Can we afford to fight national politics on a local level?

Norcross this morning in the Star Ledger:

N.J. Congressman: Murphy wants $15 min. wage by year-end. Let’s do it

The best social program is a good job with fair wages and the dignity that comes with it.

Last week, Governor Murphy reiterated that raising the state minimum wage to $15 an hour is one of his top three legislative priorities this year, and I not only applaud his strong stance, but urge my friends in the state legislature and my colleagues in Congress to heed our shared call to raise wages.

I’ve spent my life fighting for good pay for workers, and spent years working as an electrician installing and restoring power for New Jersey homes, businesses and industrial sites. Raising wages for hardworking families is the first issue I talked to the governor and the new team in Trenton about. In fact, we brought together Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Assembly Leader Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, for their first joint public appearance after last year’s election to call for a $15 minimum wage.

Today, the wage floor is $7.25 an hour nationally and $8.60 in New Jersey, leaving Americans who work full time living in poverty. Families are coming up thousands of dollars short each month just trying to meet basic living standards — asking if they should pay for heat or for medicine. Food or rent. Those types of choices shouldn’t have to be made — not by an American with a full-time job. That doesn’t reflect our country’s values. But until wages rise, economic anxiety will continue to be the norm.

It’s illogical that our nation’s workers are more productive than ever, but profits are all going to CEO bonuses and offshore accounts instead of actual paychecks. And while everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work, our policies are not addressing the needs of everyday Americans — the many of us without trust funds, yachts and private jets. Trumpism favors the wealthiest among us — it doesn’t match American ingenuity or productivity.

To make matters worse, President Donald Trump and his Republican accomplices passed a heinous tax scam that gives 83 percent of the tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent. They rewarded billionaires, prioritized corporate profits and hurt working families — particularly in New Jersey — by gutting critical state and local tax deductions that Americans depend on.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 72 Comments

Sometimes it pays to play the long game

From Bloomberg:

U.S. Homeowners Are Lingering Longer, and the Wait Is Paying Off

Homeowners in the U.S. are holding on to their houses longer than they have in at least 18 years, and when they do sell, they’re reaping gains that haven’t been seen since before the housing crisis.

Those who sold in the second quarter did so after owning their homes for an average of 8.09 years, the longest stretch since Attom Data Solutions started tracking the statistic in 2000. The wait appears to be paying off: Second-quarter sellers recorded gains averaging $58,000 — the most since the third quarter of 2007.

Seller gains reached their peak in the fourth quarter of 2005, when they averaged $89,780. They bottomed out less than four years later, in the first quarter of 2009, when the average seller lost $58,735.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, National Real Estate | 73 Comments

NJ’s future of smaller, taller, more expensive apartments

From ROI NJ:

Rutgers Real Estate Center releases landmark study on school-aged children in multifamily properties

The number of school-age children in multifamily housing units increases with the number of bedrooms, regardless of the residents’ income level and building product type. And, if income and bedrooms are fixed, it can be shown that denser properties will have fewer school-aged children.

Those are just two of the conclusions drawn from a white paper released Thursday by the Center for Real Estate at Rutgers Business School, the institute’s effort to answer one of the most pressing questions in the industry.

Here are the key takeaways from the landmark paper, the center’s first:

  • Across all income levels and building product types, the number of school-age children increases with the number of bedrooms;
  • For any given number of bedrooms and product types, the number of school-age children decreases as renters’ household incomes rise;
  • Holding income and the number of bedrooms fixed, the number of school-age children has an inverse relationship with density (e.g., garden apartments, with fewer units per building, have a greater number of school-age children, and mid- and high-rise buildings, with a greater number of units per building, have a lesser number of school-age children);
  • Buildings with an average income of less than $50,000 per year have a similar number of school-age children, regardless of whether the buildings include affordable units or market-rate units;
  • Buildings constructed before 2000 have a significantly higher number of school-age children living in market-rate units than do buildings built after 2000; and
  • On average, the number of school-age children per 100 affordable units is significantly higher than the number of school-age children per 100 market-rate units.
  • The collaborators feel the study provides an unprecedented level of context for the oft-contested issue of the effects of development on generating school-age children by controlling for a number of important variables, including: household income; whether the units were market-rate or designated affordable housing; the number of bedrooms in each unit; and building type and age.

