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The Ladder

A Blog from New America's Asset Building Program

Asset Building News Week, June 4-7

Published:  June 7, 2013
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on 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, health and wealth, financial services, and unemployment.


The Center for American Progress has a new report out this week on making the mortgage market work better for American families. The New York Times reports on the phenomenon of large firms being the key drivers of the so-called housing “recovery.” As they put it, “Large investment firms have spent billions of dollars over the last year buying homes in some of the nation’s most depressed markets. The influx has been so great, and the resulting price gains so big, that ordinary buyers are feeling squeezed out.” Marketplace talked to a few of those ordinary buyers and profiled a first-time home owning family who had hesitated to make such a move after seeing how “people got burned, stuck with high mortgage payments and underwater homes” during the Great Recession. While the foreclosure rate in Ohio has come down somewhat from its peak in 2009, new research from Policy Matters Ohio suggests that the housing market and families are still struggling to keep their homes. The Dayton Daily News points out that the foreclosure rate is still four times what it was in 1995. As researcher David Rothstein put it, “The economy cannot recover with 70,000 new foreclosure filings a year.” According to the lead state negotiator in the $25 billion mortgage settlement with the nation’s five largest banks, more than 960,000 borrowers nationwide who submitted a claim through the National Mortgage Settlement will receive a check this month for about $1,480. In Camden, New Jersey, advocates, planners, and others have worked to redevelop parts of the city that struggled during and since the Recession. "It's a new day" in Camden, said one official. A new University of Arizona study “has found that loans for apartment buildings are much less likely to enter default if the residences are located in walkable, transit-accessible locations.” The study examined over 30,000 loans “dating back 30 years, finding that seven ‘sustainability variables’ were highly correlated with lower foreclosure rates.”

Health and Wealth

New research from Philadelphia provides additional evidence about the striking relationship between poverty and child health indicators.  Public health nutritionist Mariana Chilton put it in context at Wired, “They’re cutting the programs that help kids stay healthy. We’re going to see the consequences of this for a generation if we don’t help our kids.” The Washington Post examines the cause of alarmingly high suicide rates among Baby Boomer age Americans. While the research shows complex and diverse reasons for this phenomenon, chronic financial challenges and insurmountable debt loads may play a role in depression and mental health. The Economic Policy Institute has a new report out that examines the financial stability of elderly Americans, and finds that millions of older Americans are economically vulnerable (defined as living at an income less than two times the value of the supplemental poverty threshold). Among older people 65 and older, 63.5 percent of black Americans, 70.1 percent of Hispanic Americans, and 43.8 percent of white Americans are economically vulnerable. The report examines the impact that changes to Medicare and Social Security would have on this population. In Philadelphia, crowds of people lined up to attend a recent free dental clinic and individuals shared their stories about living without access to dental care. According to City Paper, 1,800 people were able to receive free treatment, many after waiting in line overnight to guarantee their place in line. Hundreds were turned away.

Financial Services

The National Council of La Raza released a new report on financial inclusion within the Latino immigrant community. Read the report here and check out a summary of the release event here. The Woodstock Institute released a report about payday lending regulation at the state level. American Banker reports that bank revenue from overdraft fees has stagnated in the face of more consumer regulation. Nevertheless, the fees are still quite profitable for banks: "Fees from customers with overdrawn accounts generated $31.1 billion in January, February and March" of last year.

Quick Hits

The unemployment rate was essentially unchanged from last month although there are more people in the labor force, according to this morning’s jobs report. Ezra Klein and the Wonkblog team have coverage of the report.

The economic pressure facing low-income consumers is reflected in the stock market results of dollar stores, explains MarketWatch.

David Dayen takes a historical look at why student loans are not like other loans in that they cannot be refinancned and are almost never discharged in bankruptcy.

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