Friday, September 28, 2007

Sen. Dodd introduces Family Leave Insurance Act for 8 weeks paid family leave

This morning, Tory Johnson ran a story on ABC “Good Morning America,” specifically “Taking the Fight for Family and Medical Leave Act to Washington: Ways to Get Your Voice Heard on Paid Leave from Work Policies,” here. A number of women in blue “Women at Work” t-shirts joined in the fun. Actually, the story refers to 2008 Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Christopher Dodd ‘s Family Leave Insurance Act of 2007, introduced in June. The bill would essentially provide paid leave under terms similar to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, (S 1681 in which provided only unpaid leave. There are restrictions, such as a length of time someone must have worked. Dodd has the text of the bill at his website. Another story is from Women Employed, here.

The provision would apply for pregnancy or maternity leave (paternity isn’t as clear), sick children, or especially eldercare. Had the bill been in effect in 1999, it could have helped me then. It does not appear to require that the beneficiaries be married; it would benefit single parents. I think we can imagine here what the religious right would argue on that, and that gets quickly to the whole question of marriage as an institution everyone “subsidizes.” I’ve talked about that elsewhere and will again, but that seems off track on the actual bill as written. I must add that it is psychologically much hard to "ask" for time off for anyone else's care (a parents) if one did not have one's own children.

Dodd will try to make this look like a win-win proposition, as partnership of business, government and individuals. But there are obviously some questions.

The mathematical question is that, if you increase a burden on employers, there will be fewer jobs. Dodd answers this by talking about partnership. Many jobs, especially in information technology and sometimes many other areas, are short-term W-2 contract jobs for which this would not apply. It’s conceivable, it sounds, that in the future such contracts could become legally undesirable and contracting companies could push for more corp-to-corp arrangements, which could make reputation management of individual contractors an even bigger issue.

But the even more serious question has to do specifically with family responsibility. In fact, “family responsibility discrimination” has become a buzzword recently. In the workplace, if the bill passes, those with less family responsibility (and this often means the childless in practice, as with Eleanor Burkett’s book “The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless”) will work more for the same pay. That’s just mathematical logic, Dodd notwithstanding. You have to ask, is this right? It is the women’s movement, and to a lesser extent the GLBT movement, that has stressed “equal pay for equal work.” A bit of a paradox. Would it benefit women more than men in the workplace?

In fact, in salaried positions, people are often on-call and fix emergency problems without compensation. Should the childless do more of this? In the 1980s this was not a problem where I worked because everyone was strictly responsible for his own system. In the 1990s, on another job, it crept in as an issue, and sometimes caused resentment.

The whole structure of jobs and the workplace can be affected. But we have similar questions with health insurance. (I know what Michael Moore says.) Yet, in Europe and British Commonwealth nations there is paid family leave with little social discord over family responsibility. Maybe it helps that those countries are more hospitable to gay marriage and even gay adoption. These things are all connected. It is still remarkable that the United States seems to be the only major democracy without some mandated paid family leave, according to the ABC story this morning.

Continuation -- on my main blog Oct. 3, link.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

DC vote falls short; Examiner says, go back to constitutional amending process

The local media in Washington DC covered the failure of the District to get the votes it needed in the U.S. Senate (the fourth quarter rally "lost" 57-42) to get a representative an two senators.

I attended a rally on the Mall about this in April and wrote an entry on this blog on April 16 (see archives). Today Thursday Sept. 20, 2007 the DC Examiner, on p 20, wrote an editorial maintaining that Congress does not have the authority (express constitutional power) to give representation by way of anything except the states, and that therefore it must go back to the drawing board and work toward a constitutional amendment. That is, go back and reread John Vile's 1993 treatise (Contemporary Questions Surrounding the Constitutional Amending Process, published by Prager; Amazon reference; it should be at the Library of Congress, too) on the detailed strategies for amending the constitution. (There are two basic approaches, each with two parts.) The Examiner supports a pragmatic approach of an amendment allowing the DC one representative, and a "reliably Republican state" like Utah one more rep; no senators.

The other "obvious" approach is to cede the District back to Maryland, at least for purposes of voting for Congress. But giving the state responsibilities to Maryland would be an enormous boondoggle.

