Following the 2008 housing crisis, homeownership in Wisconsin is at an all-time low. Despite the crisis being more than a decade ago, its effects on the economy are still very much a current issue.
There is no doubt the 2008 housing crisis transformed the nation in several, irreversible aspects, but the US’s attitude towards homeownership is arguably one of the main ones. The steep decline in housing prices following the market crash built a nation of renters, where the millennial’s rate of homeownership is a measly 35% — the lowest of any preceding generation. This, paired with the fact that more than 75% of millennials consider owning a home an important milestone, shows a need for federal and state efforts to promote homeownership among young adults.
Fortunately, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski has created a new task force in an effort to promote homeownership, particularly among young adults. The purpose of this task force, which is comprised mainly of local treasurers, can also be considered as two-fold. The first is the fairly straightforward aim to increase the affordability of houses in Wisconsin for young adults. The other, however, is a little more bureaucratic, and aims to restore duties that the state treasurer’s office was stripped of in the mid-90s.
As it stands now, the state Treasurer’s office is practically a bill away from being pronounced legally dead. Lawmakers stripped the treasurer’s office of most of its duties in the 1990s, and what little responsibility remained has been deeply neglected for years.
The new task force could be the breath of life the state treasurer’s office needs. Engaging with the local community and making efforts to build a network between local treasurers and organizations can begin to restore importance to the title of state treasurer. In turn, Godlewski can begin to tackle other issues that have been left unaddressed, such as the protection of the Great Lakes and maintaining the public trust fund.
Promoting homeownership in Wisconsin established a mutualistic relationship between Godlewski’s office and Wisconsinites seeking homes. More young adults get a home and a community they can comfortably belong to, the local economy gets a boost from an increase in people inevitably moving to areas with cheaper homes and the treasurer’s office receives enough public attention to also focus on other Wisconsin-specific problems.
According to the Wisconsin Realtors’ Association, there are alarming racial discrepancies in terms of rates of homeownership. The rate of homeownership among African Americans in Wisconsin is approximately 25%, the rate among Hispanic people is 47% and the rate among white people is over 70% — which is above the national average. Godlewski’s efforts to make housing more affordable for everyone can inadvertently lessen the gap between minorities and white people, thus improving the quality of life for minorities living in Wisconsin.
Many may criticize these predictions and believe I am making baseless, sweeping generalizations about the economy. It is true we are living in an unprecedented time and we barely know what surprises tomorrow may bring — pleasant or not. The pandemic has undoubtedly resulted in the global economy coming to a screeching halt. Everyone is sheltered in their homes, rented or bought, for weeks with no end in sight.
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Yes, it is impossible to know the future. But, taking steps to ensure future generations have a means to independence and potentially accumulating wealth can actually help the U.S. bounce back from this recession stronger than ever.
Both the current recession the world faces and the 2008 recession can be argued as private interests going against the good of the public. Rather than taking action in the interest of the public, several members of Congress sold stocks shortly after being briefed about the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, the 2008 crisis can be largely blamed on the greed of a few financial entities.
Increasing the power of public authorities such as state treasurers while not fixing all of the problems the U.S. has as a hypercapitalist nation is a good first step. Godlewski’s task force is a step towards ensuring both federal and state government prioritizes people over profits and communities over corporations.
Samiha Bhushan ([email protected]) is a freshman studying neurobiology and English literature.