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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Economics, Macro and Micro

I'm not going to bother linking to any of the dismal stories about the current state of the national economy. But I'll link to this piece from Crain's about how the credit crunch deep-sixed a Loop office building deal.

Meanwhile, here in the neighborhood, signals are mixed. The Goldblatt's renovation continues, Park Federal Savings Bank's new branch is almost finished, and there were plenty of shoppers at the Home Depot on 47th and Western last Saturday. More importantly, rumor had it the Farmer's Best grocery store at 47th and Bishop would close in the wake of a gang shooting there last fall. So far, they are still open and still drawing customers, so perhaps they were talked out of it.

But the Neighborhood Housing Services branch office on 47th is getting a lot of business, too, mostly from people trying to prevent their house from being foreclosed. Normally I would cheer for more NHS business, but I'd like to see that business in home purchase and rehab loans, not in foreclosure prevention. Frankly, by the time most people seek help, it's often too late to work out a deal with the bank.

To its credit, NHS has been in this business for a few years now. In 2002, NHS and the City of Chicago launched the Homeownership Preservation Initiative, or HOPI. HOPI's goals are to work with lenders and homeowners to avoid foreclosure where possible. If a house is foreclosed, NHS can acquire it through HOPI and resell it to a qualified first-time buyer, thus preserving housing stock and reducing vacant housing and the crime it draws. For more about HOPI and how it works, click here.

My hope is that because this neighborhood was one of the last to get on the economic boom, it'll also take a while for the bust to catch up with us. In real estate, I think bargain hunters will still be looking around here. There's a brand-new house nearby for sale; if you're looking, email and I'll give you the number to call for more info.

My fear is that the slowdown in construction will dry up jobs that keep a lot of people here employed. To sound like Andy Rooney at the end of 60 Minutes, dja ever notice that economic slowdowns always seem to happen just when they are finally starting to help really poor people? Dja ever wonder why it works that way?

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