only afford to pay a top price of somewhere between $100,000 and $175,000 (the second step on the pyramid), and so on up the pyramid. Each step represents a maximum affordable price range for fewer and fewer households.

The top step of the pyramid shows that around 3 million households can buy a home priced above 1.55 million. These comparatively wealthy Americans and the high-end homes they can afford are interesting, but market analysts should never only focus on them to the exclusion of the larger number of Americans with more modest incomes that support the pyramid’s base.

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eyeonhousing.org

Home prices up 15%, sales up 26% | Bedford Hills Real Estate

Fueled by record-low mortgage rates and strong demand, existing home sales, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), rose for a fifth consecutive month in October and reached its highest level in almost 15 years.

Total existing home sales, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 4.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.85 million in October, the highest level since November 2005. On a year-over-year basis, sales were 26.6% higher than a year ago.

The first-time buyer share increased to 32% in October from 31% both last month and a year ago. However, price gains threaten this share in the future. The October inventory level fell to 1.42 million units from 1.46 million units in September and is down from 1.77 million units a year ago.

At the current sales rate, the October unsold inventory represents an all-time low 2.5-month supply, down from 2.7-month in September and 3.9-month a year ago. This low level supply of resale homes is good news for home construction.

Homes stayed on the market for an average of just 21 days in October, an all-time low, seasonally even with last month and down from 36 days a year ago. In October, 72% of homes sold were on the market for less than a month.

The October all-cash sales share was 19% of transactions, up from 18% last month but unchanged from a year ago.

Tight supply continues to push up home prices. The October median sales price of all existing homes was $313,000, up 15.5% from a year ago, representing the 104th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The median existing condominium/co-op price of $273,600 in October was up 10.3% from a year ago.

Regionally, all four regions saw month-over-month gains for existing home sales in October, ranging from 1.4% in the West to 8.6% in the Midwest. On a year-over-year basis, sales grew in all four regions as well, with the Northeast seeing the greatest gain (30.4%).

Though sales have flourished and demand remains strong due to low mortgage rates, the imbalance between housing supply and demand could hamper future sales by driving up home prices and restraining affordability. Though builder confidence soared to all-time high and housing starts at highest pace since the spring of 2007, more listings and home construction are still needed to meet this rising demand.

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eyeonhousing.org/2020/11/

Corelogic home prices up 5.5% | Bedford Hills Real Estate

  • Nationally, home prices in July were 5.5% higher than in 2019. That is a marked increase from the 4.3% annual gain seen in June, according to CoreLogic.
  • The average rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage fell below 3% for the first time even in July, giving buyers additional purchasing power.

Exceptionally strong demand, historically low supply and record low mortgage rates are combining to fuel the fastest home price growth since 2018.

Nationally, home prices in July were 5.5% higher than in 2019. That is a marked increase from the 4.3% annual gain seen in June, according to CoreLogic.

Falling mortgage rates helped bolster the pent-up demand from spring, when home sales ground to a halt due to the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The average rate on the popular 30-year fixed fell below 3% for the first time even in July, giving buyers additional purchasing power.

Prospective buyers visit an open house for sale in Alexandria, Virginia.

Prospective buyers visit an open house for sale in Alexandria, Virginia

“Lower-priced homes are sought after and have had faster annual price growth than luxury homes,” said Frank Nothaft, CoreLogic’s chief economist. “First-time buyers and investors are actively seeking lower-priced homes, and that segment of the housing market is in particularly short supply.”

The inventory of homes priced under $100,000 was down 32% annually in July, according to the National Association of Realtors. Compare that with the supply of homes priced at $500,000 to $750,000, which was down just 9%.

Of course, all real estate is local, and especially so now as the pandemic is hitting some markets harder than others. Homebuying is gaining significant strength in more affordable suburban and rural areas as buyers seek more space for the new work-and-school-at-home economy. CoreLogic cites Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, New York, where home prices jumped 4.3% annually in July, likely due in part to urban flight from New York City. Prices in the New York metropolitan area rose just 0.4%.

