It’s not every day that five government agencies, including the Federal Reserve and the FDIC, all come out with the same warning on the same day. That’s what happened this morning, and it amounted to a collective "watch out" to banks over homeowners ability to pay back lines of credit in the next few years.
Back in the early 2000s, right up to 2008, a lot of people took out lines of credit on their homes – this is where you can borrow money and use your house as collateral. They’re known as HELOCs (Home Equity Lines of Credit).
“Anybody who had a breath, any house still standing, seemed to be eligible for these kinds of loans,” recalls Nicolas Retsinas, senior lecturer in real estate at Harvard Business School.
HELOCs can typically last 10 years in what’s called a “draw period,” where people can continue to draw on the line of credit. After 10 years, they can’t draw any longer and they have to start paying back the principal. Starting about now, 10 years have gone by. Now it’s time to pay up.
“This is another bill coming due from the lending binge of the early 21st century,” says Retsinas. A bill that, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, now totals around $218 billion, of which $199 billion will be due by 2018.
If homeowners haven’t been paying down the principal, the change in bills may be substantial when they have to start doing so.
“We’re seeing that payments can go up 100 percent or even 200 percent or higher,” says Bob Piepergerdes, director of retail credit risk at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Given median incomes are lower than they were in 2007 and unemployment is higher, some borrowers may experience problems paying up.
“There is some risk of repayment so we’re asking institutions to evaluate where their borrowers are,” says Piepergerdes. And then he needs them to prepare accordingly
“The good news,” he says, “is that institutions have taken action.” The guidance put out by different agencies “is really to set forth the expectations of what we would like to see institutions do from a risk management stand point, but the institutions have been preparing for this for as long as we’ve been talking about it.”
JPMorgan Chase, for example, says it’s stocked up on reserves and is reaching out to customers.
“We are looking for ways to limit payment shock for our customers by being hyper-focused on communicating options to them,” the bank, which holds $49 billion in HELOCs, of which $29 billion will require higher payments through 2017, said in a statement. “We want to make sure customers are making enough of a payment so when they go into the repayment period of the principal it’s a step up not a leap up.” The bank estimates that more than half of the $29 billion will refinance or pay off before payments jump higher.
Overall, the largest lenders have reduced exposure by 20 percent through refinancing.
Homeowners would be advised to dig out their old loan agreements and look at the fine print, says Bob Davis, Executive Vice President at the American Bankers Association. “That’s one thing consumers ought to do right now, they ought to look at the payments they may have to make,” Davis says, “and if they want to change the loan arrangement and pay off their home equity line of credit by refinancing, they ought to be aware of their access to credit and whether their credit rating will allow them to.”
Every year, hundreds of new charter schools open in the U.S. – largely in low-income, urban neighborhoods. This fall, Sejong Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, will be one of them. The Korean-immersion school for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade will be located just a few miles from the nation's very first charter school, which opened in St. Paul in 1992.
A big idea behind charters, which now educate roughly 2.5 million kids in the U.S., is to try out concepts that traditional public schools typically wouldn't, like focusing on the outdoors, Korean language immersion – or even yoga.
Sejong Academy's founders hope their curriculum will appeal to a big population of Korean adoptees in the Twin Cities. Plus, they think non-Koreans might like learning another language. Board chair Grace Lee, herself Korean-American, thinks Sejong will offer richer cultural lessons than your typical public school might.
"I think of course a lot of schools will say, 'Oh, we promote global diversity.' But how are they demonstrating that? Are they just having some ethnic food at an open house, or something like that?" she says.
The real battle between charter schools and their traditional counterparts is far more pitched. One of the contentious aspects is that the roughly 6,500 charter schools in the country are public schools, and they get taxpayer dollars. But they're run independently, meaning that in many states they are not subject to the same rules and regulations as are traditional public schools. Each school is overseen by a so-called "authorizer," which approves the school's charter and makes sure the school meets its performance goals.
Charter advocates include lots of average parents as well as some very big guns like the Gates and Walton Foundations, which funnel millions of dollars to organizations that support charter schools. They believe there's greater flexibility in charters than in the traditional system. It's easier to hire and fire teachers – and open and close schools.
