Rumor has it we’re all about to start buying houses now

But there are still a few reasons why I’ve tempered my optimism around the idea of this generational housing utopia.

Before the pandemic catapulted our economy into another recession, millennials — those of us born between 1981 and 1996 — were still unrecovered from the 2008 financial crisis. We graduated at the height of the crisis with high levels of student loan debt, fewer jobs available, decreased savings and a reluctance to buy homes. According to the nonprofit Urban Institute, among those 25 to 34 years of age, the homeownership rate is 8.4 percent lower than it was for members of Generation X when they were the same age. And even among white married couples with significant income, the rate of homeownership is two to three percent lower than it was a generation or two ago.

But Brianna Crane at Axios reports many of the nearly five million millennials who are turning 30 this year and haven’t already purchased a home are expected to do so in the near future. Prospective buyers are eschewing single-family homes in favor of multi-family options like condos and quadruplexes and are partial to amenities like a garage, updated kitchens and bathrooms, good schools and entertainment. And of those first-time homebuyers, 43 percent have been looking for more than a year, 44 say they still need more money for a down payment or other closing costs and 34 percent say they can’t find a house in their budget.

For what it’s worth, I texted my cousin who’s a Dallas-based licensed real-estate agent and she confirmed a notable increase in millennial homebuyers in her market. And research suggests we’ve reframed our understanding of relationships beyond that of previous generations by decoupling cohabitation and marriage. But there are still a few reasons why I’ve tempered my optimism around the idea of this generational housing utopia.

First, although interest rates are low, which gives buyers more power, inventory is down and prices are high. In another Axios article published a day before Crane’s, Felix Salmon reported new data from the National Association of Realtors that shows just 1.03 million homes available for sale, a record-low number compared to the four million at the height of the July 2007 housing bubble. The result is a competitive environment that is squeezing homebuyers into “rushed and risky decisions” like waiving financial contingencies or the right to inspect the property, concessions that could later sour what first felt like a sweet deal.

Then there’s the historic racism built into the housing market. In a 2020 study published by Race and Social Problems, a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal, Lincoln Quillian, John J. Lee & Brandon Honoré, found that racial gaps in loan denial have declined only slightly, and racial gaps in mortgage cost have not declined at all, suggesting persistent racial discrimination. The researchers cited a 2019 Newsday article, which conducted 86 matched tests in which pairs of equally qualified white and minority auditors approached real estate agents asking to see homes for purchase in Long Island, New York. “In about 40 percent of tests, minority auditors received disparate treatment compared to their white audit partner. Disparities in treatment included agent steering toward own-race neighborhoods, making racial comments about neighborhoods to white but not minority auditors, and giving more listings to the white auditor. In some cases the disparities in treatment were egregious.” And as Quillian, Lee and Honoré notes, “mortgage discrimination has important impacts on racial disparities in household wealth, since home equity is a major source of wealth accumulation.”

Not to mention, due to the aforementioned debt burden, homeownership could delay another rite of adult passage: Saving for retirement, an activity millennials are already behind pace in. A report from the Center for Retirement Research used pre-pandemic data from 2019 to find that millennials lagged in measures such as the ratio of net wealth to annual income and the ratio of debt to income. “Student loan debt is a main factor; 37 percent of them in their late 30s still are paying off such debt, compared with just 13 percent of Boomers and 19 percent of Gen Xers at the same point,” the report said. This is especially concerning since millennials are expected to live longer than previous cohorts and will receive less support from social security.

President Joe Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan is designed to level the playing field with meaningful infrastructure investments that would bring housing costs in line with people’s incomes. According to Katy O’Donnell at Politico, a key element of the proposal “offers cities dollars to encourage them to ease zoning rules that drive up housing costs, impede the construction of affordable homes and often prevent people of color from moving in.” But she also notes that critics think financial incentives without harsher consequences for breaking the rules won’t meaningfully disrupt the status quo. And as Congress returns to session today from a two-week Easter recess, the fate of the proposal still to be determined. (Plus, even if it passes, Democrats must maintain — and expand — their House and Senate majorities to advance the progress the Biden administration has started.)

These homeownership developments are likely to trickle down to future generations too, as research shows you’re more likely to buy a home if your parents owned one. “This trend might not just affect the current millennial generation, it might also affect their children moving forward,” Jung Hyun Choi, a senior research associate with the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, said to Megan Leonhardt at CNBC. Talk about a grim forecast.