Home prices in San Francisco were also less than 1% higher annually, compared with the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, which saw prices up over 5%. There is much less flight from the D.C. area than from San Francisco, as tech workers, who can now work from anywhere, leave the latter in search of more affordable homes.WATCH NOWVIDEO02:36Number of evictions set to rise as moratorium expires in 30 states

Economists at CoreLogic predict that homes will stay positive in 2021, but that the gains will weaken, as the initial surge of pandemic buying wanes. Certain markets particularly hard hit by the pandemic could suffer the most. Las Vegas and Miami are notable examples because their economies rely heavily on tourism and entertainment.  

There is also concern that as various mortgage bailout programs begin to expire, there will be a surge in sales of distressed homes. While the market will likely absorb these homes quickly, given the current housing shortage, the additional supply will take some of the heat out of home prices.

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https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/01/home-prices-suddenly-see-biggest-gains-in-2-years.html

Pending sales up 16.6% | Bedford Hills Real Estate

Pending home sales soared again in June, although the liftoff was relatively shallow compared to the 43 percent increase in May. The National Association of Realtors’® (NAR’s) Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI). The index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts to purchase existing homes, rose 16.6 percent compared to May, and increased year-over-year by 6.3 percent. The index is now at 116.1.

The two months of improving activity have brought the index back from its April level of 69.0 where it landed after falling by more than 20 percent in both that month and in March as much of the nation was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The gains were above even the best guesses by analysts polled by Econoday. Their predictions ranged from a 10 percent downturn to gains of 15.6 percent. The consensus was an increase of 5.2 percent.

Lawrence Yun, cheif economist says, “Consumers are taking advantage of record-low mortgage rates resulting from the Federal Reserve’s maximum liquidity monetary policy.”

In light of the apparent housing market turnaround, NAR has raised its forecast for the home sales market. For all of 2020, existing-home sales are expected to decline by only 3 percent and should be at an annual rate of 5.6 million by the fourth quarter. The same percentage increase is expected for new home sales.

Yun says he expects that the GDP will grow 4.0 percent in 2021 and that, along with mortgage rates that are anticipated to stay at near 3 percent over the next 18 months, should boost home sales. He projects a 7 percent growth in existing sales and 16 percent in new home sales in 2021. Home prices will likely appreciate 4 percent this year then moderate to 3 percent next year as more new supply comes to market.

Each of the four major regions experienced a second month of growth in month-over-month pending home sales transactions. The Northeast, which saw a 54.4 percent gain from May was the only region that did not move higher on an annual basis. Its PHSI is now at 95.4, down 0.9 percent from June 2019.

Pending home sales in the South increased 11.9 percent to an index of 140.3, 10.3 percent above a year earlier. The index in the West improved by 11.7 percent to 99.6, a 4.7 percent annual gain.

“The Northeast’s strong bounce back comes after a lengthier lockdown, while the South has consistently outperformed the rest of the country,” Yun said. “These remarkable rebounds speak to exceptionally high buyer demand.”

Yun says that as house hunters seek homes away from bigger cites – likely to avoid the coronavirus – properties that were once an afterthought for potential buyers are now growing in popularity.

“While the outlook is promising, sharply rising lumber prices are concerning,” Yun said. “A reduction in tariffs – even if temporary – would help increase home building and thereby spur faster economic growth.”

The PHSI is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months. Existing-Home Sales for July will be reported August 21.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined. By coincidence, the volume of existing-home sales in 2001 fell within the range of 5.0 to 5.5 million, which is considered normal for the current U.S. population.

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http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/07292020_pending_sales.asp

5 reasons to get your mortgage application rejected | Bedford Hills Real Estate

mortgage-application-crumpled
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Picture this nightmare: You apply for a mortgage, but your application gets rejected. Suddenly, you’re hit with an overwhelming wave of embarrassment, shock, and horror. It’s like having your credit card denied at the Shoprite. So. Much. Shame.

Sadly, this is a reality for some home buyers. According to a recent Federal Reserve study, one out of every eight home loan applications (12%) ends in a rejection.