"That is the secret ingredient to chartering, the fact that if the school isn't performing well, it can be closed," says Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She says each year, about 500 charters open and 150 or so close. The authorities who oversee them, called authorizers, might pull the plug due to low enrollment, poor performance or mismanagement.
Opponents, often local school boards and powerful teachers unions, say charters leech money from the traditional school system. They also complain that charter school teachers, who tend to work in poor districts, aren't in it for the long haul.
"I think schools that serve in high poverty areas, the revolving door of principals and teachers is really a disservice to students," says Dennis Van Roekel, president of the nation's largest union, the National Education Association.
Lots of charter schools are operating with mixed results. A recent study by researchers at Stanford University found that about a quarter of charter schools studied achieved better outcomes on reading measures than traditional schools. But nearly a fifth of the charter schools did much worse. For math, an even greater share of charter schools were underperformers.
"I think the evidence tells us that the best charter schools are exceptional schools, and that the worst charter schools are extraordinarily bad," says Jack Schneider, an education expert at the College of the Holy Cross. "And the vast majority of charter schools are more or less equivalent to traditional public schools."
Andrea Springer is about to test her luck. She's Korean-American and is considering sending her kids to the Korean immersion charter school in St. Paul that opens this fall.
"We've stayed away from what I view as traditional public education because I think as a child I was pretty bored or the teacher was dealing with behavior problems versus teaching us," Springer says.
Springer also likes that her kids could learn Korean at the charter school without her having to nag them with workbooks.
But Springer does have some reservations about sending her kids to a start-up charter.
"It's the first year, so you get nervous, 'Do I want to be the test batch parent?'" she asks.
Even as charter schools remain controversial, demand for them appears to be strong. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says hundreds of thousands of kids are on charter school wait lists.
To hear more about the growth of charter schools in the country listen to the Marketplace on-air story.
Hollywood has been dealing with the problem of runaway production for years. A growing number of film and television productions are being lured away from Los Angeles by tax credits.
One group of show business employees is speaking out about it. The American Federation of Musicians recently held a protest outside the Los Angeles offices of Lionsgate, the studio responsible for, among other blockbusters, "The Hunger Games". The musicians work in film scoring. They’re upset with Lionsgate for accepting millions in tax credits to film in the U.S., but then score those films overseas.
Marc Sazer is a violinist and a member of the American Federation of Musicians. He’s worked for decades in film and television. “The major studios have longstanding relationships with the American Federation of Musicians,” said Sazer. “Fox, Universal, Columbia, Paramount and Disney, when they produce domestically, they score their films with us.”
Lionsgate is not considered a major studio. Technically, it’s a mini-major studio. But Sazer and the other members of the musicians' union argue that Lionsgate is at the same level as the major studios. Last year it generated $2.7 billion in revenue, millions of which came in the form of tax credits.
“We’re trying to bring attention to the fact that companies are taking our tax dollars and then taking our jobs overseas, which depletes our social compact," Sazer said. "It also depletes our cultural equity, because it undermines the livelihoods and the sustainability of our musical culture.” Lionsgate did not respond to a request for an interview.
In an outdoor amphitheater in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Pasadena Symphony is tuning up for a rehearsal. Hundreds of empty chairs face the stage. Peacocks outnumber audience members.
“We have about half of the orchestra on stage, some early birds, some will whisk in at the last minute,” said trombonist Andy Malloy. He’s worked in film and television since he got his first gig on "Laverne and Shirley".
Film and TV gigs used to make up 75 to 80 percent of Malloy’s income. “My guess, if there are 60 musicians here, easily 40 to 50 people do recording work as well," he said.
According to the union, total earnings of its members have fallen by half since 2007. During a recent protest, Malloy and his colleagues delivered a petition to Lionsgate headquarters. At the time, they singled out one film in particular, "Draft Day" starring Kevin Costner.
The score to "Draft Day" was recorded at a studio in Macedonia called F.A.M.E.’S. Laurent Koppitz, the founder of F.A.M.E.’S, is a musician himself, originally from France. He was working at a classical music record label in Paris when he visited Macedonia for the first time. “I discovered a country that was really interested in attracting investors and doing business,” said Koppitz.