Other countries often assign the capital cities to belong to states of provinces, such as Canada and Australia.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hillary offers universal health care plan -- not that radical

2008 Democratic presidential candidate and former first lady Hillary Clinton today outlined her universal health care plan. It would essentially require mandatory health insurance for every American, somewhat like Massachusetts or even the plan propose din CA. Employers would have to "pay or play" and the self-employed would be offered assistance, when needed, to purchase insurance with pre-tax dollars and be offered the same in network discounts by insurers, who would not be allowed to exclude for pre-existing conditions. Policies would be portable. It's not so clear how network discounts could apply when a patient wants to keep the same doctor.

It doesn't take too much though to see how this could fit in to the more conservative health savings account model.

Hillary Clinton's 1993 plan was attacked in partisan ads that invoked fears of European socialized medicine and loss of choice of doctor. Hillary today insists that patients will be able to choose doctors (although probably network discount lists will still limit choices).

The plan, on its face, does not need to affect Medicare.

David Broder has an article from "The Trail" here in The Washington Post online.

Edwards is said to have a universal health plan; Obama's is said not to be universal.

Update: Sept. 18, 2007
. In The Washington Times, p. A17, John Casteliani has a column "The time is now: we must reform health care," and the writer points out that the automation of passing of medical information to doctors (possibly affected by HIPAA) is behind the times and could lower costs.

Wal-Mart has offered its workers, many of whom are low-wage (as Barbara Ehrenreich writes about in "Nickel and Dimed") an innovative health insurance plan involving cash allowances to offset deductibles (leading to a "doughnut hole")and cheaper premiums, and discounts on generic prescription drugs. The New York Times story by Michael Barbaro, on p C1 "Business Day", is here.

Update: Oct. 10, 2007

The DC Examiner, on p 19, posted a commentary by New York Post editorial writer Tom Elliott, "What Hillarycare has in store for us," here.
Elliott points out that government-run health care gives the government license to regulate individual lifestyles. Elliott says this is happening somewhat in New York with the trans fat ban and proposals to change zoning laws so that neighborhoods with higher rates of obesity don't get fast-food businesses. Imagine Congress getting the right to do this. Edwards and Huckabee have already suggested national cigarette smoking bans, he writes. It doesn't take much imagination to see calls for regulation of male homosexual behavior, given memories of the 1980s.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lively protest, counter-protest about Iraq in Washington today

Today, a large gathering of protesters demonstrating against the War in Iraq gathered in Lafayette Park one block north of the White House, around 9 AM. It was due to march to the Capitol for a "die in" that might result in arrests. I saw a protest group from Georgetown University marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in the GWU area as I walked back to Farragut West Metro.

The crowd tended to be youthful and was orderly. The nude image of the president reminds me of the 1985 Christopher Street article about Ronald Reagan's role in the movie John Loves Mary. Bush's doctored image is not quite as ladylike or as embarrassing. "The emperor has no clothes."

There is to be a counter-protest, a Gathering of Eagles III, Support our Troops, in the western portion of the Mall at 9 AM. The protest map is on page B4 of today's (Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007) Washington Post.

As for the Parade Magazine article today "Is Anything Private Anymore" (Sean Flynn), yes, Metro can tell that I went to the protest pretty well and can tell a lot of other demographics about me from my Metro Smart Card. Of course, they can tell from these photos that I took. I don't worry about it.

A Washington Post story Sept. 16 by Michelle Boorstein, V. Dion Haynes and Allison Klein, "Dueling Demonstrations" indicates that 189 were arrested. Story.

I've never been arrested at a demonstration, but I came close in July 1971 when photographing on a strip mine near Mt. Storm, W. Va.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mortgage bailout: subsidizing irresponsible behavior? Memories are short

Wednesday, Sept. 12, The Washington Times printed on the front page an AP story by J. W. Elphinstone, “Mortgage bailouts not without critics: seen as favoring ‘bad behavior’”. President Bush has proposed helping beleaguered homeowners, where as others are talking about “personal responsibility,” of a desire to get something for nothing. What happened to the days of saving for a down payment?

Last night (Sept 13), ABC World News Tonight presented a story where a 22-year-old related how he had sold weak mortgage products for two years for money, and how he was pressured by lenders to push buyers into unsound loans. He was allowed to overstate applicant incomes and ignore other signs of credit problems. You can go to abcnews and watch a video, “will mortgage mess lead to recession?”

