Signing Off

When this blog was started as an experiment, we chose the title Central Premise as a hint that many branches of the US central bank would be contributing. We intended to focus on community development and related topics and feature our events and the activities of partners. We linked to stories that had relevance for all who were interested in promoting the economic strength of lower-income people and communities.

As time went by, the various Federal Reserve banks developed their own blogs, and the Boston Fed began to plan a blog that would cover all aspects of our public service, community development being one.

Your faithful blogger is moving on to new adventures, but do check back in 2016 for a new iteration of the blog that I think you will really like.

Signing off with a view that I will miss, Boston Harbor and the rapidly changing skyline of the Seaport District.


Increasing Need for Rentals in Connecticut

Mark Pazniokas has a story at the Connecticut Mirror about the increased demand for rental apartments from Connecticut’s older residents.

“An annual assessment of housing affordability in Connecticut finds market forces blunting the impact of the more than 7,000 affordable apartments developed with state aid during Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 4 ½ years in office.

“A desire by aging baby boomers to downsize contributes to a soft market for single-family homes and increased demand for rental apartments, according to HousingInCT 2015, a study published Wednesday by the Partnership for Strong Communities. …

“Overall, despite steady progress in reducing chronic homelessness and developing rental housing, Connecticut remains one of the nation’s most expensive places to live, ranking 6th in median monthly housing costs. …

“The shift to rental is reflected in the flatness of home prices as the number of sales increases. The value of real property on municipal grand lists fell in 151 communities from 2008 to 2013, though not enough to significantly drive down median home values, still the 8th highest in the U.S.

” ‘All the towns need to create what we don’t have, which is what the market is demanding – multi-family housing,’ [David Fink of the Partnership for Strong Communities] said.”

More here.Price-Hartford-5

Maine Task Force Speaks

Maine’s governor had an idea to use timber revenue to help pay for low-income families’ heating oil, but a task force has come out against the idea.

Kevin Miller writes at the Portland Press Herald, “The commission’s recommendation Tuesday, while non-binding, makes it less likely that the Legislature will consent to Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to increase timber harvesting on Maine’s public lands to pay for a new home heating program.

“In a letter accompanying their report, commission members said proposals to divert money for home-heating programs or to support state parks ‘are not likely to withstand a potential constitutional challenge and therefore should no longer be pursued as viable options.’ …

“Instead, the Commission to Study the Public Reserved Lands Management Fund offered a series of recommendations on using surplus timber revenues – currently estimated at $7 million to $8 million – to improve recreational opportunities on Maine’s public lands while strengthening legislative oversight of expenditures. …

“The governor has said he will not issue the more than $11 million in bonds that voters have approved for the Lands for Maine’s Future program unless lawmakers agreed to divert up to $5 million in timber revenues to help elderly and low-income Mainers convert to more affordable home heating systems. The Legislature is expected to vote early next year on whether to reauthorize those now-expired bonds. …

“LePage’s proposal involving timber revenue would be in addition to heating assistance and energy efficiency programs already offered by the state and federal governments.

“For instance, Maine is expected to receive at least $35 million in federal funds this fiscal year through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The LePage administration received federal approval to use $3.8 million in LIHEAP funds to weatherize homes or convert them to more efficient heating systems. The Efficiency Maine program also helps homeowners weatherize their homes or make efficiency upgrades.”

More here.


A Small Bank Targets Student Loans

In an article from yesterday’s American Banker, John Reosti writes that Darien Rowayton Bank in Darien, Conn., learned the hard way about the importance of timing “after the $701 million-asset bank opened its doors in April 2006 — less than two years before the financial crisis. …

“Fortunately, lesson two has been more positive. … The bank began studying the merits of entering student loan refinancing, which at that time was relatively new and inhabited mainly by nonbanks. …

“Stripped down to its basics, student loan refinance is ‘compliance-based, credit-focused installment lending,’ which gives banks an advantage over other financial entities, [said  Robert Kettenmann, the bank’s president and chief operating officer]. That knowhow, paired with a low-cost deposit base, helped the bank prepare. …

“Student loan refinancing is a business poised for growth,’ said Andy Josuweit, chief executive of Student Loan Hero, a consulting firm that helps borrowers manage student loan debt. He said the volume of student loan refinancing should total about $9 billion this year. …

” ‘We think there’s more potential for this product to grow without sacrificing credit standards,’ Kettenmann said.

More here.

sculpture over the Greenway

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.