    “The issue of school-age children in new multifamily development is frequently a contentious debate, and one that can benefit immensely from robust, hard data that takes into account a multitude of variables,” Davis said.

    Posted in Demographics, Economics, New Development, New Jersey Real Estate | 81 Comments

    Buy ’em out, tear ’em down.

    From the Star Ledger:

    These N.J. properties flood over and over again, costing taxpayers like you millions

    More than 3,300 homes and business in New Jersey have been repeatedly flooded and rebuilt at taxpayer expense — some as many as 20 or more times — since the 1970s, raising questions about whether the government should force more people to elevate or relocate.

    Repairs to the properties — covered under the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides low-cost flood insurance to a quarter-million New Jersey property owners — cost a total of about $700 million, according to new data published this month.
    About 70 percent of the New Jersey properties have been repaired five or more times, with the median payment for each flood claim topping $25,000, according to the data.

    New Jersey has the third-highest number of repetitive loss properties under the federal program, behind Louisiana and Texas.

    Part of the problem with the program is the way it’s set up, said Joel Scata, an attorney for Healthy People Thriving Communities program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    “It places a great deal of emphasis in rebuilding in place and not mitigating flood risks,” Scata said. Alternatives include buying out the property so that property owners can move higher ground or elevating the property, he said.

    In addition, unlike private insurance, there’s no limit on the amount of claims property owners can make on the same property in the same location, Scata said.

    “And so they’re trapped in a cycle of flooding and rebuilding,” he said.

    For example, one business in Pleasantville is located in a building that has flooded and received payments to rebuild 32 different times since the 90’s. There’s a single-family home in North Wildwood that has been flooded and rebuilt 23 times.

    Many of the repetitive loss properties are found in low-lying, flood-prone communities along the Passaic River. Wayne Township is home to 429 such properties with the federal government paying a grand total of $84 million over 40 years, according to the data.

    The neighboring communities of Lincoln Park, Pompton Lakes and Little Falls have a combined total of 483 repetitive loss properties.

    The Jersey Shore’s also a hot spot. The zip code with the second-largest amount of repetitive loss properties is 08260, which includes the beachside communities of Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, North Wildwood and West Wildwood.

    Since 2008, Wayne has secured a total of over $90 million to purchase about 400 homes in the township from FEMA through the Severe Repeated Loss and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Blue Acres program.

    Little Falls is nearly done with 70 home buyouts along the Passaic River funded by a combination of Blue Acres and local organization funds.

    However, the process of buying homes and moving residents moved is slow, often taking years to occur after a particular disaster strikes.

    Posted in Economics, National Real Estate | 101 Comments

    Blue states throw Republican strategy right back in their face

    From Above the Law:

    States Are Suing For Their SALT Deductions Back Under The 16th Amendment

    The Republican tax bill famously capped the deductions for state and local taxes (SALT) at $10,000 for the purposes of federally taxed income.

    The move, orchestrated by Republicans from low-tax, low-population states, represented a flashpoint in our growing system of political apartheid. It was an attack on high-tax “blue” states that provide services to their people, by flyover country that has gotten used to living without Medicare or education.

    The blue states are fighting back, such as they can. A lawsuit was filed by New York Governor (for now) Andrew Cuomo against the federal government, joined by Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey. They argue that the Republican tax bill interferes with state’s rights to make their own fiscal decisions.

    But the states also argue that federal government is violating the original meaning of the Sixteenth Amendment… and I am all here for that. Blue states are making an originalist argument about the 16th Amendment and that is goddamn fascinating!

    Of course, “originalism” isn’t really an honest attempt to interpret Constitutional issues, it’s a cynical attempt to promote the polices of the Republican party. Right now, the policy of the Republican party is to napalm the SALT deduction.

    I expect judges picked by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation to dance with the party that brought them. “Federalism” concerns or evidence of original intent mean nothing to these people when there is a preferred Republican policy up for review.

