National Low Income Housing Coalition Barry Zigas

In this episode, Jason Hartman talks to Barry Zigas, Senior Fellow at Consumer Federation of America, about the history of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The two look into global home ownership comparisons and the factors that contribute to homeownership rates. Jason and Barry also explore discrimination in the mortgage markets, the Community Reinvestment Act, student loans compared to home loans, and how Covid-19 will impact housing.

Announcer 0:01
This show is produced by the Hartman media company. For more information and links to all our great podcasts, visit Hartman media.com.

Jason Hartman 0:12
Welcome to the American monetary associations podcast where we explore how monetary policy impacts the real lives of real people and the action steps necessary to preserve wealth and enhance one’s lifestyle. It’s my pleasure to welcome Barry’s ego’s he is founder of Xia Sen associates a consulting firm. He is a former senior vice president for community lending at Fannie Mae, former president and CEO of the national Low Income Housing Coalition. And that’s got an acronym I won’t bother to mention. and former chairman of the board at mercury housing, he created the low income housing tax credit, the H o m. e are home program and affordable single family mortgage products at Fannie Mae that helped to significantly expand affordable homeownership and rental housing opportunities for low and moderate income Americans. Barry, welcome. How are you?

Barry Zigas 1:10
Fine, Jason, thank you very much. One quick correction. I was chair of the board of Mercy Housing, not mercury housing.

Jason Hartman 1:14
Ah, okay. Yes, I was. Yeah. Okay.

Barry Zigas 1:18
It is one of the largest social housing providers and operators in the country. Excellent. Excellent.

Jason Hartman 1:22
So nothing to do with the ancient Greek god or, or the plan, right. For the monitors. Good stuff. Well, hey, Barry, I’d like you to just explain for our listeners and viewers, kind of a broad strokes on, you know, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, these are these sort of I mean, are they NGOs? Are they government, their government sponsored entities for sure, their role changed somewhat during the Great Recession. And now it changed again, just maybe several months ago. Talk to us about that. And then the relationship between that the entities and the government, the FHFA,

Barry Zigas 2:02
etc. So Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both were created by acts of Congress, Fannie Mae dates back actually, to the New Deal, right was a full government agency that raised money by issuing government bonds and use that money to buy mortgages primarily from savings and loan and thrift Association.

Jason Hartman 2:20
And before that, before that New Deal, created Fannie Mae, really, there was almost no mortgage market, right. It was like a lot of foreign countries where, you know, you could get maybe a five year mortgage, and one of the things that really hurt during the Great Depression is that they could recall those loans

Barry Zigas 2:38
somehow. That’s exactly right. The mortgage finance system pre new deal was very highly localized depended on what were then called thrift institutions, savings and loan associations, building societies, and some insurance companies. And mortgages, then were typically five years in duration. And we’re doing payable on balloons at the end of five years. And the way the system worked was that loans would be refinanced every five years. During the Great Depression. Of course, banks ran out of money and people were out of work and couldn’t refinance. The mortgages couldn’t pay the ones they had, and they were very widespread. defaults. Congress created the homeowners loan corporation which purchased a lot of those mortgages and tried to stabilize the system that led to the Federal Housing Administration in 1934. And the 1938, Congress created the federal National Mortgage Association or Fannie Mae, the Federal Home Loan mortgage Corporation, Freddie Mac, actually didn’t get created until 1970. And it was a subsidiary of the Federal Home Loan Bank board, which was the overseer and national organizing entity for those thrifts and savings and loans in the savings and loans crisis in 1989. Congress spun out Freddie Mac into private ownership, and Fannie Mae was spun out into private ownership in 1968. So it became a congressionally chartered company that was owned by shareholders, but governed by a charter granted by Congress, which had certain privileges and certain restrictions and principal me principal mission was to provide stability and liquidity in the nation’s mortgage markets, and help to provide mortgage financing as broadly and widely as possible. Fannie Mae following the creation of the Federal Housing Administration, is what led to the eventual nationalization, if you will, the National scope of the mortgage system, which today provides a very uniform mortgage rates regardless of where you live right back in the day, even in the 1960s. mortgage rates vary greatly, depending on how many deposits different institutions had and how much demand there was for home loans.

