Sunday, August 27, 2006

That Hissing Sound Called the Housing Bubble ...

An extremely interesting piece in the Washington Post by Michael Grunwald titled "The Housing Crisis Goes Suburban" about that nasty housing bubble no one wants to say is about to burst. Of course, it's not a crisis until it impacts the suburbs - we don't want to talk about affordable housing shortages in low income urban neighborhoods (which were happening long before the housing boom). All good things come to pass ... and that includes inflated housing prices that just about pushed a good number of hard working cats out of their "American" dream for a number of reasons. Because of over-zealous speculators, ignorant politicians and inept zoning boards. But, let's get real: it's really about our voracious social appetite for excess. Americans want everything big - big car (SUV), big house, big bank account, big serving of food and fly clothing to go along with it. And we want what everybody else has at any cost. That's why so many of us opt to live above our means in overpriced homes on limited budgets - to keep up with the Jones, episodes of MTV's Cribs and an Oprah lifestyle. Writes Grunwald:

Homeownership is near an all-time high, but the gap is growing between the Owns and the Own-Nots -- as well as the Owns and the Own-80-Miles-From-Works. One-third of Americans now spend at least.

30 percent of their income on housing, the federal definition of an "unaffordable" burden, and half the working poor spend at least 50 percent of their income on rent, a "critical" burden. The real estate boom of the past decade has produced windfalls for Americans who owned before it began, but affordable housing is now a serious problem for more low- and moderate-income Americans than taxes, Social Security or gas prices.

Yet nobody in national politics is doing anything about it -- or even talking about it.