The literature on foreclosure on the Internet is rather disorganized. There is a good orange paperback good from 1992, James Wiedener, A Homeowner's Guide to Foreclosure. Dearborn, Dearborn Financial Press. It gives a pretty clear discussion of judicial and non-judicial foreclosure, varying from state to state, talks about the risks of assumptions (unqualified assumptions used to be common before the previous savings and loan crisis at the end of the 1980s -- memories of that time seem short now), and some frank talk about deficiency judgments and FDIC rules and civil procedures, which can, according to him, be merciless. Coverage of some of this has been less common in the media in recent months, despite the meltdown.

Of course, the competitive nature of our society, and the way some people see “family values” in a competitive context, helps drive unsound home buying patterns. And the artificial boom in mortgage lending and home and condo prices in 2004-2005 exacerbates the affordable housing problem, as speculators convert rental property into condos, or even raze rental property to sell empty land later. The real estate boom did help fund the new Washington Nationals stadium and redevelop the Anacostia waterfront, driving out many poor people and businesses that some people find socially objectionable.

On Sunday, Sept. 16 The Washington Post carried an editorial pointing out that, while these lending practices were legal, maybe they should have more federal regulation, especially limits on prepayment penalties for subprime loans (penalties that the editorial sees as "anti-competitive") and plain English disclosure requirements (a kind of AOL "terms of service" in baby language for mortgage customers.

Think about the etymology and derivation of the word "mortgage."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Time Magazine story calls for National Service expansion

The September 10, 2007 issue of Time has an eye-catching yellow cover page: “The Case for National Service” with a cartoonish picture of Rosie the Riveter flexing her biceps. The article, by Richard Stengel, starts on p. 48 and is called “A Time to Service: In a changing society facing all manner of new challenges, volunteers are helping bind America together. Why the U.S. and the next President should make a new commitment to national service.”

Stengel sees to diverging trends: a loss of confidence in publicly owned service institutions, and an increase in private volunteerism. He sees this dichotomy is harmful. Not everyone (especially libertarians) would agree.

Stengel lists ten proposals in what is still “technically” a voluntary program. The most important is a National-Service Baby Bond, a “529-type fund” to be set up at a baby’s birth, to be redeemed only with a specific national service commitment entered at some specific age (maybe 18). It would sound like this proposal would also be pro-natalist: encourage babies. However, it would certainly help with college tuition and student loans.

He wants to create a National Service cabinet level department, expand existing programs (like Americorps), launch an Education Corps and a Green Corps (appropriate in a world concerned about global warming), and a Health Corps. He wants to start a National Service Academy. And the most controversial could be a Baby-Boomer Education Bond. He wants retirees to become involved in volunteer-aka-public service employment.

The last proposal could lead into controversial areas. One wonders if the senior is expected to “earn” a social security benefit. More interesting is the idea of involving seniors with tutoring and education and raising test scores in schools. That sounds good. But we now have a population of older people, including men, who never had children (including a generation of gay men who lived in a post Stonewall “urban exile”). Is it appropriate to expect them to become involved in some sort of emotional bonding to other people’s children, something that is sometimes necessary in teaching underprivileged children. I do wonder.

One area of controversy is, just how effective are volunteers who go down to the Gulf region to help with rebuilding (as after Hurricane Katrina). There are legitimate questions about whether below sea level areas should be rebuilt, whether volunteers can work safely (especially inside flooded homes), and how effectively the volunteer organizations have used funds. But one thing seems to come through all of this: service seems to have a personal, one-on-one nature. Volunteering can be less direct, as with helping with Red Cross phone banks after disasters (which I did in 2005). But even this has issues with effectiveness (inadequate 800 number FEMA referrals).

Stengel also has a sidebar, “What These Presidents Would Ask of You: The candidates push for cash incentives, loan help, new service corps.” John Edwards favors mandatory community service for high school graduation.

His proposal does seem to call for "big government," doesn't it!

