Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Lonely Voices

Nino and I went to check out an open-house this weekend. We knew the Realtor, and Nino is thinking about moving back here. The whole thing was a bit surreal and sad. The bedroom window opened directly onto a parking lot and the front window onto a dirty pool with a cement deck. There were no other windows. The place was small and dark and 400 thousand dollars. It's for the location! said the Realtor. Perfect if you want to buy it and flip it! He added.

I don't know if he even believes his own words. At one point I thought these guys who were treating land like a commodity were the enemy. They were doing incredible damage to real people, all in the quest of the almighty dollar. Now they're suffering, and they're bringing us all down with them, and yet they're stuck on repeat, desperately trying to make a buck in a system that we all know now was flawed.

There was an article in the New York Times today that mentioned the 'lonely voices' who warned that all this speculation on housing wasn't sustainable, and that we were heading for a crash. Just for the record, I was one:

April 2006

The talk at work this morning was all about real estate and money. It was I know a guy who bought a condo that was under construction for 350G and sold it before he even started paying his mortgage for one million and I heard that a guy was paid 40G by someone who wanted his place in line and I hear you can do that for escrow to and it was all money money money blah blah blah make a lot of money yakkity yakkity yak.

The last time I heard talk like this was during the dot.com boom. Semi-literate lunk heads would be talking stock options in the gym lockeroom, and the guy who changed the toilet paper at Yahoo! was convinced he'd be a millionaire by December.

Then as now, I feel like an outsider looking in. I make my salary, I save a bit, I spend more, and I'm usually broke two days before pay day. And I think, if I just understood capitalism a bit more then I could make my millions and retire. Just like ... no one I know. And I know it's not gonna happen, and that those who talk the most about how much money they're making are the same ones who will spend the rest of their lives slaves to the banks.

The real estate boom [and coming bust] is having a real impact. Towers for the rich are going up everywhere. It started a couple years ago in the countryside, as landlords kicked working families out of their homes to build illegal bed and breakfasts. Then it was vacant land in the city. Now they're targeting homes for the elderly and low-income citizens, tearing them down to build fortress-towers for the rich. … All the talk in this city of new urbanism - pedestrian & bike friendly, mixed use zoning, attractive streetscapes, affordability - has gone out the window in our quest for mainland money.

April 2007

This weekend I saw that the homeless colonies are back all up and down the Wai`anae coast. They've also moved back into Ala Moana Park. There are small camps all along the bike paths between my house and downtown.

And the focus of our government is all on building Trump Towers in Waikīkī and condos for millionaires in Kaka`ako. The Senate just refused to reconfirm the Chair of our Department, in part due to revelations of unethical backdoor arrangements between Title Companies and the Bureau of Conveyances. And though I initially supported him, I have a simmering anger about the endless Land Crimes being committed in our state, and in the end I agreed with those who said that he had to go. We have an economy based upon land speculation, a government funded by realtors, and a system where indigenous people are forced off their land to make room for time shares and condos and resorts.

I know things need to change.

Jan 2007

There is no recourse. The system guarantees that the poor and the working class will get screwed when it comes to land. I don't have a strong enough economics background to know what the solution is, but I do know that things have to change before we all end up homeless and living on a Wai`anae beach.

1 comment:

tom-A-hawk said...

also, i've actually been convinced not to support light rail anymore when i look at how much money needs to be spent on infrastructure: keeping raw sewage out of the ocean ... keeping the lights on ... ??? i'm with ya bro.