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The Ladder

A Blog from New America's Asset Building Program

Asset Building News Week, Mar 19-23

Published:  March 23, 2012
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on the The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include housing, inequality, banking options, welfare, and jobs.

 

Housing and Homeownership

This North Country Public Radio piece “Sweet Home: When Owning Isn’t All About Money” looks at the challenges low-income borrowers have had throughout the mortgage crisis and the ongoing search for stability. Bank of America has an interesting new idea for how to treat foreclosure: instead of forcing families out, transfer the property title to the bank but let the families pay rent and remain in the house. Representative Charlie Rangel has taken on an issue that could save struggling homeowners billions. The Mortgage Cancellation Relief Act of 2012 would extend for two years a tax provision that prevents struggling homeowners from owing federal taxes as a result of mortgage debt forgiveness from a financial institution. In light of the settlement with the mortgage industry, that seems like a critical step. Business Week reports on the growth in construction of multi-family homes, which the article notes are friendly to renters and may represent the growth of a trend toward renting. That said renting can be expensive particularly in certain metropolitan areas. As Business Insider notes, in the “10 regions with the biggest rental affordability gaps, average renters would need to make 70% more than they currently earn so that only 30% of their salary goes to rent.” In Nashville, the Metro Housing and Development Agency is accepting applications for Section 8 vouchers for the first time in 4 years. The article explains that MDHA will only accept applications by mail or online to avoid a scene like the one in Atlanta two years ago when 30,000 people showed up to apply for Section 8. All of this is set against a backdrop of unequal homeownership opportunity: CNN Money has a graph showing the racial disparity in homeownership rates over time, which shows how the housing crisis exacerbated an already gaping divide.

Banking Options and Welfare

The New York Times quoted New America’s Senior Policy Fellow Anne Stuhldreher in a piece about innovative banking initiatives in San Francisco. Check out the article or my blog post for more. Meanwhile, the Illinois Asset Building Coalition has a nice write up of our most recent paper, “We Don’t Do Banks” authored by Research Fellow Rourke O’Brien. The Mohave Daily News reports that welfare recipients in Nevada were charged more than $300,000 in ATM fees while accessing their benefits (a phenomenon O’Brien’s research found in California as well, and the subject of David Rothstein’s recent congressional testimony focused on Ohio). In other news about welfare, The Huffington Post reports on what Rep. Paul Ryan thinks about the program: "The 1996 welfare reform was very successful in getting toward an upward-mobile society, in getting people off of dependency and on to lives of self-sufficiency.”  LaDonna Pavetti from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is skeptical: "The success of welfare reform is way oversold because it's based on early years when the economy was booming." Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is pursuing efforts to shrink welfare enrollment numbers by imposing restrictions on the application process. This raises a key question about the purposes of welfare reform initiatives. What should the ultimate goal be? To help people in need or to keep enrollment down?

Jobs

NPR has a handy infographic that shows the sectors American jobs fall into. The Pew Hispanic Center has a new report about the demographics of the jobs recovery, looking at employment levels before and after the recession along race and gender lines. The National Journal has a series of infographics on the gender wage gap, which makes a nice accompaniment to New America Fellow Liza Mundy’s TIME cover story.

Inequality

The Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Economic and Policy Research are hosting an event with author Chuck Collins on April 4th in D.C. about wealth inequality. A New York Times piece sums up some of the conversations about income inequality and notes that tolerance for the widening income gap might be ebbing. Meanwhile, Sweden might not be the bastion of equality it is frequently touted to be. As Reuters explains, “Spending on welfare benefits such as pensions, unemployment and incapacity assistance has fallen by almost a third to 13 percent of GDP from the early nineties, putting Sweden only just above the 11 percent OECD average.”

Quick Hits

  • The AARP Foundation released a report looking at people’s finances at the end of life. They found that 46.1% of elderly households had assets under $10,000 at the time of death. 
  • The Economist has a piece about the American tax preparation system.
  • David Bank, the vice president of Civic Ventures, has a piece in the Huffington Post outlining some of his ideas about encore careers. We are looking forward to hosting an event next week to look at this issue more closely. RSVP here or watch live online.

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