Jason Hartman 4:45
Yeah. And back to the Great Depression, you know, just think of Jimmy Stewart and its wonderful life. That was your mortgage lender right there. So that’s exactly right. Interesting. So would it be fair to say though, that Fannie Mae’s mission, and Freddie Mac’s I guess to is to increase homeownership.

Barry Zigas 5:02
That’s one of its mission. So its mission is to help build build homeownership. Another part of his mission is to provide stability in the mortgage markets, right to be a counter cyclical and stabilizing force. And the third is to ensure broad liquidity in the mortgage markets so

Jason Hartman 5:17
that the flow of funds is is free, and there is a lot of liquidity. So that’s one thing that the US has, that other countries around the world just do not have. We have a very unique mortgage system here. It’s really a gift. I mean, if you’re not taking advantage of these awesome mortgages we have in the US, you’re missing out because it really is a gift.

Barry Zigas 5:38
But well, the system we have I just had the system we have is made it possible for American consumers to both obtain mortgages at very affordable rates, because there is so much liquidity and for three decades investors want these but it also has enabled consumers to get long term fixed rate mortgages, that they can prepay without penalty. Right. And that’s it. That’s an extremely important feature for consumers.

Jason Hartman 6:01
Yeah, no question about it. So promoting homeownership. And, you know, I’ve tried to analyze this over the years. And I’m I wonder if, you know, maybe you’ve ever thought about it, analyzed it, you know, maybe done some reports on it research with with your various parts of your career. But what are homeownership rates, like around the world where they don’t have the kind of system we have? And related to that? If you promote something, which they do they obviously promote this liquidity and this robust mortgage market that we have. Don’t you just naturally create a bubble and increase prices? And if you promote mortgages and make them more widely available, the price is going to go up of the properties that they’re attached to? Right. All right. Well,

Barry Zigas 6:46
that’s a that’s a really good and complex question with a variety of different answers. So first, on the question of global comparisons, a it’s very tough to make real global comparisons in the housing policy arena, because you have to think holistically about what the policies are. So how does the national government policy treat rental housing? How does it treat homeownership? How does it treat the other necessities of life so in in countries, for instance, that have universal entitlement to health care and education and pensions, consumers can actually afford to spend substantially more for their homes and be less concerned about the liquidity of their own mortgage, because they’re protected in so many other ways in the economy, the United States, uniquely among the developed Western nations, depends on the private sector to provide almost all of those services. So that’s one big difference. In fact, there are countries who have higher homeownership rates than the United States. But those systems run with a different kind of mortgage financing. Consumers typically put down very large amounts of money to buy their home mortgages are much smaller, and they’re often of shorter duration and have to be refinanced

Jason Hartman 7:54
frequently. Typically, like that five year cycle, right where they’re refi, this five

Barry Zigas 7:58
710, you know, consumers today, going to buy alone, get alone will be confronted with a series of options. Even in the United States, you can have a long term fixed rate mortgage for 30 years, you can have one for 15 years. And then there are adjustable rate mortgages, which operate in five, seven and 10 year terms. And those shorter terms are much more common. Around the world, very few places have long term Fixed Rate Mortgages the way the United States has. And that’s been a great advantage to consumers. The second part of your question, dozen more mortgage financing leads to housing, inflation bubbles and on affordability that depends on two things, one a is there enough liquidity to finance the demand? Because if there wasn’t enough liquidity to advance demand, then actually prices would go up? because it’d be more demand and there was supply? The second part of that gets to the question of what are the terms of the mortgage? And what are the credit qualification. So if you were offering anybody credit, regardless of their ability to repay the loan, then you could in fact, flood the market with liquidity, drive up prices, and create a bubble. And in fact, that’s exactly what happened. In the mid 2000s. A whole branch of lending opened up subprime lending and so called alt a lending that was focused entirely on changing the criteria, the qualification criteria to make it possible to provide mortgage financing to more consumers. And what happened was those loans turned from being convenience loans to being abusive loans. And in fact, we did create a bubble and that bubble burst in 2008. And we still suffering some of the repercussions of that if you have good credit standards. Right? That is a natural break on how many consumers can qualify for a mortgage. And if you see house prices rising, and income is not and you have standards for how much of your income people should be willing or able to pay for their mortgage. You have a natural cap on demand. And one of the things Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are supposed to do is provide that stabilizing force in the market by establishing national standards for mortgage lending, that are designed to balance liquidity and stability. One of the things that happened in the mid 2000s was that equation got out of whack, and we