I had addressed this issue on this blog previously, on May 28 by mentioning the “Everyone Serves” website, and on Feb. 26 by discussing a Congressional Digest issue.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Public health policy: staph and superbugs

Besides the various infectious diseases discussed on the Aug. 30 on my “public health policy inconsistency” blog entry, there is another one of note, CA-MSRA, antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus The August 2007 issue of Readers Digest has, on p 84, a layman’s article by Lisa Collier Cool, “Deadly Super Bugs: They can be transmitted by a hug or a handshake, on a playground or a locker room. And can kill within 72 hours.” The article starts with a horror story of a 16 year old football player who came close to death and lost 50 pounds before gradually recovering from sudden CA-MSRA pneumonia. The “CA” refers to “community acquired” and the acronym is connected to nosocomial infections common in hospitals, nursing homes or other confined environments (even college dorms). They tend to affect the weak and immunocompromised, but a subset can attack young, healthy people, sometimes because of unusual immune responses, sometimes because of lack of time (over life span) to have developed immunity. Some infections may be more dangerous to a twenty year old than a fifty year old. Some forms of meningitis, for example (that occur in dorms) fit this category because of the horrific complications resulting from unusual bacterial toxins. Most of us have heard of the horror stories of unusual flesh-eating bacteria.

Staph seems to be unpredictable, given the article. There is a banner page “How to protect your family.” Some of these infections may not affect single people who live alone (and have a predictable and steady exposure to crowds that keeps their immune systems alert), or even couples, and may be an issue only in households where there are people of varying immunities, especially with infections that remain asymptomatic with so many people. Staph may fit that description. Some infections may be occurring because of overuse of antibiotics, that eliminate germs that otherwise would compete with them. Middle aged people who do not become sick often are protected not only by their own immunity but by steady state internal environments where organisms keep each other at bay.

I once had a bizarre jaw infection (in 2004), resulting in huge swelling and a cat scan (malignancy suspected at first), apparently when a tiny seed went down a periodontal pocket space. It resisted tetracycline and various penicillins but responded immediately to clindamycin. It did not come back, which probably shows that my own body became immune to the germ, which was likely an anaerobic staph or strep infection.

All of this unveils another dirty fact about the health care debate. We live longer, with questionable health habits. We complain about the expense of dental treatment, but forty years of carbonic acid and pop and incomplete flossing are bound to lead to risks.

Here is a New Scientist reference on CA-MSRA by Clara Penn, April 2005, "Pandemic bug returns as community MSRA Strain, here.

Is there a moral lesson in all of this? Maybe.

Update: October 10, 2007

Several high schools in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC have reported student cases of MRSA. One school in Rappahannock County, VA was closed for one day so that staff (teachers?) and "volunteers" could disinfect the school. One student, a football player, had to have several surgeries to remove infected skin or flesh. The infection may be spread in locker rooms. It's not clear whether school system employees (like substitute teachers) could bring the bug into a school environment as "carriers," since in many people the bacterium adapts in some kind of equilibrium with the person's immune system and then does not cause symptoms. The NBC4 news story is here. During the month of October, additional reports of DC area school closings appeared in the media. On October 17, 2007, iVillage on NBC (with Bill Rancic) had a doctor discuss staph.

Update: April 1, 2008

Dr. Phil had a program, first minomered "a deadly virus" but then formally titled "The Superbug Scare," link here, about MRSA. The misnomer comes from the fact MRSA is a bacterium, not a virus (staphlyococcus aureus). There were several real cases, and now there is "community acquired MRSA" as well as "hospital acquired" (or nosocomial) MRSA. Community acquired is becoming an issue for high school and college (and perhaps professional) sports. The best measure seems to be thorough disinfection of surfaces repeatedly used (like training tables).

Monday, September 10, 2007

Affordable housing a subject of civic associations in Arlington VA

Early this evening, I joined about forty other people for an "Adventuring hike" -- walk , about one mile, but up and down the Fall Line running through Arlington -- of the old neighborhood tucked away, almost hidden, between US 50 (Arlington Boulevard) and Fort Myer, VA (where I was stationed a few months on my first Army permanent party assignment in the summer of 1968). The civic association's territory crossed over Route 50 onto the shelf of the Court House / Rosslyn area.

For a number of years, land developers have been buying apartment buildings and converting them into condos for people with more money. Sometimes, they raze the buildings and play Monopoly with the land. County board members said, Virginia is a conservative state with little home rule on concepts like land use and landlord-tenant relations. (Insurance companies generally like Virginia, and auto insurance is lower than in many other states.) The pace may have slowed during the mortgage crisis, but probably not for as long in the doorstep of Washington DC as anywhere else. The neighorbood shown is as close as a neighborhood in VA gets to DC.