In The Know

— Culture

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced a two-part fashion exhibition and gala that will open this fall and be sponsored by Instagram. Actress Phylicia Rashād is narrating “Twenty Pearls,” a new documentary that tells the story of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first Black sorority founded at Howard University in 1908.

— Politics

CEOs from companies including PayPal and AMC plan to support a push for voting rights legislation. Some of those CEOs would be on board with freezing political donations to protest voter suppression. Maryland became the first state to repeal its police bill of rights. Jack Remondi, CEO of student loan servicer Navient, accepted Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s invitation to an upcoming hearing on the company’s role in the debt crisis. Mayors across the country are stepping down due to pandemic burnout.

— Business

Amazon workers at an Alabama warehouse voted down a union campaign. Grey Munford, formerly head of content communications at Spotify, is the latest addition in Clubhouse’s recent hiring spree. Austin, the Texas state capital, is the new hot spot for Silicon Valley transplants.

— Tech

Apple is working on an Apple TV with a HomePod speaker and camera for video calls. Reddit is developing its own Clubhouse-like voice chat feature. 500 employees at Alphabet, Google’s parent company, signed an open letter demanding it to stop protecting the subjects of harassment complaints. Uber’s ride-hailing business posted its best month since March 2020.


Read All About It

Lauren Sherman at Business of Fashion on the price of luxury goods:

For some consumers, rising luxury prices were easily absorbed. With travel, restaurants and other experiences on hold, many high earners, jobs intact, found themselves with more disposable income than ever. On top of this, a booming stock market and crypto boom helped to boost their appetite for spending.

This comes after years of rapid new wealth creation in fast-growing economies like China as well as rising economic inequality, both of which have been a boon for the luxury market.

The proof is in the prices. Consider the Celine “Mini Luggage” tote in pebbled calfskin, which cost $1,600 in the US in 2011, just a year after it was introduced by then-new creative director Phoebe Philo. Today, the same bag sells for $3,100 on Celine.com, nearly double the price. When Yves Salomon first released its rabbit-fur-trimmed “Army” parka in 2010, it charged under $1,300. Today, it costs close to $2,100 on Ssense.com.

In the past year, global prices at Prada have increased by 13 percent on average, while Louis Vuitton’s prices are up 10 percent and Balenciaga’s are up 8 percent, according to analysis published by Bernstein, with additional data from Deloitte.

So far, the market has easily absorbed many of these significant increases. But how high can luxury prices go without consumer online backlash translating to real-life boycotts?

Amanda Montei at Vox on the problem with “mom boss” culture:

Mom bosses harness their power by bending time or just hiring others to care for their kids. They also, therefore, rely on the assumption that mothers’ lives will be devastated by motherhood, but that women should restructure their social, economic, and financial lives accordingly. The larger premise: We can solve the problems of the sexual division of labor, the unfinished feminist revolution, and the lack of social services in America by turning to individualism, the market, and work.

The problem with this thinking is that antisocialityemotional devastationjob precarity, and the motherhood penalty, each compounded by intersections of class, race, and gender identity, are not inherent conditions of motherhood; they are the conditions of the ongoing disaster of care in capitalist America. The disempowerment of caregivers, and the suffering that lack of power brings with it, is foundational to capitalist economics, which has always relegated women to the home to serve the family, a major economic institution. (For instance, 16th- and 17th-century witch hunts were also disciplinary, targeting women’s contraceptive methods, alternative relations to work, and public power in order to push women into the home — where they could produce laborers.) 

The modern-day American devaluation of sectors like health care and education only provides further evidence that, culturally and economically, we value industry, not care. But this all fades from view under the guise of careerist liberation, where work equals freedom. Instead, failures of American economic and political policy, and the poor working conditions they engender for caregivers, are refashioned as market opportunity — a chance to cultivate resilience, better business sense, and new product markets.

Max Read at New York on money:

For most of us, at least until recently, money was a way of sorting out which kind of life you could lead. Where you lived, what you ate, how much free time you had — these were all functions of how much money you had. Money was a scarce and precious resource; to amass more, you were told, you needed to be responsible. The economy’s fluctuations were difficult to predict, and to limit damage to businesses, money needed to be managed by non-political experts operating on scientific principles, like park rangers dealing with endangered animals. Otherwise, the scaremongers warned, you would get inflation, which would result in your carting wheelbarrows of cash from store to store to buy gruel for your starving children.

