By EJ Antoni/The Washington StandSeptember 02, 2023
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All around the nation can be found the detritus of "Bidenomics," especially in America's broken housing market.
Countless families are struggling just to find somewhere affordable to live, with the American dream of homeownership all but snuffed out for much of the middle class.
The only way to solve this problem is to reverse the destructive government policies that caused it in the first place. The hallmark of Bidenomics is bigger government, including more regulation and taxation.
President Joe Biden and his allies in Congress have pushed for more federal spending, with no means to finance their multitrillion-dollar budgets. That has caused the Treasury to borrow well over $1 trillion a year, which in turn has prompted the Federal Reserve to create trillions of dollars to finance the borrowing spree.
The predictable result of too much money relative to the size of the economy was inflation, as prices everywhere rose.
The housing market has not been spared from this relentless upward march in prices, with both median rents and mortgage payments at all-time highs, the result of a double whammy from high prices and high interest rates.
As inflation hit 40-year highs, the Federal Reserve belatedly raised interest rates and tightened credit to cool off the inflation it helped cause in the first place. After creating trillions of dollars for the government to spend, the logical thing to do would be to take the money back from the government. Instead, the Fed is going primarily to the American people for its pound of flesh.
Higher interest rates have drastically increased the cost to finance anything--credit card interest rates are at record highs and mortgage rates are almost three times as high as they were three years ago.
The combination of higher home prices and higher interest rates has broken America's housing market. Since Biden became president, the median home price has jumped over 27%, and interest rates have risen from 2.8% to 7.2%.
Those two factors have caused the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home to more than double, from $979 to $2,075.
That's costing a family more than $13,000 extra per year for the same house. This has forced many Americans to rent instead, and the increased demand for apartments has driven rents to record highs.
Mortgage rates today are nowhere near record highs; rates hit 20% in the early 1980s, for example. The difference today is that the percentage of your take-home pay that must go to paying a mortgage is much higher because home prices have risen so much faster than incomes for decades.
Consequently, homeownership affordability today is at one of its lowest levels in American history.
For those lucky enough to have gotten a mortgage before interest rates jumped, they're now wearing golden handcuffs and are trapped in their home and mortgage. If they were to sell their house and move, they'd lose their current mortgage with a low interest rate and must get a new mortgage with double the interest rate.
That's prohibitively expensive for millions of Americans. And it's putting a severe crimp on the supply of existing homes.
Unfortunately, the supply of new homes is also being hamstrung. Because of inflation, cost indexes for homebuilders are near all-time highs, so the sellers of new homes cannot afford to reduce their selling prices, which would help offset higher interest costs to homebuyers.
Since so few people can afford a home at today's prices and today's interest rates, homebuilders have been forced to scale back construction. That has reduced the supply of new homes to the market.
The drop in supply is keeping upward pressure on home prices, while the continued growth of government, a la Bidenomics, is pushing interest rates skyward.
The entire destructive process can be short-circuited, however, if we just remove the first link in the chain: excessive government spending.
If Bidenomics is not reversed, don't expect the housing market to improve. After all, one definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.