Unaffordable Housing: Minimum Wage Won’t Put a Roof Over Your Head

Any list of basic necessities includes shelter—a roof over your head. But roofs, it turns out, are really expensive. In 2017, the federal minimum wage remains just $7.25/hour, although some states have gone as high as $11.50/hour. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s 2017 Out of Reach report, you’ll need to put in at least 51 hours at minimum wage in order to afford a one-bedroom apartment in South Dakota, the cheapest state.

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Read This Blog: Speak for We

At Speak for We, housing advocate Michael Dahl writes passionately about Minnesota and national housing issues. I’ve known Michael since he was Executive Director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, and worked with him while he was Public Policy Director at HOME Line. He is a true advocate for the homeless and for affordable housing, and Speak for We is his outlet.

When Michael left HOME Line, he started Speak for We as a way to get his message out to a larger community. In addition to writing about housing, homelessness, and advocacy, Michael maintains “Hashtag Central” to monitor social justice conversations on Twitter, and his “Talk About Home” video project includes interviews of people on the street, advocates, and community leaders.

Check it out.

Housing Voucher Recipients Take Over the Suburbs

As evidence of the “suburbanization of poverty,” the Brookings Institution reports that the almost half of housing voucher recipients shifted from cities to suburbs from 2000 to 2008. This major demographic shift is a good indication that the poor have followed the relatively-affluent middle class to the ‘burbs en masse.

The shift has probably grown more dramatic since 2008, according to the Freakonomics blog, since many suburban dwellers wound up underwater on their mortgages as a result of the subprime meltdown—and in need of vouchers to pay for housing.

Housing vouchers are basically just a check that can be used towards rent. Vouchers are available to eligible low-income renters, although there is a waiting list to get into the program.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/1958908364/)

One Solution to Robo-Signing: De-fund Legal Aid’s Foreclosure Defense Attorneys

It turns out that a lot of mortgage servicers haven’t been taking legal process very seriously. Robo-signers are employees whose jobs are to sign their name to as many affidavits as possible without reading them, and robo-signing is all the rage among mortgage servicers these days.

Instead of acknowledging that the mortgage industry created this economic and legal disaster, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wants to blame the Legal Aid attorneys who discovered it was happening.

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Help Keep HOME Line Running!

To raise money for its operating costs, HOME Line is keeping a treadmill turning for at least two days and two nights. You can watch all the Treadmill-A-Thon action on HOME Line’s live feed:

I will be keeping the treadmill turning from 3-4 CDT today. Or trying, anyway. If you want me to go faster, help me get closer to my goal of $3,000!

Here is why I am proud to be a part of HOME Line’s board of directors, why I donated, and why you should, too:

This year, HOME Line led the effort to pass the Tenants’ Bill of Rights, the most important tenants’ rights legislation in years. It also fielded thousands of calls, prevented dozens of evictions, and helped tenants get hundreds of thousands of dollars in security deposits and rent abatement–all for FREE!

But it takes money to keep the phones live, the volunteers fed, and the staff paid.

Every non-profit is feeling the effects of the economy, but only a few have such a direct and meaningful effect on Minnesota. HOME Line needs your help.

I am proud to be a part of HOME Line’s board of directors, and I want to see it succeed for many many more years. Please help us out by donating.

Sam’s Mo’ Money, No Problems Treadmill-A-Thon

U.S. consumer spending visualized

Produce the note!

Sometimes the court system actually works. The AP has an interesting article on homeowners who are forcing lenders to <gasp> produce the note—the proof the lender issued a mortgage. Apparently some people are having some success in delaying or stopping foreclosure by simply asking whomever is trying to foreclose to produce the original mortgage note. In these days of selling and reselling mortgages paperwork tends to get lost, so how does one prove they have the right to foreclose on anything?

I don’t know how good a strategy this really is and it likely would take a sympathetic judge, but hey it can’t hurt to ask!

Homeowners’ rallying cry: Produce the note | AP

Speculators owned 60% of Florida county’s foreclosures

Buried in an article about the “rocket docket” in Fort Myers, Florida is this quote:

Sixty percent of the cases handled here involve homeowners who were speculators and out-of-towners. They don’t bother showing up for the court hearing, so the process is quick, and many are handled in seconds.

I assume that figure is higher, in part, because Fort Myers is a popular place to buy a second (or third or fourth) home for vacationing. I don’t think many people are buying vacation homes in North Minneapolis.

Still, that figure does show just how inflated the housing bubble was before it popped.

As foreclosures mount, Florida court turns to ‘rocket docket’ | CNN

Senate votes to re-inflate the housing bubble

The Senate has approved an addition to the economic stimulus package that would give a $15,000 tax credit to anyone who buys a home within two years of the bill’s passage. The credit only applies to a principal residence, and would have to be repaid if the buyer sells the home within two years..

On the one hand, a bill that makes it easier for people to afford homes is a great idea. On the other hand, giving home buyers more money to buy a home means home sellers can keep prices artificially higher. I am not sure a continuation of artificially-inflated home values is what the economy needs right now.

Unlike Dean Baker’s alarmist comments at The Huffington Post suggest, the amendment to the stimulus package does not seem like it will ignite a flipping frenzy, but it does seem like it will cost far more than Senator Isakson’s (R-Ga.) estimate of $19 billion.

Senators Go Wild!, Approve House Flipping Subsidy, Media Doesn’t Notice | The Huffington Post (thanks to MajorKong for the clever title)
Isakson amendment gives $15K tax credit to homebuyers | Atlanta Business Chronicle

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

(thanks, Darielle!)

It’s a wonderful mortgage crisis

Newsweek analyzes the mortgage crisis though the lens of my favorite holiday movie.  For those who don’t know the story, Frank Capra’s masterpiece is a film about overcoming greed through the power of friendship (with a little help from spirituality), family and love.

I wish I had a million dollars – hot dog!

It’s A Wonderful Mortgage Crisis | Newsweek