Koppitz was able to get a loan, fix up a recording studio and audition more than 100 classical musicians. That was six years ago. Nearly all the jobs he gets are low-budget productions, accompaniment on pop albums, Bollywood films and video game music.
“Ninety-nine percent of what we do is independent projects,” Koppitz said. Some of them turn famous.
Koppitz was surprised when he came across news reports that F.A.M.E.’S was taking jobs from American musicians. He says he can’t compete with the quality of studios in Los Angeles. And that was not his intention. Kopitz started F.A.M.E.’S to make live orchestras affordable to those with small budgets, who might otherwise use pre-recorded or electronic music.
So when a low-budget production hires his musicians, that, he says, is an example of the good aspect of globalization: more musicians get work and more productions have live music.
But if large studios hire him simply because he’s cheaper, then he says they are coming to Macedonia for the wrong reason. “When you go for the wrong reason, like 'Oh, it’s cheap,' it’s not very nice for anybody because it takes the job here which is a problem,” he said
That problem Koppitz said, is the bad aspect of globalization.
Lesley Perkins is a human resources management consultant who’s been unemployed for about 3 1/2 years.
“I feel forgotten and ignored by our society,” she says.
Perkins also feels ignored by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. It only counts you as unemployed if you’ve “actively looked for work” in the past four weeks. But Perkins isn’t sure what that means.
“Is it actually filling out a job application or is it actually going to networking functions and trying to connect with people there?” she says.
I was confused, too, so I called Jim Walker, a Bureau of Labor Statistics economist. He says the Bureau will count you if you send out a resume as you’re surfing websites. Or hand someone a resume as you’re networking. People who aren’t so active in their job search aren’t counted in the official jobless numbers. But the Bureau still keeps track of them. They’re labeled the “marginally attached.”
“People who just say 'Well, I’m not working. I would want a job but I’m not looking right now,'” says Walker.
The Bureau gets its numbers by talking to real people. It surveys 60,000 households, asking people if they’re working or looking for a job. Justin Wolfers, a labor economist at the University of Michigan, says part of the confusion is you can be counted as unemployed, even if you don’t get an unemployment check.
“One part of the government says you’re not unemployed in the sense that they’re not going to pay you benefits. But another part says 'No, no, we’re definitely going to count you as unemployed,'” he says.
Wolfers says the Bureau’s system isn’t perfect. But it’s about the best we can hope for, because there is no easy way to measure unemployment.
More people have jobs than before the Great Recession started, but office workers are cramped into less space than before. A lot of office space went empty during the recession, but a report from the real-estate information company Reis shows that only about half of that space has filled back up.
It’s normal for office space to come back more slowly than employment, partly because offices often shrink more slowly than the workforce too.
"As you go into a recesssion and companies start to lay off employees, often-times the size of their physical footprint can’t shrink in accordance with that," says Ryan Severino, an economist at Reis. "So there tends to be a little bit of a mismatch."
In other words, when companies bring back workers, a lot of them already have a bunch of extra space to put those people.
Even when companies don’t have extra space — say, they were able to get out of their old lease and take a smaller space — increasing the footprint comes after hiring the people, and not until the old space gets tight.
"When you start doubling-up that office space, and start hearing complaints, you’re going to start planning," says Susan Wachter, a professor at the Wharton School of business. "But you need to know the people are on board, and that you’re gonna need that space. And then, that too takes time." Budgeting for a move, for example, doesn't happen overnight.
This recovery has seen even less pickup of office space than previous cycles. Wachter also notes that open layouts, which require less space per employee, have become more popular.
As the second half of 2014 gets underway, a look at the S&P 500 index. Plus, with the number of jobs recovering since the Great Recession, a look at why office space doesn't tend to increase at the same rate. Also, is the "sharing economy" all it's cracked up to be? With big money flowing through businesses like Airbnb and Lyft, not everyone is on as equal a playing field as promised.
A "sharing economy" can be as simple as a neighborhood with a shared lawnmower, but companies with big cash flow – think ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber, as well as room rental places like Airbnb – are increasingly considered part of this model.
Oakland, California-based reporter Susie Cagle writes of her experience attending "Share," a conference on the sharing economy sponsored by Airbnb, Lyft, and eBay. She left the conference thinking the word "sharing" is getting stretched completely out of shape.