    Still, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood is making a great argument here. Even if she loses, she’s sure going to make conservative judges show themselves to be inveterate hypocrites.

    Posted in New Jersey Real Estate, Politics, Property Taxes | 88 Comments

    76% of CPA’s say the new budget is bad

    From Accounting Today:

    New Jersey CPAs criticize state budget

    More than 75 percent of CPAs in New Jersey say the Garden State’s recently enacted budget would have a negative impact on the economy, according to a new survey by the New Jersey Society of CPAs.

    The NJCPA polled 921 CPAs for the survey and found that 39 percent predicted the state economy could get “marginally worse” under the 2019 state budget signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy on July 1, while 37 percent predicted it would get “significantly worse.” Another 14 percent felt the new budget would have no impact, while 10 percent believe the economy would get “marginally better” or “significantly better.”

    New Jersey’s $37.4 billion spending plan raises taxes on large corporations and wealthy individuals (see Murphy signs N.J. budget after last-minute tax deal averts shutdown). Under the new budget, taxes would increase from 8.97 to 10.75 percent on taxpayers earning more than $5 million. The budget also included some notable corporate business tax changes, including a surcharge of 2.5 percent for the next two years and 1.5 percent for the subsequent two years for corporations with income of $1 million or more, along with a new combined reporting system. No change was made to the sales tax rate, although a tax will be levied on e-cigarettes and short-term lodgings, such as Airbnb.

    The CPAs polled by the NJCPA pointed to several reasons why the budget plan won’t help New Jersey’s economy over the long term. Some respondents believe that taxing millionaires could lead to more residents in high-income brackets leaving the state. One CPA lamented, “The outward migration of wealth will continue, and the long-term effect will be disastrous.”

    Posted in Economics, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics | 126 Comments

    Will we ever get through the backlog?

    From NJ101.5:

    NJ still the worst state for foreclosures

    As we move further away from last decade’s housing crisis, its lingering impacts on the real estate market are dwindling.

    But the Garden State still can’t escape its role as the No. 1 state in the nation for the percentage of properties in the foreclosure process.

    The foreclosure rate was higher in New Jersey than in any other state in the first half of 2018, the second quarter of 2018, and the month of June, according to the newest figures from real estate tracker Attom Data Solutions.

    Their analysis of June 2018 found over 5,700 properties in New Jersey with a foreclosure filing — default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions. That means one in every 624 housing units was somewhere in the foreclosure process.

    New Jersey’s rate is actually down 2 percent from a year ago, but the foreclosure picture has been so nasty over the last few years, the decrease isn’t enough to erase New Jersey’s unfortunate distinction as the foreclosure leader.

    Through the first six months of the year, foreclosure filings hit 26,667 New Jersey properties — one out of every 125.

    Forty-seven percent of New Jersey’s foreclosures are linked to loans that originated between 2004 and 2008, the data show.

    “I do think that it can’t be blamed anymore on just the legacy foreclosures,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president for Attom Data Solutions.

    Posted in Economics, Foreclosures, New Jersey Real Estate | 100 Comments

    Here comes the bubble? Or still too early?

    From CNBC:

    The housing shortage may be turning, warning of a price bubble

    The most competitive, tightest housing market in decades may finally be loosening its grip, and that could put pressure on overheated home prices. The supply of homes for sale in the second quarter of 2018, the all-important spring market, rose at three times the rate of the same period in 2017, according to Trulia, a real estate listing and research company.

    The inventory jump was the largest quarterly improvement in three years and could be signaling a slight thaw in today’s housing market. But it is just a start.

    “This seasonal inventory jump wasn’t enough to offset the historical year-over-year downward trend that has continued over 14 consecutive quarters,” according to Alexandra Lee, a housing data analyst for Trulia’s economics research team.

    The supply of homes for sale is still down 5.3 percent compared with a year ago. Still, all real estate is local, and some markets are seeing greater relief. Thirty of the nation’s 100 largest cities, including New York City, Miami and Los Angeles, now have more supply than a year ago.

