Maine Sees Slowdown in October Home Sales

According to the Bangor Daily News, “The number of homes that changed hands in October was slightly less than the total for the same month last year, coming after more than a year of steady increases in home sales.

The slowdown is a change for 2015, a year in which home sales volume and prices have continued to rise, far above a low for real estate activity during the recession, according to figures from the Maine Association of Realtors.

“While home sales dipped less than by 1 percent in October, Maine Association of Realtors President Marie Flaherty called the month an ‘adjustment.’

” ‘Although we typically see a slight adjustment as the weather gets cooler, the October statistics are more indicative of an inventory problem,’ Flaherty said in a news release. ‘The minor dip in units sold during a 30-day period doesn’t indicate a trend.’

“The decline came as sales volume nationally rose 4.6 percent and in New England rose 8.6 percent.”

More here.

Wells, Maine

Hunger in Rhode Island

According to a new study by the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, one in eight households in the state lack adequate food.

“Despite recent signs of an improved economy,” the Providence Business News reports, “one in eight Rhode Island households lacks adequate food, according to the 2015 Status Report on Hunger in Rhode Island from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. …

“Approximately 54,000 Rhode Island households – 12.7 percent – were food insecure from 2012 to 2014, meaning they did not have the resources to purchase adequate food, the food bank said. Of those households, 20,000 reported the most severe conditions associated with hunger, the report said.

“It also said that food insecure families often have to choose between paying the rent and buying food, adding that U.S. Census Bureau estimates state that 41,000 Rhode Island children live in poverty.

The Ocean State, with one in five children living in poverty, has the highest rate in New England, the report stated. It states that children living in food insecure households are more likely to be in poor health and hospitalized than children in homes with adequate food.

“Other report findings:

• A total of 50,870 children receive free or reduced-price lunch at school; 31,770 also participate in the school breakfast program.
• Twenty percent of those served by member agencies of the Food Bank are 60 or older with approximately 12,000 seniors receiving food assistance each month. …


More here, at Providence Business News.

This sad state of affairs relates to a lack of living-wage jobs. I saw the documentary The Overnighters on the weekend and am still pondering all the different ways it was sad.

In the movie, people are so desperate for jobs that they leave families and everything familiar to seek back-breaking work in the fracking fields of South Dakota. They have no place to stay and no money for food, and a minister offers his church.

It just reminds you that people really do prefer jobs to relying on food banks or government assistance.


Support for Manufacturing in Western Massachusetts

In a recent op-ed at the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, Marty Jones of MassDevelopment and Walter Towner of Worcester Polytech’s Center for Innovative Manufacturing Solutions describe an innovative program to support the state’s manufacturing industries.

They write in part, “To bridge the gap between its available resources and potential growth opportunities, Independent Plating made use of a new program that brings to bear a historical driver of the Commonwealth’s economy: brainpower. …

“It was WPI’s network and long history of supporting manufacturers that made the school an easy choice for MassDevelopment, the state’s quasi-public finance and development authority, to select WPI as one of four manufacturing Innovation Centers in Massachusetts designated to help small- to medium-sized manufacturers grow.

“In February, MassDevelopment selected Algonquin Industries, Boston Engineering Corporation, the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, and WPI to provide such services and expertise to companies that employ 100 or fewer employees and need assistance in product development, prototyping, scaling up, cost reduction and other areas. MassDevelopment pays the lesser of 75 percent or $75,000 of the cost of a contract between a manufacturing company and the Innovation Center of choice. Companies work directly with the Innovation Center. …

“Working with WPI and the other three Innovation Centers, MassDevelopment hopes to continue to help grow numbers such as these. These collaborations are highlighting the brainpower available to drive future economic growth in the Commonwealth.”


The State of Black Massachusetts

Please join us on Friday, December 11, for the release of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts’ 2015 State of Black Massachusetts report.

This event, co-sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Regional & Community Outreach department and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, will present the findings of the Urban League’s report, which highlights progress (or lack thereof) within Boston’s urban communities as it concerns health, economics, and education, compared to the rest of Massachusetts. The report offers revealing insights about the disparities that exist between primarily African-Americans and white families in the Commonwealth.

Please confirm your attendance by emailing by December 08, 2015.​

sculpture over the Greenway

Ignoring the Poorest of the Poor

Eduardo Porter has a troubling article at the NY Times about the many people living in extreme poverty in the United States. He criticizes policymakers and candidates for focusing almost exclusively in recent years on middle class hardships.

“The first few primary debates of the presidential election season are in,” Porter writes. “We can see where the economic policy discussion is going. …

“Both parties, focusing most of their concern on the middle class, appear to be ignoring the Americans who need their attention most: the deeply, persistently poor. It is not a small number. Even after accounting for every government assistance program — housing subsidies, food stamps, help with the electricity bill — nearly 16 million Americans still fall below 50 percent of the poverty line, measured by the Census Bureau’s revamped poverty measure that includes the effect of government support.

“That translates to roughly $8.60 per person per day for a family of four. That group is six million people larger than half a century ago.

“No other advanced nation tolerates this depth of deprivation.

“It amounts to one in 20 Americans — a share that has refused to shrink despite five decades of economic growth.

“ ‘This should become a major issue,’ the eminent Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson told me. ‘Unfortunately nobody has organized for these poor people. There is not a mobilization of political resources among the poor.’

“What’s perhaps most surprising is how the apparatus of government assistance has turned its back on these people, not just failing to offer new strategies to help overcome the deepest deprivation but even removing critical programs that used to keep many of them afloat.

“How can this be possible, given that support for low-income families has grown substantially since the 1980s? The answer is that even as the government increased its assistance to the poor, it became pickier about which poor it supported.”

More here.


City Offers Grant to Landlords to Preserve Main St Businesses

Dante Ramos has an op-ed in the Boston Globe about growing concerns that Main Street “mom & pop” businesses are being pushed out by rising rents. He believes the trend is bad for community vitality and cites an initiative in San Francisco to compensate landlords who keep rents low for “legacy businesses.”

“Lots of neighborhoods want food stores, bike stores, clothing stores, and wine-and-cheese stores.

“The irony is that, even as lots of different interest groups — Main Streets advocates, mixed-use property developers, civic associations, urban planners — have come to see the value in lively, eclectic commercial centers, the pressure on brick-and-mortar retailers has mounted. …

“To preserve quirky old retailers, San Francisco voters recently created a fund that will offer grants to landlords who give long-term leases to so-called ‘legacy businesses.’ The first-of-its-kind program won’t help emerging retail entrepreneurs, but it’s worth watching. Now that lots of people agree that stores keep a neighborhood humming, we also need a strategy to help them survive.”

More at the Globe, here.

Get details on the San Francisco initiative here.