In her article, "The Case Against Sharing: On access, scarcity, and trust," Cagle recognizes the opportunity in these peer-to-peer economies, but thinks larger businesses like Airbnb and Lyft should be treated as just that: a business.
Click the media player above to hear reporter Susie Cagle in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.
Facebook has been at the center of controversy in the tech world after it was revealed that the social network manipulated the feeds of its users to examine how they react to changes in the tone of their friends' posts.
The main finding of the study, according to Karen North, professor of social media and psychology at USC, is that Human beings are social animals — People saw that their friends were posting positive or negative things, and leaned towards doing what their friends were doing.
As for the motivations behind the study, improving Facebook's core business was likely the key.
“This is probably a combination of how to get people to buy things but also how to drive up engagement with Facebook,” says North.
She also noted that the mining of consumer data in such a manner is fairly common. The reaction here, she argues, might speak to the nature of the business Facebook is in.
She adds, "This is nothing new, it's just that it feels a little more invasive here because it feels like it is infiltrating our private conversations."
A new hotel just opened in downtown Los Angeles, with most of the money to pay for it originating outside the country – 95 percent of the financing came from 320 immigrant investors from 14 countries.
The sleek, modern lobby is unusual because it serves two hotels in one building: a Marriott Courtyard and Residence Inn.
General manager Erik Palmer says the two-in-one model appeals to investors.
“From an owners’ lens, it makes the hotel a lot more efficient. We have one front desk team, one housekeeping team and one engineering team," he says.
Almost all the financing came through what are called EB-5 visas, otherwise known as investor visas. In return for a $500,000 investment that creates at least ten jobs, foreigners get a green card.
One hotel investor – William Jeffcock – is a British citizen by way of Monaco.
“Because my home and residence was Monaco, there were very few paths which I would have qualified for. So the EB-5 really was the only way for me to come,” says Jeffcock.
He says his hotel investment was not primarily to buy a green card for the U.S.
“I hope to make money on this,” says Jeffcock. “I believe in the next two or three years I’ll be making 2 to 6 percent on my money.”
But other businesses using EB-5 money don’t always deliver what’s promised. In several states, the visa program has been used to defraud investors. Some observers dispute the number of jobs created.
Plus, there’s the issue of who collects the money. Even though the U.S. government is giving away the green cards, it’s the private sector that collects the half-million dollar payment.
“If you really want to create jobs, why not do it directly, by having the money come to the government? And then the government can decide how to allocate that to create jobs,” says John Vogel, who teaches at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
Vogel says the government could use money from investment visas for hiring workers to repair our infrastructure or expand internet access; the kind of economic development that benefits more of society than new hotels.
If you've been following the stock market closely, you've probably read or listened to news stories where pundits and reporters describe the market as "frothy," "toppy," and "overheated." Translation: we could be in for a big correction.
Note use of the words "could be." The fact is, the stock market could continue on a tear. Or it could keep going up, up, up. No-one really knows.
It's not the upside you're worried about right now - it's the downside. You're probably not worried about what you might make in the future: you're looking back at the huge gains we've made in the market, and that's getting you worried about what you might lose.
You need protection. You need insurance against loss. But just like insurance against the loss of your car or your house or your life, insurance isn't free, and it can be very expensive.
In the stock trading world, insurance against loss is called a "put." In a put, you pay another investor a certain amount of money per share to sell your shares to her at a certain price.
Say you own 100 shares in Cadbottom Inc. Right now, the shares have risen to $2,005 a share, but you're worried they're going to fall. You purchase a put from your friend Helen, so that if the shares fall below $2,000 a share — called the strike price — she will buy them all from you for $2,000 each.
This put costs you $10 per share, or a total of $1,000. But there is a way to get your insurance for free.
You do this by selling a "call." A call is the right to buy shares at a certain price. You have another friend, Joan, who is prepared to pay you $10 per share for the right to buy your stock in Cadbottom if it rises above $2,010 per share.
Place a put and a call together, and you've got a collar.
