Housing prices continued to drop late last year and foreclosures are still a very troubling problem. From Bloomberg:
Home prices dropped the most on record in the fourth quarter as foreclosures dragged down values and the recession pushed buyers out of the market.
The median price of a U.S. home declined 12 percent from a year earlier and sales of properties with mortgages in default accounted for 45 percent of all transactions, the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors said today. Prices declined in almost nine out of every 10 cities.
The Columbian gives us a sense of the situation in Washington state:
Clark County received the second-highest foreclosure ranking out of Washington’s 39 counties. One in every 400 households were in some stage of foreclosure countywide last month, RealtyTrac said.
In January, Pierce County ranked No. 1, with one in every 393 housing units in foreclosure in January. King County ranked No. 6, with one in every 795 homes affected by foreclosure. Statewide, one in every 874 households was in foreclosure last month.
Both articles give the sense that job losses are now playing a bigger role in foreclosures, underscoring the need for the stimulus package, as imperfect as it may be. Whether it can do what it is intended to do, namely stop a spreading and worsening economic disaster, is an open question.
Behind all the statistics are real people, of course. You probably talk to friends and neighbors who report job cuts at their employer, or at the very least severe belt-tightening. The irony, of course, is that regular folks then start clamping down on their own personal spending, exacerbating the troubles. The fear becomes self-fulfilling.
It’s not enough to urge people to spend money, there has to be a sense in the country that we are turning the corner. The stimulus package is part of that, but the other big part is dealing with Big Shitpile. It’s understandable that the new administration is still working on that, but “setting piles of money on fire,” as Atrios calls it, does little to inspire confidence and end fear.
Somehow, the administration has to come up with a workable plan to re-organize the financial sector. If we can’t call it “nationalization” because that’s too scary and pinko, fine. Call it a “restructuring award” and get on with it.