EP 7 | THE SOCIAL DIVIDE

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ANDREW LANOIE

Hey everyone and welcome back to another episode. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Americans across all social spectrums and its economic social and medical toll is widely publicized. But there’s growing evidence that it’s the poor that are suffering disproportionately. Research suggests that the lower income, including those living in distressed communities are more likely to catch the disease. And because the poor are generally less healthy and have less access to quality health care, they are also more likely to die from it. 

Those who manage to stay healthy will suffer less economically from the loss of income and healthcare expenses as a result of quarantines and stay at home orders. The coronavirus has shattered countless businesses and put millions of Americans out of work. And while many white-collar workers will continue to work from home, blue collar workers in the food service, hospitality and manufacturing industries don’t have the same luxury.

In fact, many of the wage earners who are blue collar workers fall under the essential service categories. Here’s an interesting survey from the Pew research center. They found that the majority of people making more than a $100,000 a year said they would continue to get paid of coronavirus, caused them to miss work for at least two weeks and 16% of those making less than $30,000 a year said the same. 41% of white workers said they would continue to get paid compared to 27% and 23% of black and Hispanic workers. Respectively. All of this has caused the jobless claims and unemployment rate to jump. In response to the economic desperation facing many poor Americans, president Trump recently signed the Corona virus aid relief and economic support act, otherwise known as Cares, passed by Congress to allocate $2.2 trillion towards bolstering the economy with $560 billion earmark to directly benefit individuals in the form of cash payments up to $1,200. 

These cash payments under the cares act are intended to help struggling individuals and families on the lower end of the income spectrum. Income limit set at $75,000 for individuals and a $100,000 for couples to receive these payments. These direct cash payments underlie the growing social divide in the United States. 

The US Bureau of labor statistics estimates. 40% of Americans don’t have enough money to cover a $400 emergency bill. The cash will be a welcome relief for struggling families, but it’s just a band aid. Even before the pandemic, there was a growing wealth gap between the rich and the poor starting in about 2009 in the aftermath after the great recession. The $800 billion stimulus package under the American and reinvestment act of 2009, helped the country rebound from the great recession. Still the aftermath spurred a widening wage gap. A stagnant incomes were unable to keep pace with rising prices of housing and consumer goods ultimately resulting from the economic expansion. All this has shrunk the middle class and left more low-income earners on the margins. Now more than ever, the American dream is getting further and further out of reach. 

The US is becoming a renters nation with more than 36% of all households estimated to be renters. One segment that is most underserved as affordable housing, where an unprecedented demand is far outstripping supply.

For example, as home ownership becomes less of a reality for many Americans now forced to rent mobile homes and mobile home communities fill a basic need that apartments can’t meet and that’s pride of ownership and no shared walls. While most operators own the underlying land, a mobile home community tenant owns the physical home, fulfilling a basic human need to call a place their home and not have shared walls with neighbors. The dream of home ownership that is becoming a pipe dream for many is a trend that one cannot ignore. 

I could tell you to invest in affordable housing only for the ROI, but the reality is most Americans need affordable housing and deserve a safe and clean place to live. We also just can’t sit back and wait for the government to fix all of our problems. Government can create incentives, but ultimately, it’s we in the private sector who have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the underprivileged. Take for example, the opportunity zones program passed by Congress and signed by the president to encourage private investment in distress communities, through generous tax incentives. The government can give us incentives, but it’s private entrepreneurs who will need to launch the businesses and develop office space and other housing. We in the private sector have the opportunity to make a difference by making affordable housing available to a grossly underserved demographic, not only is affordable housing profitable, but it’s also the right thing to do by providing a place for those who cannot afford a four-bedroom, brick and mortar house in the suburbs to call their own. All Americans deserve safe, clean, affordable housing they can afford.

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Episode 7