Well done! You have now protected your investment from losing more than $2000 a share, and you did it for free! The only downside is that if the market in Cadbottom does really well, and the shares rise above $2010 each, you won't benefit, because you'll have to sell them to Joan. Doubtless, she'll be jeering at you, but you'll have a sack full of cash, and she'll be the one worrying about insurance.
Today, one month to the day after Eric Shinseki resigned as the Secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs, President Obama announced his pick to replace him: Bob McDonald, former president and CEO of Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer products company.
In the past, the VA has been led by generals, a colonel, and a congressman, in addition to lobbyists and lawyers. Alan Simpson, who used to chair the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, praises the president for picking someone who hasn’t spent his career in the military or government service: “Oh, that’s big,” he says. “It’s huge and it’s critical.”
It's definitely different -- check out this list of McDonald's forbears:
Ed Derwinski attended Loyola University, a private university in Chicago, and graduated in 1951. Before he became a Republican congressman, he served in the U.S. Army.
Anthony Principi, a Naval Academy graduate, served in Vietnam before attending law school at Seton Hall. He was a Navy JAG and a lawyer for the Department of the Navy before he became deputy secretary of the VA.
Jesse Brown graduated from City College of Illinois, then served as a marine in the Vietnam War. From 1973 until 1983, Brown was the supervisor of the National Service Office, National Appeals Office, Chief of Claims, National Service and Legislative Headquarters, and Deputy National Service Director.
Hershel Gober served in Vietnam, before he became the director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs and the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Togo West went to Howard University for college and law school, before he became a U.S. Army JAG. He went on to become a corporate lawyer, then the Defense Department’s general counsel.
Jim Nicholson, a West Point graduate, received a master’s in public policy from Columbia University, and a law degree from the University of Denver School of Law.
Gordon Mansfield, a Villanova University graduate, served two tours of duty in Vietnam. Injured by an enemy solider, he received the Distinguished Service Cross.
James Peake went to West Point. After he served in the Army, he became the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Project Hope; then, QTC’s chief medical officer and CEO.
Eric Shinseki, who went to West Point, received a master’s degree in English literature from Duke Uiversity. He received a purple heart for his service in Vietnam, and was the director of several major corporations.
Sloan Gibson, another West Point grad, led the USO. He was an Army Ranger.
Corporations have religious beliefs -- or, at least some corporations do. That’s one takeaway from the 5-4 ruling of the Supreme Court today in the "Hobby Lobby" case.
The victory for the Oklahoma City-based crafts store Hobby Lobby and dozens of other businesses who filed suit means “closely held” companies can deny contraception coverage to their employees. The question in front of the Supreme Court was fairly straightforward: Can Hobby Lobby be forced to offer contraception coverage as part of its health insurance, if that contraception violates its religious beliefs?
Specifically, the company opposed covering certain forms of contraception, such as some intrauterine devices and products like Plan B One-Step, because it believes they amount to abortion.
In writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito went out of his way to focus on certain businesses, says Duke Law professor James Cox.
“The Justice was fairly clear in saying he’s talking about a closely held, family-dominated corporation with no outside owners and no diversity of opinion,” Cox says.
It’s not clear how many businesses meet that definition. Some 9 out of 10 corporations are “closely held.” That includes everything from mom and pop shops to giants like Koch Industries and Cargill, which employ hundreds of thousands.
The bright line the court draws is about religious intent.
George Washington law professor Robert Tuttle says you can imagine how two or three owners (who may be related) share religious views. Publicly traded companies like Apple and IBM and their armies of shareholders are a different animal.
“It’s just really hard to see how they can have a sincere religious objection to anything,” says Tuttle.
While this verdict is aimed at a class of corporation, Boston College’s Kent Greenfield – who filed an amicus brief in the case – expects companies of all shapes and sizes to try to squeeze through this new opening.
“This opinion gives companies the opportunity to ask for a waiver for regulation, and usually regulation costs money, he says. "And if they can avoid those costs by asserting a religious waiver, then they will.”
Greenfield says this decision could give certain companies a competitive advantage on the basis of religion.
Workers of New York, July 30 is the first day you can use your earned sick days under New York City’s new paid sick day law.
How are you feeling - can you make it?
Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, a network of coalitions in 21 states that work for policies like paid sick days, says come the end of the month, don’t expect to see a sick day bubble where workers all over the city call in with hives.
“No, what we’re going to see is fewer people going to work sick and making co-workers and customers sick," she says. "Fewer people losing jobs and paychecks.”
On average, Bravo notes, workers use fewer sick days than they earn.
Sherry Leiwant, co-president and cofounder of A Better Balance, a legal advocacy organization based in New York that does advocacy around paid sick days, says more often than not, workers treat sick days like insurance.
"They save them because they know they’re going to maybe need them to take care of their kids, or take care of themselves if they get sick, so don’t want to waste them," she says.
New York City estimates there are about half a million employees who had no paid sick time before the new law. Leiwant notes the lack of sick leave cuts across sectors, so the list of industries where workers are currently without sick time includes retail, child and health care, leisure, hospitality and dining.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the *New York City Hospitality Alliance, and a personal recipient of sick day leave, says restaurant owners understand that people get sick and they want to take care of their teams, but that the new policy does present challenges for business owners in the dining industry.
“A lot of business owners believe it’s going to be expensive, it’s also going to be tricky, especially in restaurant industry or nightlife industry if an employee calls in sick, you need to replace them," he says. "There are some office jobs, where if someone comes in sick, they’ll come in the following day and their work will be there on their desk. But if you’re working in a restaurant and you’re short a line cook, you need to bring in an additional line cook.”
Ellen Bravo notes that paying employees for a handful of sick days a year is much cheaper than spending the thousands of dollars it costs to replace even low wage workers. While it would be more convenient if no one got sick, she says, from a business perspective sick days make sense.
"You certainly don’t want to be the restaurant that gets in the headlines for having a norovirus, as a number of them had, because the worker felt obliged to come in for fear of losing their job, or simply because they couldn’t afford the time."
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misidentified the affiliation of Andrew Rigie, a hospitality executive. He is executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. The article has been corrected.
Once upon a time, America relied on its own shores for seafood. The state of New York was famous for their fresh oysters; Louisiana and Mississippi were famous for their shrimp. The clean coastal waters allowed us to farm our own stuff. But things have changed.
"More than 85 percent of the seafood Americans eat is imported," says Paul Greenberg, author of "American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood".
Greenberg says the biggest shift has been the exchange of oysters for foreign shrimp. Americans used to be able to farm and bring in billions of pounds of oysters per year. But we then lost our natural productive estuaries and traded them for foreign ones. Now, Americans eat more pounds of shrimp per year than tuna and salmon combined.
Although the majority of our seafood is imported, America fisheries export about one-third of what they catch.
"Primarily, it’s Alaska. They send tons of salmon," says Greenberg. "In fact, we actually send as much salmon abroad as we import. The only thing is, we are sending all the wild salmon abroad, and importing all their farmed stuff."
A consequence? Since we are not eating from our own waters, Greenberg says we aren’t taking great care of them -- one reason we have seen so much environmental degradation since the 1950s. However, Greenberg says there has been more hope since the Clean Water Act was passed in the early 1970s.
"We have seen a marked improvement in water quality," says Greenberg. "But the problem is, we’ve turned our markets around so much that we can’t even really seem to figure out how to get our own fish back onto our plates."
Garrado Odigie sat sobbing in his chair.
He’d gotten the most important thing to him in his life, and it meant his life was falling apart. Four months earlier his long, drawn out, international custody battle for his children had finally ended. After several years of separation, his children had been returned to him.
All five of them, ages 5 to 14. To his one bedroom apartment in Flushing.
“These are the things I live for,” Odigie said. “Five kids, one bedroom apartment. I put the girls on the bedroom, then I let the boys sleep on the living room, then I sleep on the floor. Then everybody’s coming down to sleep with daddy on the floor. Nobody wants to sleep on the bed.”
Odigie says he’s been looking for a two or three bedroom in his area of Brooklyn, but most places ask for around $2,000. “I cannot afford that right now.”
In fact, he can’t afford his current rent either now. The rent is a little over $1,000 a month, half of his annual income. A single father accustomed to working two to three jobs late into the evening when his children weren’t with him, Odigie found he needed to quit one job and reduce his hours at the other if he was to take them to therapy, go with them to the doctor’s, or to simply spend time with them.