    Of course, the increase is a double-edged sword. Supplies are increasing because sales are slowing, and sales are slowing because prices are so high. In New York City, the median household must spend 65 percent of its income to buy a home, according to Trulia. In Los Angeles, it takes 59 percent.

    Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, Housing Bubble, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 27 Comments

    No exodus?

    From The Real Deal:

    No exodus from California despite pressure from new fed tax plan: real estate pros

    While homeowners in high-tax states like New York and New Jersey may be packing their bags to move to Florida and Texas, real estate professionals in California say they are not seeing an exodus spurred by changes to the federal tax code.

    But the new rules could have a “chilling effect” on asking prices for homes in the state, and lead many residents to decide to rent instead of own their homes, one private wealth manager said.

    For the moment, agents and real estate executives interviewed by The Real Deal say they aren’t seeing a substantial number of buyers making plans to sell their million-dollar homes and leave the state.

    California’s tight housing market has fueled soaring prices in both Northern and Southern California.

    “All high-end sales are up,” said Nick Segal, president for Southern California of Pacific Union International. “Our biggest problem in that market is inventory. If sellers aren’t willing to put their houses on the market then I guess they’re not looking to leave.”

    The new federal tax changes bring added pain to California residents already frustrated by the state’s high cost of living and some of the highest state income taxes in the country. Those state taxes have caused many residents, especially ones on the lower-end of the earnings spectrum, to migrate in recent years to Nevada, Texas, Florida, and other states with lower taxes.

    In January, home prices in Southern California posted the largest year-over-year rise in 44 months. The median price rose to $507,000, reflecting an 11.4 percent hike since the year prior.

    “Sure, we have seen a lot of people over the years move from here to Las Vegas, from here to Arizona, from here to Texas, Utah and Wyoming,” said Beth Styne, chief operating officer at Coldwell Banker in Los Angeles. “That is about state taxes. But our state taxes have been exorbitant for a long time.”

    Posted in Demographics, Economics, National Real Estate, Politics, Property Taxes | 86 Comments

    Why millennials aren’t buying

    From HousingWire:

    Here are 5 reasons the Millennial homeownership rate is low

    For years, several factors have been tossed around such as high home prices, fear over the last housing crisis, delays in family formation and even student loans as reasons why the younger generation is holding out.

    But now, the Urban Institute released a study that shows the actual data behind these factors, revealing what is really holding Millennials back.

    The generation’s homeownership rate was 37% in 2015, about 18 percentage points lower than the rate of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers when they were ages 25 to 34.

    Here are five factors that Urban Institute found have kept Millennials out of the home-buying market longer than previous generations:

    1. Delayed marriage: Yes, delaying family formation is, in fact, a hindrance to homeownership. As it turns out, being married increases the probability of owning a home by a full 18 percentage points, after accounting for other factors such as age, income, race/ethnicity and education. If the marriage rate in 2015 had been the same as it was in 1990, the Millennial homeownership rate would be about five percentage points higher.

    2. Greater racial diversity: White households have the highest homeownership rate by-far, therefore the increasing diversity within the Millennial population also contributes to the lower homeownership rate. If the racial composition remained the same in 2015 as it was in 1990, the Millennial homeownership rate would be 2.6 percentage points higher.

    3. Increased education debt: Student debt has been a growing problem, and could even be turning into a crisis. But how much does it affect homeownership rates? The Urban Institute’s data shows a 1% increase in student debt decreases the likelihood of owning a home by 0.15 percentage points.

    4. Increased rents: Nationwide, rent just jumped to a new all-time high, surpassing an average $1,400 per month. And now, data shows that a 1% increase in a household’s rent-to-income ratio decreases the likelihood of homeownership by 0.07 percentage points.

    5. Delayed child bearing: Not only are Millennials taking longer to get married, but they are also spending more time before having children. For those who are married, having a child increases the probability of owning a home by 6.2 percentage points.

    Another important factor to Millennial homeownership includes parental wealth and homeownership status. For any generation, a child’s likelihood of being a homeowner increases by nine percentage points if their parent is a homeowner. Also, a 1% increase in parental wealth increases the child’s likelihood of being a homeowner by 0.016 percentage points.

