Financial Crisis

The Financial Crisis: Bubbles Deflating Worldwide

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The mortgage meltdown is much more than an American affair. Real estate bubbles have developed in all major English speaking countries - US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Over the past year, house prices have dropped 12 percent in the United Kingdom. The annual decline is approaching 10 percent in Ireland, while median house prices have dropped six percent in New Zealand. In each of these countries, the price declines started after the United States.  read more »

Financial Innovation: Wall Street’s False Utopia

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In the popular media much of the blame for the current crisis lies with sub-prime mortgages. Yet the main culprit was not the gullible homebuyer in Stockton or the seedy mortgage company. The real problem lay on Wall Street, and it’s addiction to ever more arcane financial innovation. As we try to understand the current crisis, and figure ways out of it, we need to understand precisely what, in the main, went wrong.  read more »

Mortgage Credit Crisis: Homeowners Also Need to Look in the Mirror

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There is more than enough blame to go around for the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the unraveling financial disaster. But I believe the fundamental blame lies in two places: A purely American NIMBY myth about homeowners being the only genuine contributors to their communities and a capitalistic axiom, presumably started and perpetuated by a troika among realtors, homebuilders, and mortgage lenders, that the only way for middle-income Americans to truly create wealth is through homeownership.  read more »

Bubble Opportunity: A New Life for Public Housing?

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The globalization of housing markets stood at the center of the vast, now unraveling, economic change of the past decade. The creation of new investment vehicles in the 90s diverted vast amounts of capital into housing markets around the world. The results were many and varied. Design features began to converge, with gated communities following shopping malls into cites in Latin America, China, Turkey and most other countries. Home prices began to rise, with The Economist even publishing a table of global house prices, indicating those with the most inflated costs  read more »

How Low Can House Prices Go?

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There is much speculation among economists and others about how close we are to the bottom of the collapse of housing prices. This is, of course, an important question, and goes to the heart of the wisdom or folly of the proposed $700 billion government bailout of financial markets, which is a consequence of their own profligate lending practices.  read more »

How to Protect Main Street While Saving Wall Street

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The current discussion in Washington can either lead to a rapid processing and recovery at the local level or a long drawn out destruction of local economies. This is particularly true of regions – Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Bernardino-Riverside, much of Florida – that have been hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.  read more »

Back to Basics: The Financial Crisis Requires a Paradigm Shift

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It’s tempting to look at the current financial meltdown – and the proposed bailout – with a Bolshevik mentality. Let’s line up the investment bankers, hedge fund managers up against a wall and spray them with an odorous substance.
If it were only so easy. Rescuing Wall Street may not solve many problems but letting the investor class implode won’t help many people either.  read more »

The Smart Growth Bailout?

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One way to see the federal rescue of the home mortgage market is to call it “the smart growth bailout.” True, the proximate cause lay with profligate lending practices. The flood of mortgage money covered the entire country, irrespective of state, regional or local land use regulations. That’s where the similarity stopped.  read more »

What's the Biggest Flaw in the Administration Bailout Plan?

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The biggest flaw in the Administration bailout package: It could all happen again. The system doesn’t need just fixing, it needs decentralizing. Financial institutions should be big enough to fail—and never any bigger. We need compartmentalization, also known as federalism.  read more »

Rebuilding the Idea of the City: The Present Crisis in Perspective

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New York long was a product of the harbor economy. Before there was a Times Square or a Grand Central Station, Lower Manhattan, then ringed with docks, was oriented to the railroads and factories of the Jersey coast to its west and the merchants and manufacturers of Brooklyn across the East River. The decline of Lower Manhattan as an economic engine is in large measure a reflection of the fall of that harbor economy as first Manhattan and then its partners in Brooklyn and Jersey City de-industrialized.  read more »