He’s four months behind on rent. He’s in housing court, on the verge of getting evicted. He says his kids will live at his church for awhile so he can work and save up some money.
“My 11-year-old just told me, ‘Daddy, why are we keeping on moving?’” says Odigie, his voice breaking along with his composure. “‘We tired.’ You know. I’m doin' my best to take up my children.”
People who, like Odigie, sit precariously on the edge of personal calamity don’t need much of a push to slip over. The rent will do it. The rent does do it. Often.
“We see all the time people having to make really terrible choices,” says Judith Goldiner, an attorney in charge of the Civil Law Reform unit at the Legal Aid Society. “Do they feed their kids, do they buy medicine for their kids, do they buy clothes -- or do they pay rent? The rents just keep on creeping higher and higher.”
It is not simply that rents have risen, it is that renter incomes have fallen since the recession. Between 2005 and 2012, median gross rent in the U.S. rose from $868 to $897 (in 2011 it was $902) In the same period, median household income declined from $55,158 to $52,123 in real terms according to data compiled by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.
Some landlords, perhaps out of greed, or perhaps out of their own struggles to maintain old buildings, have tried to push lower income renters out.
“Sometimes we see landlords who cut off services, take people to housing court even if they don’t owe any money, tell people they don’t have the right immigration status and so they have to leave or they’ll call INS – all kinds of bullying,” says Goldiner.
Rent burden is the share of a renter’s income spent on gross rent – the lump sum to the landlord, plus utilities and other fees. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) labels rent burden “between 30 and 50 percent of household income on gross rent as “moderate,” and anything above 50 percent as “severe”.
Last year was the first year more than half of households in New York City were rent burdened, meaning they pay more than a third of their income in rent. In 2011 37 percent of renters in Philadelphia were severely rent burdened, paying more than 50 percent of their income towards rent. Sixty-two percent of all renter households in Los Angeles were severely (50 percent going towards rent) or moderately rent burdened.
“The largest increases in the share of households that are rent burdened are actually happening at the moderate and middle income level,” says Max Weselcouch, director of the Moelis Institute for Affordable Housing Policy at NYU.
The forces behind all of this are, it turns out, fairly simple: supply and demand.
“There’s been very little production of new housing,” says Weselcouch. “Even though new housing construction has begun to rebound a little bit in 2012 and 2013, it’s still at lower levels than we’ve seen since at least 1960.”
Simply put: During the Recession, people made less money and built fewer places to live. After the Recession, people are still here, there are more of them, and they still need places to live. Many of them are moving to cities – 200,000 to New York City in the past three years alone – further piling onto demand.
“This is kind of a classic economic problem,” says Weselcouch.
Some of the strategies cities have used to address the problem are under strain.
Many cities offer developers incentives to build temporarily affordable units, though many of these agreements are now expiring (In New York, 25,000 expired since 2007 and another 50,000 will be eligible to do so in the next ten years). New York’s new mayor, Bill DeBlasio, has promised to create 200,000 new affordable units in ten years.
One approach is rent stabilization. For 34 percent of rental units in New York, a politically-appointed board determines by how much rents can rise each year. Several cities do this. Many landlords do not like it.
“To try and micromanage the increases each year is ludicrous,” says Frank Ricci, director of government affairs for the Rent Stabilization Association, the largest trade group for residential building owners in New York. He says landlords suffer when they can’t raise rents by as much as they’d like.
“When you own a building, there are big expenses that pop up from time to time. Could be the roof, could be the boiler, you don’t know what it is, but when big things break, they cost a lot of money,” Ricci says - and half of all residential buildings are over 75-years-old. His opponents argue landlord incomes have been rising faster than operating expenses for nearly a decade.
Property taxes and fees put more pressure on landlords as well, says Ricci. Property taxes on rental units in New York City, which are higher than those for homeowners, are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit.
There are many ingredients that go into the acrid crucible of the real estate market for renters. Supply, demand, taxes, investors, summering jetsetters, declining incomes, greed, desperation.
At the end of the day the exact recipe is of little consequence to people like Garrado Odigie, who is still searching for a way to keep a roof above himself and his children.