I checked on the commercial tax increase issue (my Aug 6 entry on this blog) and the general answer was, no, it should not effect residential use or taxes in any way; the issues I raise in that blog entry are ideological issues that occur in other parts of the country, especially those with high property taxes.

There was another article on the commercial property tax increase in the DC Examiner for Fairfax County by William C. Flook, "Fairfax C. supervisors might pave the way for tax increase," p. 4. Bill Turque has a similar story in the Sept. 11, 2001 Washington Post, p B01, on Fairfax County, "Board Takes Steps to Raise Commercial Tax," here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Some Patriot Act Provisions (NSL's without court supervision) struck down

Federal Judge Victor Marrero in New York has struck down portions of the USA Patriot Act, specifically those that allow the FBI to obtain emails and telephone call transcripts from telecommunications providers with self-certified “national security letters” without any court supervision, and particularly with gag orders prohibiting the ISP’s and telecommunications providers from notifying subscribers. The NSL’s would appear to apply to domestic and overseas communications. Not so clear immediately is the role of any secret "FISA" courts.

A typical media story is one by Declan McCullagh, “Judge deals blow to Patriot Act,” at CNET, from Sept. 6, 2007, here. The PDF document for this opinion (at the ACLU website)is here.

The judge found serious problems with violations of the First Amendment, and with the concept of the separation of powers as required in the Constitution. The judge’s ruling did not necessarily apply to other information gathering, such as bank records and credit reports.

A related subject would be the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) with an Electronic Frontier Foundation web reference here.

In the recent COPA trial, search engine companies were subpoenaed to provide search engine results. It would have been possible for the government to track many of these searches back to individual computers or parties, but this sort of request probably would not be invalidated in today’s ruling.

On Friday Sept. 7, 2007, Bill Moyers interviewed attorney Jack Goldsmith, author of The Terror Presidency (from W. W. Norton, 2007), architect of President Bush 's legal strategies since 9/11. Goldsmith presents the days after 9/11 as having constant fear of another major incident. On Sunday Sept. 9 The New York Times Magazine featured a story by Jeffrey Rosen, "Conscience of a Conservative: When Jack Goldsmith took over as the key constitutional adviser for the Bush administration, he soon found himself at odds with the White House," p 40, photographs by Stefan Ruiz.

Eric Lichtblau has a front page story in The New York Times, Sunday Sept. 9, "FBI Data Mining Reached Beyond Initial Targets," mainly about telephone calls, here. This link may require registration or purchase.

Update: Sept. 27, 2007

A federal judge (Ann Aiken) in Portland Or. ruled two provisions of FISA (the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act), as amended by the Patriot Act, as unconstitutional because they allow unsupervised wiretapping in violation of requirements for probably cause. "For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law _ with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised..." She wrote that the Attorney General was "asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so." The case came up in conjunction with the Madrid train attacks in March 2004.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

DC wants Supreme Court to hear 2nd Amendment Case

The District of Columbia government asked the Supreme Court to review an appeals court opinion striking down its local laws prohibiting residents from possessing hand guns. (The law did not ban possessing shotguns and rifles, which are harder to conceal. It is true that many homeowners would find these larger items to be sufficient protection if they were trained to use them properly.)

There is considerable media coverage in the Washington DC area media. A typical story is on the front page of the Washington Post, Wed. Sept. 5, 2007, by Robert Barnes and David Nakamura, “D.C. Case Could Shape Gun Laws: Supreme Court Asked to Uphold Ban.” The link is this: Democratic mayor Adrian Fenty wrote an op-ed in the Tuesday paper (with Attorney General Linda Singer), P A17 print, “Fighting for our Handgun Ban.”, link here.

I discussed the opinion on this blog on March 9 (please check Archives om the left). There has been a lot of discussion on whether the Second Amendment is a “collective” or “individual” right, and also the idea that it does not appear to be incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment. Fenty notes this point and plays up the home rule issue (and “taxation without representation” on DC license plates) for the District in doing so. One legal scholar had noted that the wording of the Second Amendment has a “splice” and that the provision about “well ordered militia” is essentially parenthetical.

This time, many commentators point out that the current Supreme Court, being more “conservative”, could, if it kept the appeals court ruling in place (and refused to let the District have the ban back) could overturn local gun control (especially for handguns) in other communities around the country. The media seems to feel that the District of Columbia is putting gun control on the line for everyone by appealing.

