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Tons of Toilets: Which City Sits Atop the Throne?

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Tons of Toilets: Which City Sits Atop the Throne?
Source: Redfin

Using census and housing data, we calculated which cities had the most residential toilets per person and we had a clear winner: Boulder, Colorado. Boulder is the only city with more residential toilets than actual people. For every 100 Boulderites, there are an estimated 102 residential toilets. That’s 305,200 total toilets, which use 5,341,000 gallons of water per day (for more on water use, see our chart and infographic below). In other words, if you’re home shopping in Boulder and can’t find a three-bedroom home with three bathrooms, you’re doing something wrong.

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The Middle-Class Squeeze: A Picture of Stagnant Incomes, Rising Costs, and What We Can Do to Strengthen America’s Middle Class

October 21, 2014 Comments off

The Middle-Class Squeeze: A Picture of Stagnant Incomes, Rising Costs, and What We Can Do to Strengthen America’s Middle Class
Source: Center for American Progress

The American middle class is in trouble.

The middle-class share of national income has fallen, middle-class wages are stagnant, and the middle class in the United States is no longer the world’s wealthiest.

But income is only one side of the story. The cost of being in the middle class—and of maintaining a middle-class standard of living—is rising fast too. For fundamental needs such as child care and health care, costs have risen dramatically over the past few decades, taking up larger shares of family budgets. The reality is that the middle class is being squeezed. As this report will show, for a married couple with two children, the costs of key elements of middle-class security—child care, higher education, health care, housing, and retirement—rose by more than $10,000 in the 12 years from 2000 to 2012, at a time when this family’s income was stagnant.

As sharp as this squeeze can be, the pain does not stop at one family, or even at millions of families. Because of the critical role that middle-class consumers play in creating aggregate demand, the American economy is in trouble when the American middle class is in trouble. And the long-term health of the U.S. economy is at risk if financially squeezed families cannot afford—and smart public policies do not support—developing the next generation of America’s workforce. It is this workforce that will lead the United States in an increasingly open and competitive global economy.

This report provides a snapshot of the American middle class and those struggling to become a part of it. It focuses on six key pillars that can help define security for households: jobs, early childhood programs, higher education, health care, housing, and retirement. Each chapter is both descriptive and prescriptive—detailing both how the middle class is doing and what policies can help it do better.

Why Are Wal-Mart and Target Next-Door Neighbors?

October 21, 2014 Comments off

Why Are Wal-Mart and Target Next-Door Neighbors? (PDF)
Source: Federal Reserve Board

One of the most notable changes in the U.S. retail market over the past twenty years has been the rise of Big Box stores, retail chains characterized by physically large stores selling a wide range of consumer goods at discount prices. A growing literature has examined the impacts of Big Box stores on other retailers and consumers, but relatively little is known about how Big Box stores choose locations. Because Big Box stores offer highly standardized products and compete primarily on price, it is likely that they will seek to establish spatial monopolies, far from competitor stores. In this paper, I examine where new Big Box stores locate with respect to three types of existing establishments: own-firm stores, other retailers in the same product space (competitors), and retailers in other product spaces (complements). Results indicate that new Big Box stores tend to avoid existing own-firm stores and locate near complementary Big Box stores. However, there is little evidence that new Big Boxes avoid competitors. Firms in the same product space may not be perfect substitutes, or firms may prefer to share consumers in a desirable location rather than cede the entire market to competitor firms.

American Housing Survey: 2013 Detailed Tables

October 20, 2014 Comments off

American Housing Survey: 2013 Detailed Tables
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The first findings from the 2013 American Housing Survey are now available in the form of dozens of detailed tables and a microdata file. The American Housing Survey is conducted biennially and, as in past years, provides current national-level information on a wide range of housing subjects. Topics unique to this survey include characteristics and physical condition of the nation’s housing units, indicators of housing and neighborhood quality, and home improvement activities. Specific examples include the presence of appliances, respondents’ rating of their homes on a scale of 1 to 10, and the average cost of kitchen and bathroom remodeling.

