The data point to a recovery leaving some behind
More lawmakers tackle rise of wage-theft complaints
While the recession begins to end for most people, that recovery train leaves others behind at the station. Want to do something about it? Vote for the People’s Book at the end of this article. We trim, blend, and append five 2009 articles from: (1) Associated Press, Aug 13, on foreclosures by Alan Zibel; (2) USA Today, Aug 13, on home sales by Stephanie Armour; (3) the Christian Science Monitor, Aug 12, on home prices by Laurent Belsie; (4) Reuters, Aug 18, on housing starts by Lucia Mutikani; and (5) USA Today, Aug 17, on wage-theft by Emily Bazar.
by A. Zibel, by S. Armour, by L. Belsie, by L. Mutikani, and by E. Bazar
Foreclosures rise 7% in July from June
The number of US households on the verge of losing their homes rose 7% from June to July. Foreclosure filings were up 32% from the same month last year. More than 360,000 households -- one in every 355 homes -- received a notice of default or trustee's sale. That's the highest monthly level since RealtyTrac began publishing the data more than four years ago.
Banks repossessed more than 87,000 homes in July, up from about 79,000 homes a month earlier.
Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate for the 31st-straight month, followed by California, Arizona, Florida, and Utah. Rounding out the top 10 were Idaho, Georgia, Illinois, Colorado and Oregon. Among cities, Las Vegas had the highest rate, followed by the California cities of Stockton and Modesto.
Foreclosures are typically sold at a deep discount, lowering neighbors' home values.
JJS: Thus lowering “home” values -- actually land prices -- back to normal.
Rising foreclosures drop prices
Home sales rose in most of the country in the second quarter compared with the first, a trend driven by falling prices as foreclosures continue to escalate, lower interest rates, and a tax credit for first-time home buyers.
Existing home sales rose 3.8%. That is still 2.9% below the second quarter of 2008.
So prices on existing homes continue to fall. The national median price for single-family homes was $174,100 in the quarter, which is 15.6% lower than during the same period last year.
The largest sales gain between the first and second quarters was in Idaho, up 67.5%, followed by Hawaii, up 24.2%. New York was up 22.3% and Wisconsin's sales rose 21.7%.
JJS: The above prices are averages, so they include the places that have not been so popular, where prices have stayed affordable, places outsiders now turn to.
Home prices at record highs in six US cities
In the second quarter, 26 of 155 metro areas (towns, not cities) saw price gains from the same quarter a year ago. Davenport, Iowa, saw a 31% rise to a $113,200 median price. Cumberland, Md., was up 22% to $123,500.
Averaging the last four quarters of prices, median home prices in Cumberland and five other metro areas now stand at their highest levels ever. The other five are Amarillo ($125,000), Beaumont ($132,500), Bismarck ($155,500), Buffalo ($108,700), and Shreveport ($140,600).
JJS: While higher prices are bad news for buyers and entrepreneurs, it does seem like the housing cycle is turning, that land prices are nearing bottom.
US housing starts keep recovery hopes alive
Ground-breaking for new US single-family homes rose for a fifth straight month, 1.7% from June to July, and producer prices tumbled.
But a 13.3% drop in new multifamily home projects pushed overall housing starts down 1% last month after two months of gains.
The housing market is the main culprit behind the worst US economic downturn in 70 years (that started 2007 December). Compared to July last year, housing starts were down 37.7%, a reminder of how sharply the market had contracted.
Permits for new building fell 1.8% in July from a month earlier to stand 39.4% below their year-ago level.
However, permits for single-family homebuilding were up 5.8% in July, a fourth straight monthly gain.
Meanwhile, government deficit spending for bailouts has not yet worsened inflation. The producer price index, which measures prices received by US farms, factories, and refineries, fell 0.9% last month after a 1.8% gain in June. Compared with the same period last year, the producer price index was down 6.8%.
JJS: The falling costs surely reflect reduced consumer demand, since many people have lost their jobs, making them vulnerable to unscrupulous contractors.
More lawmakers tackle rise of wage-theft complaints
At South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, at least 20 people report wage theft each week, three times as many as a year ago.
A June report by the Government Accountability Office criticized the Labor Department's enforcement of wage-theft complaints, calling its investigations "ineffective" and "often delayed by months or years."
In response, Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat, co-authored a bill last month that would freeze the statute of limitations on wage-theft claims during investigations, giving workers time to pursue options such as lawsuits.
In New Orleans, Luz Molina, a professor at Loyola College of Law there, is working with City Council President Arnie Fielkow on an ordinance that Fielkow says is likely to make wage theft a crime, not a civil matter.
JJS: There’s a word for stealing labor -- slavery. While some places have part-time slavery, most places have full-time wage slavery. The solution? An extra income apart from wages, one from land, from sites and resources, even the EM spectrum. Receiving the cushion, people can negotiate secure jobs and wages.
To bring about the days of justice sooner, consider investigating this book, The Secret Life of Real Estate, nominated for the UK's People's Book prize. To see how Sky business news highlighted Secret Life this month, visit click here. The video should play after the advert. Feedback welcome. If you like, you can even vote for the book. You don't have to be based in the UK. It's easy and only takes less than a minute at click here. Once there, click on the book cover, then follow the instructions. One week left to vote.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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