This issue sounds like one of those “Am I my brother’s keeper?” problems. Maybe! It is certainly true that many tragedies occur, in the District and elsewhere, with handguns, often misplaced or carelessly allowed to fall into the hands of minors by parents. But it is far from clear that gun control would keep the guns out of the wrong hands.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Health Care: SCHIP expansion can lead us down the slippery slope

“Only in Washington would you consider a family both rich and poor at the same time.” That quote is attributed to Greg D’Angelo at the The Hertiage Foundation, in a story on page A1 print by Sean Lengell, “Wealthy could get health benefits: Called ‘welfare’ for middle class, The Washington Times, today, Tuesday Sept 4, 2007. (A Washington DC Baptist minister also said recently, “Washington is Hollywood for ugly peope.”) The fall back-to-work season and back-to-school wastes no time getting to political controversy.

At issue are Democratic proposals to extend universal health care benefits to children through a complicated set of rules, expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) to families ending several times the national poverty level. States would have quite a bit of flexibility to avoid anomalies, but it’s still true that as things stand now, in New York, families having to pay the alternative minimum tax to the IRS could still get benefits in some cases. Oh well, maybe that’s not so unfair after all.

After all, our health care system is quasi “single payer” for those 65 and older (Medicare) and one can reasonably ask why not do the same for kids, who deserve a fair start in life. Some seniors are pampered when their families could be forced to pay (or at least have it taken from inheritances). This gets into the complicated but obscure subject of filial responsibility laws that I have researched this summer on my retirement blog (check my Profile). But this kind of thinking can lead us down very slippery slopes indeed.

Changing SCHIP could generate the next set of IT jobs for COBOL programmers, too.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Renters may feel squeeze from mortgage crisis

This week USA Today ran a couple of stories by Noelle Knox about the effect that the foreclosure and mortgage crisis may have on apartment renters. The stories ran on Thursday Aug. 30, 2007. On page A1, the bottom, the story title was “Turmoil in mortgage market hits renters in the wallet.” On page 3B print there was a longer story, “Fading American dream refuels rentals.”

Because mortgage interest rates are rising, more people are renewing leases, reducing the supply of apartments for rent. Furthermore, people losing homes to foreclosure often need to find units to lease very quickly. Property managers tend to state strict rental requirements in terms of income and credit worthiness (and reports from tenant checking services for behavior like past evictions or criminal convictions). However, according to these reports, many properties are willing to “overlook” foreclosures on credit reports when they are clearly the result of today’s sudden crisis.

According to the reports, nationwide rents are expected to rise 4% in the next year. In the DC area, it is hard to find an acceptable efficiency for much less than $1000 and most modern highrise one bedrooms are at least $1500. I moved back from Minneapolis in 2003, where, despite the complaints of tight rents there, rents were probably 15-20% less for the same kind of property than in the Washington DC area. Rentals are more available in some areas, like Florida. Some areas might involve the risk of living in hurricane or brushfire exposed areas, a consideration for me some day.

A couple of years ago in many cities there were widespread reports of buildings being converted to condos with tenants not allowed to renew leases unless they could afford to buy the units (which usually were offered at discounts). Now some condos are being bought back and converted to apartments. This may help with supply. The credit crunch could affect commercial apartment construction, but investors surely will realize in today’s market that the demand for rental units is strong and will feel an incentive to build more units with all of the desirable lifestyle associated amenities. Some areas may experience demand in specialized areas, such as properties allowing pets. The availability of affordable rental housing ultimately affects the ability of ordinary people to buy homes again.

Although today’s mortgage “crisis” seems shocking, it has happened before. I first became a “homeowner” in Dallas in 1980, at the end of the Jimmy Carter years, when there was 20% prime and when a 10-1/2 % conventional loan with 5% down was considered a good deal. On a property bought VA in 1984, the rate was 12-1/2%.

Retirees, especially those with accumulated assets but lower incomes, may space special issues when renting, and I make take this up soon on my retirement blog (check Profile).

Update: Nov. 17, 2007
Renters in foreclosed homes getting evicted

The New York Times has a story on Nov. 18 "As Owners Feel Mortgage Pain, So Do Renters". Renters in homes that get foreclosed on, or in multiple-unit houses or small apartment buildings owned by investors over their heads (or in condos owned by investors in too deep, sometimes trying to "flip" properties) have found themselves suddenly evicted. Banks do not want to be landlords. The story is here.