    Posted in Demographics, Economics, National Real Estate | 68 Comments

    What’s going on in Brick?

    From the Shorebeat blog:

    Brick Has a Major Foreclosure Problem on Its Hands

    Brick Township’s foreclosure rate is nearly double the state average and five times as high as the national average, leading Brick officials to contract with a firm that will handle record-keeping for the purposes of code enforcement and property maintenance issues for bank-owned properties.

    Brick’s rate, according to RealtyTrac, was .28, almost double the state’s .16 average and more than five times higher than the national average of .05. Scott Blaise, a representative from Community Champions, the company that was awarded the contract, said there were 1,300 homes in Brick that are either in danger of being foreclosed upon or are already in the foreclosure process. For comparative purposes, the same metric applied to Jersey City – a municipality of 270,000 – translates into 2,200 properties.

    “The current rates of foreclosure are still a little higher than the rest of the country, but it’s coming back towards normal,” Blaise said, highlighting that Brick is among the top 10 towns for foreclosures in New Jersey.

    RealtyTrac shows one in every 363 homes in Brick is in some stage of the foreclosure process. While pre-foreclosures are down 51 percent in Brick from last year, the number of bank-owned properties has doubled, the data shows.

    Posted in Foreclosures, New Jersey Real Estate, Shore Real Estate | 78 Comments

    Rents pushing new highs nationally

    From HousingWire:

    Rent just jumped to an all-time high

    We’ve known that the rent may be too damn high for quite a while now, but a new report shows that rent has never been this high before.

    Newly released data from RentCafé and Yardi Matrix shows that nationwide rents just hit an all-time high in June, crossing the $1,400 threshold for the first time ever.

    According to the apartment market report, the national average rent for apartments was $1,405 in June, an increase of 2.9% from the same time period last year and an increase of 0.9% from the month of May.

    In terms of dollar amount, apartment renters now must fork over $40 more per month than they did one year ago.

    According to the report, rent increases occurred in nearly all of the nation’s largest cities. Per the report, rents rose in 88% of the nation’s largest 250 cities in June when compared to last year. Rents remained the same in 10% of the top 250 cities and dropped in just 2% of them.

    One area hit hard by a June rent increase was Manhattan, which has long been the most expensive rental market in the country.

    According to the report, apartment rents in Manhattan have actually been dropping, stagnating, or very sluggishly growing over the last few months.

    But that all changed in June, when rent rose to an average of $4,116, an increase of 1.5% or $60 per month, representing the largest increase in a year.

    Additionally, the report showed that the rent increase hit all unit types relatively equally.

    Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, National Real Estate | 92 Comments

    Time to consolidate NJ

    From the Star Ledger:

    I was the last mayor of Princeton Township: Consolidation works and we need to stop being afraid of it

    Consolidation of New Jersey municipalities — especially as it relates to school districts – can result in significant long-term savings and at the same time it can lead to better planning and responsiveness in local government.

    As the former and last mayor of Princeton Township and the lead architect of Princeton’s successful consolidation, I’d like to draw attention to some important considerations concerning consolidation and shared services that are often left out of the conversation.

    For instance, one community of 1,500 residents could have an average cost-per-capita of $1,500 and a large community of 10,000 residents could have the same per capita cost. With no thorough analysis of actual services provided to residents, it does not prove that a town is equally efficient. If one community offers superior services, a police department and/or a library for the same cost, which one is more efficient?

    The fact is that consolidation has worked and we need to stop being afraid of it. It is no longer a mythical unicorn in dealing with inefficient home rule.

    Princeton blazed the trail with millions in annual budgetary savings and the lowest municipal tax growth rate post-consolidation than any neighboring municipality. Others have begun to realize some clear benefits of considering its application. The successful school merger in Hunterdon County is a prime example and others are in the works, including Mount Arlington and Roxbury which have great savings potential as the consolidation would include both school districts and municipal governments.

    In the recent Star-Ledger article, “Merging 191 towns won’t fix crushing taxes, these experts say,” one of the experts is Marc Pfeiffer and his colleague Raphael Caprio, who wrote for Rutgers’ Bloustein School a white paper called “Size May Not Be The Issue: An Analysis of The Cost of Local Government and Municipal Size in New Jersey.”