Topics new to the American Housing Survey this year are disaster planning and emergency preparedness, public transportation, household involvement in neighborhood and community activities, and the prevalence of “doubled-up” households, such as those with an adult child living at home. Specific examples include having an adequate food or water supply in case of emergency, key amenities accessible via public transportation and neighbors willing to help one another.

Airbnb in the City

October 17, 2014 Comments off

Airbnb in the City (PDF)
Source: New York State Office of the Attorney General

The rapid rise of short-term rental platforms like Airbnb have dramatically expanded the use of traditional apartments as transient hotel rooms — sparking a public debate in New York and in communities worldwide about the real-world consequences of this online marketplace.

Where supporters of Airbnb and other rental sites see a catalyst for entrepreneurship, critics see a threat to the safety, affordability, and residential character of local communities . Are the new platforms fueling a black market for unsafe hotels? By bidding up the price of apartments in popular areas, do short-term rentals mak e metropolitan areas like New York City less affordable? Is the influx of out-of-town visitors upsetting the quiet of longstanding residential neighborhoods?

Until now, t he discourse has centered more on opinions and anecdotes than facts . This report seeks to bridge the gulf between rhetoric and reality. It offers the first exploration of the data on how users in New York City, one of Airbnb’s most important markets, utilize the most successful online lodging rental platform . More broadly, the report endeavors to use quantitative data to inform an ongoing debate about how we embrace emerging, disruptive technologies, while protecting the safety and well-being of our citizens .

By a nalyzing Airbnb bookings for “private” stays, this report presents a snapshot of short-term rentals in New York City from January 1, 2010 through June 2, 2014 (the “Review Period” .

Long-Term Vacancy in the United States

October 15, 2014 Comments off

Long-Term Vacancy in the United States (PDF)
Source: Federal Reserve Board

Because housing is durable, the housing supply is slow to adapt to declines in demand. This paper uses long-term vacancy–defined as nonseasonal housing units that have been vacant for an unusually long period of time–to quantify the extent of excess supply in the housing market. I find that long-term vacancy is less than 2 percent of all nonseasonal housing units and accounts for only one quarter of the aggregate increase in nonseasonal vacancy from 2001 to 2011. Thus, at the national level, excess supply is considerably less extensive than indicated by traditional measures of vacancy. However, the stock of long-term vacant housing is concentrated in a small number of neighborhoods that do have appreciably high long-term vacancy rates. Some of these neighborhoods have characteristics suggesting that excess supply is related to overbuilding during the housing boom, while others have characteristics that are symptomatic of persistently weak housing demand.

Mortgage Rates, Household Balance Sheets, and the Real Economy

October 13, 2014 Comments off

Mortgage Rates, Household Balance Sheets, and the Real Economy
Source: Social Science Research Network

This paper investigates the impact of lower mortgage rates on household balance sheets and other economic outcomes during the housing crisis. We use proprietary loan-level panel data matched to consumer credit records using borrowers’ Social Security numbers, which allows for accurate measurement of the effects. Our main focus is on borrowers with agency loans, which constitute the vast majority of U.S. mortgage borrowers. Relying on variation in the timing of resets of adjustable rate mortgages, we find that a sizable decline in mortgage payments ($150 per month on average) induces a significant drop in mortgage defaults, an increase in new financing of durable consumption (auto purchases) of more than 10% in relative terms, and an overall improvement in household credit standing. New financing of durable consumption by borrowers with lower housing wealth responds more to mortgage payment reduction relative to wealthier households. Credit-constrained households initially use more than 70% of the extra liquidity generated by mortgage rate reductions to repay credit card debt— a deleveraging response that can significantly restrict the ability of monetary policy to stimulate these households’ consumption. These findings also qualitatively hold in a sample of less-prevalent borrowers with private non-agency loans. We then use regional variation in mortgage contract types to explore the impact of lower mortgage rates on broader economic outcomes. Regions more exposed to mortgage rate declines saw a relatively faster recovery in house prices, increased durable (auto) consumption, and increased employment growth, with responses concentrated in the non-tradable sector. Our findings have implications for the pass-through of monetary policy to the real economy through mortgage contracts and household balance sheets.

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