Over the past three decades, facets of Amish culture have been shifting toward a more modern take on life - one that includes iPhones, mansions and millionaires.
“It’s also very new for them. This has all happened within the last three decades or so... this massive shift from agriculture to business, and it turns out they’re great businessmen.”
The shift towards business has also caused some changes within the community. Now, some Amish are using cell phones to conduct business:
“So many Amish have a cell phone for business, but I see these guys talking on the phone a lot… and they’re not always talking about business. And it’s this slow creep of technology that they themselves acknowledge is kind of terrifying, because it is so radically changing.”
Banbury says it's difficult for people in this community to adapt to changing culture. It takes a lot to adapt their well-established rules. The church has a process to reprimand someone if they do something ostensibly out-of-bounds, like buying a fancy propane-driven fridge. But if the church does nothing, then everyone else in the community jumps on board and buys one of these fridges.
"[They're] really struggling to intigrate it into their life in a way that does not destroy the essence of their Amishness. But they're aboslutely changing. There's no question they're changing and the question is 'how far are they going to go?'"
Listen to the full interview with Banbury in the audio player above.
General Motors announced Monday that it will recall 8.4 million cars manufactured between 1997 and 2014 due to a defect in ignition switches. Yes, that's 8.4 million more recalled vehicles for the embattled company.
In a statement, GM says they are aware of seven crashes, eight injuries and three fatalities possibly related to the defect:
"GM expects to take a charge of up to approximately $1.2 billion in the second quarter for the cost of recall-related repairs announced in the quarter. This amount includes a previously disclosed $700 million charge for recalls already announced during the quarter...
Until the ignition recall repairs have been performed, it is very important that customers remove all items from their key ring, leaving only the vehicle key, and always use their seat belts. The key fob, if present, should also be removed from the key ring."
As we've learned: This could be a big deal for our key-carrying Marketplace listeners.
More Marketplace coverage:
As the furor over Facebook's experimentation with users' emotions spreads across the web, the most common defense of the social media company's actions is that every other web company is doing the same thing, or something close to it. Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Twitter -- they're all gathering data on how people use their services and how small changes can change people's behavior.
“Name a company that involves a large user base and you will find a research division looking to see how people use their site – Google does it, Twitter, MySpace always did it. Think about Nielsen; we’ve lived our lives knowing that Nielsen looks at how people interact with television shows and what they like or don’t like,” says Karen North, professor of digital and social media at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication.
With this pervasiveness of data and behavior studies at different companies, we decided to take a look at the research divisions at some of the biggest web services - and what kinds of work they're actually doing.
Not suprisingly, Google's research division is expansive and varied, with areas of concentration ranging from its all-important search and ad algorithms, to speech and language processing to cyber-security and privacy. Google shares some similiarities with Facebook, in that they are known for keeping close tabs on their users' data for the purposes of advertising. Their research into web behavior seems to support this comparison. But in terms of manipulating user's content, Google seems to stick to small experiments or changes based on user preferences.
“Google is famous for doing widespread social research on how their website is doing," says Carl D. Howe, vice president of research and data sciences at the Yankee Group. "Now this is not emotional research, it’s ‘Do users prefer a one pixel wide blue bar or two pixel blue bar?’ These are called a/b tests and they run hundreds of them every day and they measure the click throughs as a result.”
One interesting aspect of Google's research is that they keep tabs on their advertisers' actions as well as those of their users, with a research division dedicated to measuring the behavior of search-ad customers and online economics.
Similar to Google, Yahoo runs a number of research divisions focused on data management and advertising. Like Facebook, Yahoo has studied how different types of content can provoke different behaviors from users, like one study that found that people engage more with photos that have faces in them on social media. Yahoo also researches how different personalization options can drive user behavior, and how they can serve up content to take advantage of it.
Twitter is still figuring out how to sell advertising on its service, so it's no surprise its research division is fairly small compared to other web giants. Most of its research is published in the form of blog posts, and focuses on strategies for advertisers to reach users with targeted content or tweeting around large events. Trying to manipulate Twitter is still a risky proposition, so much of the research remains somewhat vague in comparison to the sophisticated findings coming from companies like Google.