    While one can applaud the authors of the analysis in their attempt to make sense of New Jersey’s municipal madness, the unfortunate result of the white paper was misguided headlines about consolidation at a time when New Jersey municipalities and school districts should be considering all options to garner efficiencies in service delivery and control costs.

    The reality is that without consolidation added to the “municipal toolkit”, large savings in shared services will continue to remain elusive. Shared services for small departments often have negligible savings while large departments with savings potential: police and public works – often are not considered by ‘home rule’ mayors for fear of losing control.

    Consolidation brings some unique benefits above and beyond cost savings that cannot be achieved just by sharing services. A single, consolidated Princeton has a much improved level of responsiveness in times of crisis as it can better marshal its resources without the intervening power struggles of two separate governments.

    In addition, it has avoided significant capital costs as it now shares real estate and avoided having to build or renovate a new facility for a non-profit that it houses.

    New Jersey needs to stop the debate of whether or not consolidation or shared services works — they both do.

    Posted in Economics, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics | 56 Comments

    Haven’t yet returned to bubble pricing

    From the Star Ledger, hat tip Yo:

    Only these 2 N.J. towns have fully recovered since the housing crash

    It’s been more than a decade since housing prices in New Jersey began a seven-year slide highlighted by the Great Recession.

    As of today, only two have made it back to where they began: Hoboken and Weehawken.

    That’s according to an NJ Advance Media analysis of Zillow market value data, which has tracked home prices for 500 of the state’s 565 municipalities dating to 2006.

    Other than the two Hudson County neighbors mentioned above, all remain below the peak where they began. As a whole, New Jersey has seen housing prices rise over the past two years as housing inventories in many markets have tightened considerably.

    But when historical prices are adjusted for inflation, the state median home value of $317,000 remains 30 percent lower than it was in 2006.

    While other towns, like Millburn and Jersey City, have earned back most of the losses, Hoboken and Weehawken are the only two towns that have posted positive gains.

    The median home value in Hoboken has risen by more than 11 percent since the market peak in 2006, while Weehawken has seen a more modest gain of 1.5 percent.

    If you eliminate the massive rise and fall of the housing bubble leading to the Great Recession, the state’s home prices have risen at a sustainable rate over the past 20 years. The gains many towns have seen since 2013, when the state hit bottom, have been substantial.

    Posted in Housing Bubble, Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate | 23 Comments

    All eyes on jobs today

    From CNBC:

    Hiring seen strong in June with plenty of jobs for grads

    Employers may be having a hard time finding workers, but recent graduates and students may be helping fill the ranks this summer and that trend could have bumped up June’s job growth.

    “Our forecast…embeds solid summer hiring of students and recent graduates, and we note that job growth tends to accelerate in June when the labor market is tight,” according to economists at Goldman Sach, who said they expect 200,000 jobs were created in June and that unemployment slipped to 3.7 percent from 3.8 percent.

    The consensus of Wall Street’s economists’ is that 195,000 payrolls were added and that unemployment was unchanged at 3.8 percent, according to Reuters. May job growth totaled 223,000, but a softer than expected June ADP report, with 177,000 private payrolls in June, signaled a possibly softer number for June.

    The ADP report, below 200,000 for a fourth month, could be signalling softness in job growth due to a lack of workers.

    Markets will no doubt be most interested in wage growth, expected at a monthly gain of 0.3 percent, or an annual gain of 2.8 percent, a respectable pace. Economists expect that tightness in the job market to start pressuring wage growth at some point, but it’s been tame so far, signaling little inflationary pressure and therefore no reason for the Fed to increase its pace of interest rate hikes.

    “I think we’ll have good numbers. I’m at 205,000,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies. He expects unemployment at 3.7 percent but wage growth of only 0.2 percent.

    “Consistently through this cycle, June has been a weak month for hourly average earnings…and part of the reason is you have all the college kids coming in,” said McCarthy.

    Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment | 134 Comments