Term Paper: Prohibitively Rising Cost of Housing

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[. . .] HOME is a program that is designed to specifically create affordable housing for low-income Americans. Countrywide, over 200,000 first-time homebuyers have received assistance thought the HOME program (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, News Release, BUSH).

In addition, Woonsocket, Rhode Island will receive a grant of $2.2 million in HUD assistance. Of this amount, $550,000 will be directed to the HOME) program. Says Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, "These grants do so much good for so many people," Martinez said. "This money helps communities do the critical work of stimulating business development and job growth, providing affordable housing and helping our most vulnerable neighbors" (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, News Release, BUSH).

Another agency that serves to ensure housing is provided to all residents of Rhode Island is Rhode Island Fair Housing.

Rhode Island Fair Housing ensures that housing practices "comply with the Federal Fair Housing Act, originally passed in 1968, and similar state and local laws" (Rhode Island Fair Housing).

While this agency has no direct impact on housing prices, or providing loans, it prohibits discrimination in housing transactions based on "race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability and familial status" (Rhode Island Fair Housing) As such, the agency inadvertently acts as a safeguard for many low-income families, which may face discrimination based on race or nationality, and ultimately likely results in higher numbers of low-income families becoming homeowners.

Private agencies also play a role in the development of affordable housing in Rhode Island. For example, the Housing Network is an association of non-profit community developers that includes the much-lauded Habitat for Humanity. However the contribution of community groups like the Housing Network is minimal, with 10 members of the Housing Network building 75 housing units in 1997 (Habitat for Humanity: Providence, RI). This is certainly a laudable effort, but it is simply a drop in the bucket when the overall need for affordable housing is considered.

Barriers to Affordable Housing in Rhode Island

Most of the housing within Rhode Island is older, and contributes invaluably to community character. As such, the government of Rhode Island has committed to programs to maintain neighborhood stability, and the health of existing communities. Accordingly, programs for the community development and revitalization have been created in recent years (State of Rhode Island General Assembly).

While these programs are invaluable in maintaining community character, they often act as an impediment to the development of lower-cost housing. For example, established communities often object to building lower cost housing within community borders, out of fears of changing the community aesthetics, income and racial makeup, and thus decreasing housing prices in the area. As such, government programs designed for community development and revitalization may often act as a serious impediment to building much-needed lower cost housing in Rhode Island.

The Effect of Rising Housing Costs on the Nuclear and Extended Family

This rising cost of housing may seriously affect both the nuclear and extended family in Rhode Island. One of the most immediate results of the rise in housing prices may be that these rapidly escalating housing costs force family members to relocate to less expensive areas. Disturbingly, in a recent study by the National Association of Realtors, 37% of New England residents noted "the cost of housing may force members of my family to move farther away" (Real Estate News).

As such, the high cost of housing in Rhode Island may force many nuclear and extended families may be broken apart, as members move to neighboring states where they can more readily afford the much lower cost of housing. Often, those who are forced to move may be the lowest-income segments of the population, which largely consist of young adults and seniors. If the trend to rising housing costs continues, Rhode Island may see a gradual migration of young people and seniors to lower-cost areas of the country.

As such, the nuclear and extended family structure of Rhode Island will be affected. This trend would not only remove older family members, but it would result in fewer young adults in the Rhode Island area. Ultimately, with fewer young adults in Rhode Island, fewer babies would be born. As such, the rising cost of housing may eventually lead to a population shift towards empty-nesters, and a decreased population of young families, eventually causing a reduction in the number of tradition, nuclear families.

However, as interesting as this argument for relocation is, one important line of evidence suggests that rising housing costs have had little overall effect on Rhode Island's population. From 1990 to 2000, Rhode Island county saw an overall population increase of 4.5% (Economic Research Service, County-level). In other words, people do not appear to be leaving Rhode Island, so mass relocation caused by rising housing costs will likely not have a large effect on extended and nuclear family structure.

The rising cost of housing may also force young adults to continue to live with their parents. Even if they cannot afford a home, renting is also an expensive proposition in Rhode Island, especially for those with low incomes, like young adults. Habitat for Humanity Rhode Island says, "A renter would need an hourly wage of $12.63 an hour to afford an apartment at the current market rate." As such, many young adults cannot afford to rent in an expensive market like Rhode Island.

The high cost of Rhode Island housing may therefore force many young adults to return to their parent's home. Country wide, there has been a widespread trend towards children returning home to live with their parents. The trend is so widespread that these adult children are often referred to as "boomerang kids." Boomerang kids have often been labeled as lazy and dependent by the popular media (ETP Inc.).

Currently, 4 million, or 10% of adults from 25 to 34 live at home with their parents. Fifty years ago, the figure was only 5%. Young adults have many different reasons for returning home. These can include layoffs, separation, or difficulty finding or keeping a job, or alcohol and substance abuse. High housing costs has been specifically noted an important factor in children returning to home (Frazier), lending credence to the theory that young adults in Rhode Island may chose to return to their parents home as a result of the escalating cost of housing in the Rhode Island area.

When young adults return to the parental home, there is often an intense period of adjustment. ETP Inc. notes:

while the re-formed family may actually be more successful than recent reports in the media depict, this reconstituted family environment can be extremely stressful for parents and their adult children. This can be particularly true if this living arrangement is not approached with planning, foresight, and a full appreciation for the consequences of this decision for all who are involved."

The phenomenon of boomerang kids also has the very real potential to damage the nuclear or extended family. Children, parents, and extended family may all be left with bitter feelings if the situation is not handled appropriately and carefully. Therefore, the phenomenon of boomerang kids may have a potentially negative effect on the nuclear and extended family in Rhode Island. On a more positive note, ETP Inc. notes, "The benefits of the boomerang situation - mutual support, pooling of resources, and shared household tasks - may significantly offset the negative impact of the unexpected in parents' lives."

Conclusion

The rising cost of housing in the Rhode Island Area has an enormous potential effect on both nuclear and extended families in the area. Rapidly increasing housing costs may have a twofold effect: possibly forcing family members to move to less expensive areas, and forcing young adults to move home after a period of independence.

Pressures on the nuclear and extended family from the rising cost of housing will likely not ease in the foreseeable future. The continuation of sluggish stock market and the stability of low interest rates indicate that housing prices in Rhode Island may continue to rise. Further, federal and private agencies are unable to keep up with the increasing demand for housing assistance for low-income residents. Taken together, these salient facts indicate that the housing crisis will only continue to grow in the foreseeable future. As a result, the social and economic pressures brought on by rising houses on the nuclear and extended families in Rhode Island will also continue into the near future.

Works Cited

Arditi, Lynn. House prices in R.I. soar in 2nd quarter. Low mortgage rates and a sluggish stock market promote heavy interest in real estate.

07/30/2002. The Providence Journal (projo.com). 30 October 2002. http://www.projo.com/news/content/projo_20020730_rhouse30.24270.html

Economic Research Service. County-level population data for Rhode Island. 30 October 2002. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/Population/PopList.asp?ST=RI&LongName=Rhode%20Island

Economic Research Service. Rhode Island State Fact Sheet from USDA/ERS. 30 October 2002. http://www.ers.usda.gov/StateFacts/RI.htm

ETP Inc. News and Information Resource. BOOMERANG KIDS: Strategies for The Not-So- Empty Nest. Last Update: May 31, 2002. 30 October… [END OF PREVIEW]

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