Recently, however, money has taken on a somewhat different cast. Some people have a lot of it (like, $150 billion of it), and even those with less are using it to do silly things involving acronyms and apps — and in the process are making more money. And while the GameStop saga might have left you feeling both exhilarated and queasy (a bit like the beginning of the Trump campaign), it didn’t seem to affect the wider economy much at all.

Meanwhile, since President Biden took office, 156 million Americans have received a sizable sum from the Treasury Department. Taken together, the checks (and debit cards and direct deposits) represent $372 billion handed out to nearly half of the people in the country with no strings attached. Some 22 million people lost their jobs during the pandemic; millions more had their livelihoods threatened. For these people, the experience of receiving these funds was something like witnessing a miracle: profoundly good, and profoundly strange: Free money? From the government? They can do that? Why haven’t they been doing it all along? You could — and people did — buy groceries, pay rent, settle loans. You could also, yes, speculate in the stock market a little bit.

Grant Ridner at GQ on hip hop and Cash App:

These are all good reasons for the popularity of Cash App in rap, but the biggest may be something simpler: it has been actively courting the association. Square has made partnering with rappers a priority–they gave away $100,000 as part of a promo with the genre’s preeminent brand-man Travis Scott, and Megan Thee Stallion also partnered with Cash App twice last year, including once with Cardi Baround the release of “WAP.” Cash App has also created its own social media phenomenon with Cash App Fridays, during which the company gives away money to people who tweet at it.

Ezra Marcus at The New York Times on neopronouns:

A personal pronoun is a form of speech that stands in for a person or group of people. She is having opinions online; they are fighting in the comments; and, of course, as in the Prince song made famous by Sinead O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

Nonbinary pronouns, as well — often the singular “they” and “them” — have become widespread. A 2019 Pew Research study found already that one in five Americans knew someone who uses nonbinary pronouns.

And then there are neopronouns.

A neopronoun can be a word a created to serve as pronoun without expressing gender, like “ze” and “zir.”

A neopronoun can also be a so-called “noun-self pronoun,” in which a pre-existing word is drafted into use as a pronoun. Noun-self pronouns can refer to animals — so your pronouns can be “bun/bunself” and “kitten/kittenself.” Others refer to fantasy characters — “vamp/vampself,” “prin/cess/princesself,” “fae/faer/faeself” — or even just common slang, like “Innit/Innits/Innitself.”

The Ringer on DMX:

Throughout his nearly three-decade career, DMX came to embody passion, rawness, and pure emotional honesty like few hip-hop artists ever have, barking his way through hits like “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Get at Me Dog” one moment, and repenting and philosophizing on tracks like “Slippin’” the next. His was a decidedly anti-commercial approach, but it worked, and it made him the genre’s first new superstar in the wake of the killings of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. To this day, few have been able to reach the heights he did—he’s the only rapper to have his first five studio albums debut at no. 1, and he was the first living hip-hop artist to have two projects go platinum in the same year. 

But amid the triumphs—which also included starring roles in movies like Bellyand Romeo Must Die, a lucrative record company and lifestyle brand in Ruff Ryders, and more than 15 million albums sold in the U.S. alone—DMX wrestled with addiction and mental health. The latter half of his career was marked by false starts and aborted comeback bids as he became more known for his bankruptcy and arrests than his music or spirituality. Even in his more introspective moments, like a 2013 interview with life coach Iyanla Vanzant, the specter of addiction loomed large: “Just because you stop getting high doesn’t mean you don’t have the problem, because it’s a constant fight every day.” But as he told it, his struggles were about more than just drugs—they were rooted in the violence he endured at the hands of his mother, his betrayal by the person he considered a mentor, the isolation that led him to grow closer to dogs than he did most humans. And no matter how much he achieved, that darkness followed him.


Michael’s Pick

Your Brain Is Always Listening: Tame the Hidden Dragons That Control Your Happiness, Habits, and Hang-Ups by Daniel Amen ($24): Self-awareness is a creative superpower and this book, which I started before the side effects from the second dose of the vaccine took me out for the count this weekend, is full of gems and research to help you master yours.