Perspective on Real Estate

April 2, 2003

April 9, 2003

April 16, 2003

The housing infrastructure

Real estate is certainly a game of speculation and investment. It is also the construction of all infrastructure such as bridges, highways, transportation and all things needed for modern civilization. I add to these, shelter, the infrastructure of family and community.

Unfortunately, housing receives little attention by busy politicos until its shortage reaches crises proportions, and even then it is so larded with bureaucratic nonsense, that elapsed time multiplies as the ignored constituency suffers more deprivation.

These thoughts I shall share with you: I would love to see a presidential candidate say: "I am tired of cancer and I will spend as much time on defeating its ravages as on any other vital thing, such as defense. It will be defeated during my tenure. And I will also fight to see that no family is deprived of decent health care."

I would love to see a candidate for mayor say: "I am tired of deprivation where too large a part of my constituency is ill-housed; I will focus my energy on leading the way towards resolving the housing crisis, so that hopelessness disappears."

The fundamentals of our economy also are abused by political alchemy and rest on the soft infrastructure of political mischief and campaign payoffs that are legal but still immoral.

This is a jobless recovery; however, we misuse the word "recovery." The recession began in March 2000 and has not ended yet. Some 2.4 million jobs have been lost since they peaked two years ago. Manufacturing -- thought of as the foundation of any country's economy -- has lost jobs for 36 consecutive months, while usually dependable services lost 121,000 jobs in the last six months. If it weren't for the mortgage and health care industries and federal, state and local governments, there would have been about 1.2 million more jobs lost.

Our foundation is anything but structurally sound.

The very informative Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) fell to 46.2 percent in March. Anything below 50 percent generally indicates recession in our economy. This was the first contraction since November 2002 and I believe it will continue falling.

New residential activity in the state was strong during February because of multifamily permits, with half of those in San Jose, Irvine, San Diego and Los Angeles. The first two months of this year, our county increased by 26.7 percent with 1,441 multifamily permits. Ah, that more of them were being built where they are desperately needed.

The stock market seems to be tied to the tenor of the war news on various cable news channels.

When I was a child, I experienced my first sight of a "jumping bean"; it jumped from here to there with no apparent reason for changed direction. Unfortunately, the economy is meeting the same arbitrary mischief, where the here and there of direction seems to be tied to war reporting as its umbilical cord. The bean was more fun and much more logical.

When more than 10 percent of the young African-Americans are in jail, and school drop-outs among some minorities are rampant, and warfare ensues between teachers unified against their leader, and youngsters are posturing to run for mayor, I am greatly concerned about that infrastructure I mentioned.

We need bridges connecting each other -- not just for cars to cross; we need roads that carry us to improving neighborhoods -- not junkyards; we need candidates whose vision exceeds their youthful enthusiasm, and then we just may become one of America's finer places.

Goodkin has been a business ethicist and housing analyst since 1956. He may be reached at

April 2, 2003

April 9, 2003

April 16, 2003