The Mortgage Corner
The Trump administration and Republicans’ anti-immigration policies will kill the housing market. Why? Trump wants to cut immigration quotas by 50 percent when there aren’t enough qualified workers to fill current job openings. And congress can’t agree on anything that gives easier access to citizenship for the foreign-born.
The housing market can’t provide enough housing even for current population growth. Both new and existing-home sales have declined this year because of the labor shortage. Builders and real-estate agents have complained for years about more red tape, tighter lending standards and a scarcity of inexpensive lots to build on.
And builders are now facing an extreme labor shortage. They can’t find enough carpenters, bricklayers and other workers with the needed skills. “Labor and material shortages are holding construction back, and will continue to do so for some time yet,” says Marketwatch, citing economists at Capital Economics.
The number of existing-homes listed for sale in 2017 to date is the lowest since 1999, according to the NAR. That’s in part because distressed sales volumes have fallen from more than 100,000 a month at the peak of the post crisis period, 2009-2012, to about 25,000 today, which means there aren’t many cheaply-priced homes left over from the housing crash.
I said last week the Labor Department reported there were 6.1 million job openings in August in its JOLTS report, or Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which was “little changed” from July, while hirings remained far behind at 5.430 million. The very large gap has been little changed for more than a few months. At 652,000, the current spread between openings and hirings is one of the very widest on record, and two months ago it was even higher—the spread was 1 million.
Why? There aren’t enough workers to fill current job openings; as I said—and the Trump administration wants to restrict the supply even further in its single-minded pursuit of minority white-nationalist voters?
Economists know that to advance economic growth to say, 3 percent for any length of time, 2.8 million new workers are needed each year, when our domestic population is capable of just 600,000 new adult workers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So where are the additional workers to come from if Trump and the Republican congress continue to block a more enlightened immigration policy?
Housing affordability will suffer the most, when household incomes are rising at half the rate of both housing prices and rental rates. It’s a sad fact that the average production and non-supervisory worker earned $37,600 annually in 2016. “When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years,” said Executive Pay Watch, in a report conducted by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
So we are at a crossroads, if we want to provide the necessary housing for our growing population. A more enlightened immigration policy is the first step. And then Republicans should drop their obsession with unnecessary tax cuts and instead focus on that $1 trillion infrastructure bill they’ve talked so much about. It’s even more necessary because of the horrific hurricanes.
Harlan Green © 2017
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