Realtors say homeownership rate is too low

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The U.S. homeownership rate edged up slightly to 63.5 percent in the third quarter, a level barely above the recent 50-year low.

“Those numbers represent a trend that’s pointing in the wrong direction,” Bill Brown, a California broker and president of the National Association of Realtors, said Friday in Orlando.

Brown is pushing for looser lending restrictions, along with credit scoring models that favor renters.

Brown didn’t say what he considers a healthy level of homeownership, although he did say the boomtime record of nearly 70 percent wasn’t sustainable.

“You can’t use that as a benchmark,” he said.

Pent-up demand, the American dream, deplorables: Five things to know about housing, economy from Realtors conference

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Highlights from the outlook of National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, who’s in Orlando Friday for the group’s national convention:

  1. Pent-up demand could spur sales. Yun considers 2000 the last “normal” year for the volatile U.S. housing market. Since then, the American population has soared, and more people are working — yet sales of existing and new homes in 2016 are below 2000 levels. Yun expects that to change. “We think housing will begin to march forward in the coming years,” Yun said.
  2. Income inequality is intensifying. From 2000 to 2016, U.S. household wealth rose from $44 trillion to $85 trillion. “Total wealth has doubled, but it’s a very concentrated wealth,” Yun said. Just 10 percent of Americans have “meaningful” stock holdings, he said.
  3. Geographic inequality is widening, too. Seattle, San Francisco and Denver are creating high-paying jobs. Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley? Not so much. In those areas, Yun said, “The American dream is no longer the American reality.”
  4. “Deplorable” or just desperate? Yun notes a proliferation of Trump-Pence signs in such Rust Belt areas as Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. “They’re clearly not deplorable,” Yun said. “My personal opinion is both politicians are deplorable.”
  5. It’s the robots, not China and Mexico. Offshoring gets more attention, but the clearer threat to U.S. workers is automation, said Dennis Lockhart of the Atlanta Fed.

Biotech entrepreneur says lack of real estate pushes him from Palm Beach County to Broward

David Willoughby at Ocean Ridge Biosciences’ former headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

David Willoughby lives in Palm Beach Gardens and, until recently, worked there, too. But the owner of Ocean Ridge Biosciences wanted to expand, and he couldn’t find suitable space in northern Palm Beach County.

“We were looking for 5,000 square feet of space,” Willoughby said. “We couldn’t find anything anywhere near Palm Beach Gardens.”

Despite huge public investments in Scripps Florida and Max Planck Florida, lab space is limited in Palm Beach County. Willoughby considered warehouses, which are affordable but typically lack air conditioning. He dismissed office space as too pricey for his biotech business.

Willoughby finally found space in Deerfield Beach and moved his eight-employee company there. Most of his workers live in Boynton Beach, so their commutes are about the same.

“It’s tough for me, because I still live in Palm Beach Gardens,” Willoughby said.

With his bigger facility, Willoughby hopes to expand Ocean Ridge Biosciences to 20 employees. And he hasn’t ruled out a return to Palm Beach County — if the county’s inventory of lab space ever catches up with its biotech ambitions.

“There’s demand for laboratory space,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting somebody to take the risk.”


Will Amendment 2 pass? See county-by-county map of 2014 vote

Cannabis at a dispensary in Oakland, Calif. Photo by Jeff Ostrowski/The Palm Beach Post
Cannabis at a dispensary in Oakland, Calif. Photo by Jeff Ostrowski/The Palm Beach Post

Amendment 2 narrowly failed in 2014, garnering nearly 58 percent of the vote. Among Florida’s 67 counties, support ranged from a low of 40 percent in Hardee County to a high of 72 percent in Monroe County.

The measure would expand Florida’s state-regulated medical marijuana sector. In just eight counties (Pinellas, Palm Beach, Franklin, Wakulla, Alachua, Gadsden, Leon, Broward and Monroe) did the vote top the 60 percent threshold required of new amendments. Check out our county-by-county map for last election’s results:


Like much of corporate America, Palm Beach County companies hoard cash

Palm Beach County’s banks continue to grow more financially stable. (Getty Images)
Palm Beach County’s banks continue to grow more financially stable. (Getty Images)

U.S. businesses are clinging to their cash, according to a survey by the Association for Financial Professionals.

Companies “are taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to cash deployment, likely because of concerns over political uncertainty at home and abroad,” Jim Kaitz, the group’s president, said Monday. “Absent a strategic priority, organizations are holding on to their cash.”

The trend holds true in Palm Beach County, where four of the five largest publicly traded companies showed more cash on their balance sheets in the middle of 2016 than at the beginning of the year. NextEra Energy, Office Depot, SBA Communications and Dycom Industries all boosted cash holdings. Only B/E Aerospace had less cash on hand at mid-year.

The details: