U.S. Land & Housing Statistics
Updated Mar. 7, 2012. Download with cites File:US Land Housing Stats 3 7 12 Update.pdf.
- Though over 60% of the land in the United States is privately-owned, the wealthiest half-a-percent own 35.6% of this & the wealthiest 10% own nearly 80%. The remaining land is owned by the Federal Government (29%), State & local governments (9%) & Native American territories (2%).
- There are at least 3.5 million homeless people,but there are over 18.5 million “people-less” homes (1 in 9 homes are presently vacant).
Income Inequality & Unemployment
- The Great Recession of 2007-2009 has left, as of July 2011, 13.9 million people without jobs, nearly half long-term, 8.4 million working part-time involuntarily, and an additional 2.8 million unemployed who have stopped looking because they believe there are no jobs for them.
- Real wages for the bottom 80% of U.S. households have been flat or falling since 1973, the median family income fell 5% between 1999 and 2009, while CEO’s pay increased 300%.
Rising Rent & Mortgage Burdens
- The market cost of a home rose severely before “crashing” (188% between 1997 & 2006, declining 30% since 2006), while rental prices are currently on the rise, with a 7.12%, 2.59% and 3.75% increase in studio, 1-, and 2-bedroom apartments (2011).
- 78% of all U.S. households pay banks or landlords for the use of their home, roughly 32% as renters & another 46% as owners with outstanding mortgages.
- Mortgage debt has increased 890% since 1980 (by 2009, it reached a $14 trillion all-time high). Presently, homeowners are $709 billion underwater (owe more than their home’s market value).
- The number of severely rent-burdened households (where rent is more than 50 percent of income) has jumped to 26 percent of the nation’s families and moderate rent-burdens (where rent is more than 30 percent of household income) impacts 52 percent.
- 1 in 3 households are unable to afford basic adequate housing and a conservative estimate of non-housing essentials (this is nearly 50% of renters & 25% of homeowners).
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Federal Government’s Contributions
- $16 trillion of taxpayer money has been spent to bailout banks (for mortgage investments).
- $304 billion of taxpayer money is lost each year to tax cuts for wealthy homeowners (75% goes to the Richest 20% and 25% to the 1%), compared to $33 billion spent on rental assistance for low-income families. Tax cuts are entitlements, rental assistance is not.
- Only 1 in 4 “eligible” families in need of rental assistance ever receive it. The average wait for rental assistance is 5 years.
- The federal government has continuously issued major cuts in these safety net programs for the past 30 years, as well as related funding made available to local governments, while increasing funds for private re-development projects & tax-cut programs with limited regulation (e.g. HOPE VI, CNI, & RAD demolitions, and low-income housing tax credits). Almost 300,000 public housing units have been demolished to date and public housing has been left with a $20-30 billion back-log of capital needs, which the government argues justifies major privatizations.
- At least 250,000 of the “people-less” homes throughout the United States are currently owned by federal agencies (that insured mortgages & receives foreclosed homes in exchange for these payouts). The government plans to sell these properties “in bulk” (est. $1 billion sales each) to “market participants” with the “financial capacity.”
Framing the Housing Crisis as a Human Rights Crisis
An issue of equity: "Housing as a Commodity, not a Right": File:Spring Action ProfitB4People.pdf
What does Human Rights Look like in the United States?
CIVIL & POLITICAL RIGHTS: These are the rights of citizens to liberty and equality, including freedom to worship, to think and express oneself, to vote, to take part in political life, and to have access to information.
The Declaration of Independence sets forth a set of 3 universal & fundamental rights: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. These are human rights in that they exist on the basis of common humanity, the self-evident truth "that all men are created equal, that they were endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" inherent to each individual.
Based on these principles, the U.S. Constitution created a republic that guaranteed several Rights, codified in the Bill of Rights, which has been extended over time to include -- abolition of slavery in 1865 and women's suffrage in 1920.
The Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are examples of human rights that were recognized by Congress well after the Constitution's writing.
ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RIGHTS: These rights give people social and economic security. Examples are the right to food, housing, health care, and an education. In the U.S., we continue to face shocking inequalities in these areas which challenge the moral underpinnings of our national identity.
"We have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights, an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society. We have been in a reform movement… But after Selma and the voting rights bill, we moved into a new era, which must be the era of revolution. We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together…you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.” —Martin Luther King, Jr. (May 1967)
“This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty. . . As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness. . . We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.” - Franklin Delanor Roosevelt (1944), leading up to an introduction of his Four Freedoms Agenda, a 2nd Bill of Rights, which was to include a right to education, a decent home, healthcare, and useful & gainful employment
Human Rights, Global Movement
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Other Concepts in Housing & Economics
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Community Ownership is Social Ownership
Home-ownership, we often hear, comes with a "bundle of rights":
Under Social Ownership, the rights of use will be enhanced: security of tenure (right to REMAIN in Peace and Dignity), privacy, the right to modify living space, inherit. Only the ability to profit in housing is unavailable.
Costs are low to inhabitants of socially-owned housing because it is operated and financed as a nonprofit.
- Land Trusts as Land Reform, Robert Swann
- Capitalism, the Commons & Divine Right, Peter Barnes
- Homes That Last: The Case for Counter-Cyclical Stewardship from the Community Land Trust Reader by John Emmeus Davis (2008).
Social Ownership & Job Creation
- Land, Land Trusts and Employment, Robert Swann. Is a CLT the basis of a new economics?
Calculating Affordability: There are three (3) typical approaches to measuring affordability based on rents, incomes and household type.
- The Rent to Income Ratio: The proportion of income that is spent on rent expressed as a percentage.
- Ratio = rent ÷ (income + housing benefit) × 100.
- This is particularly useful for measuring affordability over a period of time. As rents rise the ratio will increase. It also allows comparison across categories of tenant. However it does not ensure that people with different needs will find rents affordable.
- The Residual Income Measure: The income that is left after the rent and other essential costs have been paid.
- Residual income = income – rent – income support + housing benefit
- It is useful for instance in showing the impact of changing rents as a household moves from one sector to another and in comparing the proportion between different household groups. The higher the residual income the more affordable the accommodation becomes, in as much as it clarifies the disposable income left over to purchase other goods.
- Housing Benefit Dependency: Assessing household incomes where households are just at the point at which their housing benefit eligibility is zero.
- It avoids the problem of how to treat housing benefit in the rent to income approach – whether as income or as a rent reduction.
- It also avoids the circularity of the definition of affordability in the residual income approach, where all rents are affordable because housing benefit ensures that no households’ residual income falls below its applicable amount.
- An Overview of Solidarity Economics
- A Map of the Solidarity Economy
- The U.S. Solidarity Economy Network
- The Center for Popular Economics
- Compilation of Popular Education videos & materials on Economics