The Social Divide is Growing

evgeny-tchebotarev-aiwuLjLPFnU-unsplash3

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Americans adversely across all social spectrums. Its economic, social, and medical toll is widely publicized.

However, there’s growing evidence that it’s the poor that are suffering disproportionately. Research suggests that the poor and 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 disproportionately suffer economically from the loss of income and health care expenses as a result of quarantines and stay at home orders.

The coronavirus has shuttered countless businesses and put millions of Americans out of work. While many white-collar workers will continue to work from home, blue-collar workers in food service, hospitality, and manufacturing don’t have the same luxury.

A recent Pew survey found that the majority of people making more than $100,000 said they would continue to get paid if coronavirus caused them to miss work for at least two weeks. Just 16% of those making less than $30,000 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 this has caused the unemployment rate to jump. The number of jobless claims just topped 6,000,000 for the second week in a row.

In response to economic desperation facing many poor Americans, President Trump recently signed The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) passed by Congress to allocate $2.2 trillion towards bolstering the economy, with $560 billion earmarked to directly benefit individuals in the form of cash payments of up to $1,200.

The cash payments under the CARES Act are intended to help struggling individuals and families on the lower end of the income spectrum with income limits set at $75,000 for individuals and $100,000 for couples to receive these payments.

These direct cash payments underlie the growing social divide in the United States. The U.S. 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 rich and poor starting in 2009 in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

The $800 billion stimulus package under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 helped the country rebound from the Great Recession. Still, the aftermath spurred a widening wage gap as stagnant incomes were unable to keep pace with rising prices of housing and consumer goods resulting from the economic expansion. All this has shrunk the middle class and left even more low-income earners on the margins.

Now more than ever, the American dream is getting further and further out of reach kept.

The U.S. is becoming a renter’s nation, with more than 36% of all U.S. households estimated to be renters. And the one segment that is most underserved is affordable housing, where unprecedented demand is far outstripping supply.

As homeownership becomes less a reality for many Americans now forced to rent, mobile homes and mobile home communities (“MHCs”) fill basic needs that apartments can’t meet, and that’s the pride of ownership and four-wall privacy.

While MHC operators own the underlying land, MHC tenants own the physical homes – fulfilling a basic human need to call a place their home and to not share walls with neighbors.

The dream of homeownership that is becoming a pipe dream for many is a trend one cannot ignore.

I could tell you to invest in affordable housing only for the ROI, but the reality is I needed affordable housing growing up. I was raised in a mobile home, and investing in MHCs to me is also about giving back by providing safe, clean, and affordable housing to deserving tenants.

We can’t just sit back and wait for the government to fix all our problems.

The 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 distressed communities through generous tax incentives. The government can give incentives, but it’s private entrepreneurs who will need to launch the businesses and develop office space and 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 4-bedroom brick home in the suburbs to call their own.

All Americans deserve housing they can afford.

Mike Ayala

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.