There are a number of reasons mortgage applications get denied‚ and the saddest part is that many could have been avoided quite easily, had only the applicants known certain things were no-nos. So, before you’re the next home buyer who gets burned by sheer ignorance, scan this list, and make sure you aren’t making any of these five grave mistakes, which could land your mortgage application in the “no” pile.

1. You didn’t use credit cards enough

Some people think credit card debt is the kiss of death … but guess what? It’s also a way to establish a credit history that shows you’ve got a solid track record paying off past debts.

While a poor credit history riddled with late payments can certainly call your application into question, it’s just as bad, and perhaps worse, to have little or no credit history at all. Most lenders are reluctant to fork over money to individuals without substantial credit history. It’s as if you’re a ghost: Who’s to say you won’t disappear?

Get Pre-ApprovedFind a lender who can offer competitive mortgage rates and help you with pre-approval.Enter the ZIP code where you plan to buy a homeGO

According to a recent report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, roughly 45 million Americans are characterized as “credit invisible”—which means they don’t have a credit report on file with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

There’s a silver lining, though, for those who don’t have credit established. Some lenders will use alternative data, such as rent payments, cellphone bills, and school tuition, to assess your credit worthiness, says Staci Titsworth, a regional manager at PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh.

2. You opened new credit cards recently

That Macy’s credit card you signed up for last month? Bad idea. New credit card applications can ding your credit score by up to five points, says Beverly Harzog, a consumer credit expert and author of “The Debt Escape Plan.”

That hit might seem minuscule, but if you’re on the cusp of qualifying for a mortgage, your new credit card could cause your loan application to be denied by a lender. So, the lesson is simple: Don’t open new credit cards right before you apply for a mortgage—and, even if your lender says things look good, don’t open any new cards or spend oodles of money (on, say, furniture) until after you’ve moved in. After all, lenders can yank your loan up until the last minute if they suspect anything fishy, and hey, better safe than sorry.

3. You missed a medical bill

Credit cards aren’t the only debt that count with a mortgage application—unpaid medical bills matter, too. When you default on medical bills, your doctor’s office or hospital is likely to outsource it to a debt collection agency, says independent credit expert John Ulzheimer. The debt collector may then decide to notify the credit bureaus that you’re overdue on your medical payments, which would place a black mark on your credit report. That’s a red flag to mortgage lenders.

If you can pay off your medical debt in full, do it. Can’t foot the bill? Many doctors and hospitals will work with you to create a payment plan, says Gerri Detweiler, head of market education at Nav.com, which helps small-business owners manage their credit. Showing a mortgage lender that you’re working to repay the debt could strengthen your application.

4. You changed jobs

So you changed jobs recently—so what? Problem is, mortgage lenders like to see at least two years of consistent income history when approving a loan. As a result, changing jobs shortly before you apply for a mortgage can hurt your application.

Of course, you don’t always have control over your employment. For instance, if you were recently laid off by your employer, finding a new job would certainly be more important than buying a house. But if you’re gainfully employed and just considering changing jobs, you’ll want to wait until after you close on a house so that your mortgage gets approved.

5. You lied on your loan application

This one seems painfully obvious, but let’s face it—while it may be tempting to think that lenders don’t know everything about you financially, they really do their homework well! So no matter what, be honest with your lender—or there could be serious repercussions. Exaggerating or lying about your income on a mortgage application, or including any other other untruths, can be a federal offense. It’s called mortgage fraud, and it’s not something you want on your record.

Bottom line? With mortgages, honesty really is the best policy.

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https://www.realtor.com/advice/finance/

Building materials prices drop 6.6% Bedford Hills Real Estate

Prices paid for goods used in residential construction decreased 4.1% in April (not seasonally adjusted)—the largest monthly decline on record—according to the latest Producer Price Index (PPI) report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The year-to-date decline (-5.4%) in residential construction inputs prices is more than three times larger than the previous record (-1.3% in 2009).

