Lisa Davis | 10-15-2015
That’s going to change on Friday, when several Republican presidential candidates attend the New Hampshire Housing Summit in Manchester, NH. Our own chief economist, Jonathan Smoke, will be there along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, and former New YorkGov. George Pataki. And Smoke, for one, can’t wait.
“It’s been a complete letdown that we’ve had three multi-hour debates with an army of people, and not one word has been mentioned about housing,” he said.
“That’s a testament to how some of these people are clueless as to the problems real people are facing.” Now that the foreclosure crisis is over, he said, people seem to think that housing’s not so important anymore.
Boy, are they wrong. Housing, in fact, is directly related to some of the biggest issues facing America—and its future president.
Housing affects our economy
Housing has traditionally been an enormous driver of our economy. According to Smoke, it often accounts for around 18% of our gross domestic product; since the crash, it’s hovered around 15%. A robust housing sector means a more robust economy.
“The current state of the housing sector causes our economic growth to be at risk,” he said.
Homeownership affects income inequality
With homeownership at all-time lows and prices at all-time highs, families are also at risk. “Homeownership has been the only way that the middle class has been able to traditionally produce wealth,” Smoke said. “Everything else, including retirement plans, pales in comparison to the wealth produced from owning.”
With demand far outpacing supply, and with the increased formation of new households thanks to the combination of immigration and millennials leaving the fold, Smoke said, “There’s literally not enough housing to meet the needs. The people who can pay for it pay more and more, and those who can’t have to pay a more burdensome amount.”
All the political talk about income inequality can be seen plainly in the housing market.
“It’s real and it’s evident and it’s getting more severe,” he said. “Affordable housing should be a topic on the presidential stage, and homeownership should be championed and supported.”
Immigration is a housing issue, too
Immigration is directly tied to housing in another way: Once we do get construction rolling again, said Smoke, we’re going to need more immigrants.
“We don’t have the labor in this country anymore to support those trades,” he said. Those roles were filled essentially by immigrants, he added. If we don’t have a smart approach to immigration, “we’re not going to solve that labor shortage.”
Housing, said Smoke, connects all of those major issues: the economy, income inequality, and immigration. “I see those problems as not being solvable unless housing is a part of the mix,” Smoke said. “It takes a village to fix this problem.”
Were Smoke to moderate a debate, he’d ask the candidates to articulate their opinion on homeownership and ask what we should be doing to support it. That ought to be the one topic that can really bring the candidates into a rare state of consensus.
“I can’t believe that anyone on either side of the aisle would say that homeownership is not important,” he said. “It’s truly a bipartisan topic.”Back to News | View Related Link
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