Building materials prices have fallen 6.6% since April 2019 by -0.6% per month, on average. In contrast, prices increased 0.2% per month, on average, from April 2018 to April 2019. The index now stands at its lowest level since August 2017.

Prices paid for gypsum products decreased 1.3% in April (seasonally adjusted) after climbing 2.2% in March. The price index for gypsum products has decreased 4.4% in 2020 and has fallen 9.5% since its most recent peak in March 2018.

Gypsum product prices have declined 4.4% YTD, the largest January-to-April decrease since seasonally adjusted data became available in 2012.

Although the PPI report shows that softwood lumber prices declined 10.8% (seasonally adjusted) in April, the decrease is at odds with recent prices reported by Random Lengths.  According to their weekly data, prices fell a more modest 2.7% over the month.

The discrepancy between the BLS and Random Lengths data stems from known differences in survey timing.  We anticipated this in last month’s PPI post, in which we stated that the decline over the last 10 days of March “should be captured in next month’s PPI report.”

Prices paid for ready-mix concrete (RMC) decreased 0.4% in April (seasonally adjusted), following a 0.7% increase in March. The RMC index has increased 1.1% year-to-date (YTD), which is close to the historical average YTD price change in April.

Prices were little changed from March to April in the Northeast (unchanged), Midwest (-0.2%), and South (-0.1%), but increased 1.9% in the West region (not seasonally adjusted). Since the beginning of 2020, RMC prices have decreased 3.2% in the Midwest but have climbed 5.0%, 1.1%, and 0.5% in the South, West, and Northeast, respectively.

Other changes in indexes relevant to home building are shown below.

in April (not seasonally adjusted)—the largest monthly decline on record—according to the latest Producer Price Index (PPI) report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The year-to-date decline (-5.4%) in residential construction inputs prices is more than three times larger than the previous record (-1.3% in 2009).

Building materials prices have fallen 6.6% since April 2019 by -0.6% per month, on average. In contrast, prices increased 0.2% per month, on average, from April 2018 to April 2019. The index now stands at its lowest level since August 2017.

Prices paid for gypsum products decreased 1.3% in April (seasonally adjusted) after climbing 2.2% in March. The price index for gypsum products has decreased 4.4% in 2020 and has fallen 9.5% since its most recent peak in March 2018.

Gypsum product prices have declined 4.4% YTD, the largest January-to-April decrease since seasonally adjusted data became available in 2012.

Although the PPI report shows that softwood lumber prices declined 10.8% (seasonally adjusted) in April, the decrease is at odds with recent prices reported by Random Lengths.  According to their weekly data, prices fell a more modest 2.7% over the month.

The discrepancy between the BLS and Random Lengths data stems from known differences in survey timing.  We anticipated this in last month’s PPI post, in which we stated that the decline over the last 10 days of March “should be captured in next month’s PPI report.”

Prices paid for ready-mix concrete (RMC) decreased 0.4% in April (seasonally adjusted), following a 0.7% increase in March. The RMC index has increased 1.1% year-to-date (YTD), which is close to the historical average YTD price change in April.

Prices were little changed from March to April in the Northeast (unchanged), Midwest (-0.2%), and South (-0.1%), but increased 1.9% in the West region (not seasonally adjusted). Since the beginning of 2020, RMC prices have decreased 3.2% in the Midwest but have climbed 5.0%, 1.1%, and 0.5% in the South, West, and Northeast, respectively.

Other changes in indexes relevant to home building are shown below.

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eyeonhousing.org

Mortgage rates average 3.33% | Bedford Hills Real Estate

Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.33 percent, unchanged from last week.

“While mortgage rates remained flat over the last week, there is room for rates to move down,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. “This year the 10-year Treasury market has declined by over a full percentage point, yet mortgage rates have only declined by one-third of a point. As financial markets continue to heal, we expect mortgage rates will drift lower in the second half of 2020.”

News Facts

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.33 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending April 9, 2020, unchanged from last week. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.12 percent. 
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.77 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.82 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.60 percent. 
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.40 percent with an average 0.3 point, unchanged from last week. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.80 percent.

Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

Nahb polling numbers for Covid week 2 | Bedford Hills Real Estate

The second week of NAHB’s online poll showed that several of the coronavirus’s impacts on the residential construction industry have become more widespread and severe.  Once again, traffic ranked as the most widespread problem, with 93 percent of respondents saying the coronavirus has had an adverse impact on traffic of prospective buyers.

This result is based on 318 responses collected online between March 24 and March 30.  As in week 1, the largest share of responses came from single-family home builders; and respondents were most often owner, president or CEO of their companies.  The geographic distribution was somewhat different in week 2, however, with a greater share of responses coming from the Northeast and West Census regions.

The week 2 poll listed eight possible impacts of the coronavirus and asked if each has so far had a major, minor, or no adverse effect on respondents’ businesses.  After traffic, 89 percent of respondents for whom the item was applicable said the virus was having a noticeable, adverse impact on homeowners’ concerns about interacting with remodeling crews, followed by the rate at which inquiries for remodeling work are coming in (86 percent), cancellations or delays of existing remodeling projects (82 percent), how long it takes to obtain a plan review for a typical single-family home (80 percent), and how long it takes the local building department to respond to a request for an inspection (78 percent).  The least common problems on the list were supply of building products and materials and willingness of workers and subs to report to a construction site, but even these were cited as a virus-induced problem by over three-fifths of the respondents.

Five of these problems were also covered in week 1 of the poll.  Four clearly worsened in week 2.  For example, the 80 percent of respondents who said the virus has had an adverse impact on how long it takes to obtain a plan review for a single-family home was up from 57 percent a week earlier.  Comparisons across weeks should be interpreted cautiously, due primarily to differences in the geographic distribution of responses.  In this case, however, the percentage increased significantly in each of the four Census regions.

Similarly, the 78 percent who said the virus has had an adverse impact on how long it takes the local building department to respond to a request for an inspection was up from 50 percent a week earlier.  Again, the increase was present and significant in each of the four regions.

As mentioned above, problems with willingness of workers and subs to report to a construction site were less widespread than the other items on the list, but the 64 percent who cited it as a virus-induced problem in week 2 was nevertheless up from 42 percent a week earlier.  Again, the rising trend was consistent across regions.

Even a decline in the traffic of prospective buyers, the most widespread problem in week 1 of the poll, was more widespread in week 2.  The incidence of the problem increased in every region except the Northeast.  The Northeast, however, showed a marked increase (from 57 to 73 percent) in the share reporting that the virus had a major, rather than minor, adverse impact on traffic.

The trend was not completely consistent across regions for the fifth item present in both weeks of the poll: supply of building products and materials.  Although the overall share reporting this as a virus-induced problem was up, this was primarily due to a particularly strong increase (from 45 to 74 percent) in the Midwest.  For additional details—including tables for each question broken down by respondents’ region, primary business, and position in the company—please see the full survey report.

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eyeonhousing.org

America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus | Bedford Hills Real Estate

As COVID-19 (or the coronavirus) spreads and Americans prepare for potential quarantines, public health officials have recommended some advice for U.S. households: Namely, stock up two weeks of supplies, avoid crowds, and stay in your homes.

And that advice is fine for middle-class suburbanites with white-collar jobs. Sure, hop in the SUV and drive to the nearest Costco. Stash extra cases of canned beans in the pantry and frozen veggies in the basement freezer. Kids can hang out in their separate bedrooms or play in the backyard while parents conduct conference calls from the home office.

Of course, for people who lack these residential resources—especially those with unstable, crowded, or poor-quality housing—this situation is impossible. Not to mention the fact that workers in fields such as food service, retail, and hospitality can’t conduct their work remotely. In the face of a global pandemic, what are these Americans supposed to do?

Workers in fields such as food service, retail, and hospitality can’t conduct their work remotely. In the face of a global pandemic, what are these Americans supposed to do?

“SHELTERING AT HOME” REQUIRES GOOD HOUSING

The people who will have trouble “sheltering at home” are already among the most vulnerable populations. Estimating how many people will be affected is tricky, because these are also the most difficult populations for the Census Bureau to count. But we can predict which types of housing situations will create the greatest barriers.

Homeless persons. More than 500,000 people across the U.S. are homeless, roughly 40% of whom are unsheltered (living on streets, parks, and other open spaces). The remaining 60% live in temporary homes, including cars, shelters, or doubled-up with family. In a recent Curbed piece, Alissa Walker described the many challenges that homeless individuals face in trying to protect themselves from COVID-19, including hand-washing and storing food, which are critical obstacles.

Unaffordable or unstable housing. The poorest 20% of U.S. households spend more than half their monthly income on rent. Any loss of income—say, food service workers having their hours reduced as fewer people patronize restaurants—will put these households behind on their rent, increasing their risk of becoming homeless.

Group quarters. Some of the first U.S. fatalities from COVID-19 occurred in a nursing home outside Seattle. Contagious diseases spread rapidly in these types of group quarters, with residents living in close contact, sharing bathrooms, and eating together. Nearly 4 million Americans live in institutional group quarters such as nursing homes and correctional facilities. Another 4 million live in noninstitutional facilities, including college dorms, military barracks, and group foster homes. While colleges and universities can close dorms to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, that’s not an option for nursing homes or prisons.

Overcrowded households. Keeping the recommended 6-foot distance between people is tough for households with too many people crammed into too small of a space. Nationally, a very small share of households are overcrowded (more than two persons per bedroom). But the incidence varies substantially across population groups and cities: Nearly 15% of households with children living in high-cost metro areas are overcrowded. And even single-person households in small studio apartments or “tiny homes” will have difficulty storing extra supplies.

Unsafe, unhealthy housing. Even in the absence of contagious diseases, low-income households are more likely to live in housing that damages their health: mold and pest infestations that exacerbate asthma, for example, or lead paint and other toxic substances that harm children’s neurological development. We have virtually no data on how many people live in informal, unregulated housing, which is often ignored by local governments until disaster strikes.

TO PREPARE, PEOPLE NEED MONEY, WELL-STOCKED STORES, AND RELIABLE TRANSPORTATION

Low-wage workers who live paycheck to paycheck will be hard pressed to come up with the funds to buy two weeks of supplies in advance. Neighborhood resources matter too: Low-income urban neighborhoods have few large supermarkets or big box stores within easy reach. The corner stores and bodegas that many people rely on for supplies only carry small portions, and bulk buying from these stores isn’t just less convenient, it’s more expensive: The per-unit cost of one toilet paper roll is higher than buying a large package. Riding the bus home with a few days’ worth of groceries is one thing. Lugging home two weeks’ worth of rice, dried beans, and canned goods is another.

GIVING PEOPLE MONEY—QUICKLY—WOULD HELP. BUT IT’S NOT THE WHOLE SOLUTION.

For households who lack resources, giving people money as quickly and directly as possible would help. Short-term financial assistance would help poor families continue paying rent and buying food until the broader economy stabilizes. It would be more effective than a temporary moratorium on evictions (as some jurisdictions have enacted), since landlords also need money to pay their mortgages, property taxes, and utilities. Banks offering to allow borrowers more time on their mortgages could help homeowners as well as landlords—but the bigger concern is renter households, who have lower incomes and smaller savings.

For far too long, policymakers at all levels of government have failed to provide decent-quality, stable, and affordable housing to millions of Americans. In COVID-19, we’re only starting to see the devastating consequences of that failure.

Many of the other problems will be harder to address. To reach homeless populations, local governments will need not just money but trained staff, portable bathrooms, and modular housing. The short-term housing solutions we often use in the aftermath of natural disasters—gathering displaced people into large facilities such as gyms or convention centers—are not advisable during contagious disease outbreaks.

For far too long, policymakers at all levels of government have failed to provide decent-quality, stable, and affordable housing to millions of Americans. In COVID-19, we’re only starting to see the devastating consequences of that failure.

Sarah Crump provided excellent research assistance for this post.

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