Jason Hartman 10:15
got way out of whack. Yeah, no question about it. Do you have an opinion? I’m sure you do as to what the homeownership rate should be. I mean, it got as high as about 69%, during the george bush ownership era, you know, promotion. And now I think it’s maybe 60 to 63%, somewhere around there, if I’m not mistaken. What’s your opinion? And what have been some of maybe the stated goals of these organizations? Maybe they didn’t publish that, but it was internal as to what they thought the homeownership rate should be?

Barry Zigas 10:44
I think it’s a great question. And let me start by saying, you know, when you look at the aggregate, homeownership rate, it really masks tremendous disparities in homeownership rates among Americans. So the overall rate is somewhere in the mid 60s, now low to mid 60s percent, it was as high as 69%. Right before the crash. But that masked big differences, the homeownership rate among white Americans is over 70%, at one time approach 75% and the homeownership rate among African Americans as well below 50%. And similarly, Hispanic Americans well below 50%. So there’s tremendous disparity. So that number 62, masks, enormous difference.

Jason Hartman 11:22
I agree with you. But I’d be really curious to know, when you look at those racial segmentations, what is the percentage based on married or single households, you know, when we have a single parent household, it’s a lot harder to buy a house. And I would argue that the government has created that problem in the African American community. So

Barry Zigas 11:45
well, so let’s let’s break that down. So first of all, I don’t actually know the differential rates between single household and married households, I’m certain it’s lower for the first and higher or the second. That’s number one. Number two, when you look at the rates, apples to apples, if you compare household size, income, credit qualifications among white applicants and black applicants, black applicants fare much, much worse, they do not get the same treatment or access to mortgage credit, really, when you when you compare really the qualification? Oh, that’s, that’s scary. One of the foundations of the national homeownership strategy that started with the Carter administration moved into the bush administration was based on that kind of analysis was when you look longitudinally across populations, the things that you might intuitively say, Oh, well, it’s obvious why the homeownership rates lower because of whatever socio economic conditions credit whatever,

Jason Hartman 12:38
lower incomes, whatever

Barry Zigas 12:40
turns out when you look at the different slices, that’s not true. And so there is discrimination in the mortgage markets, and there’s discrimination. That’s both current. And there’s discrimination. That’s historical. So

Jason Hartman 12:51
is it actual mortgage denials? Or is it that people just don’t apply in the first place? They don’t try to buy a house? Yeah, that’s

Barry Zigas 12:58
a great question. It’s a combination of things. So So historically, first of all, African Americans were excluded from the mortgage system for many years, right? The term redlining originated with the homeowners loan Corporation and extended into the FHA, where black households were not really allowed to get financing for housing. So that put those households in really behind the wealth building train, right, white households who were able to take advantage of low downpayment mortgages were able historically to build up wealth which they can pass on to their heirs, and to position them to buy homes in the future. I see

Jason Hartman 13:33
no studies and I agree with them, they’re they’re really tragic. There, there’s no i

Barry Zigas 13:37
did not have those. Now, fast forward to today. 1968, we have the Fair Housing Act, which banned overt discrimination in housing, we still see a big lag. And we see that lag for a number of reasons. One of them is there’s still discrimination in the mortgage markets that gets shown over and over again by testers who present exactly the same characteristics to a lender or a landlord, and black households don’t get treated the same as White House, that’s one, two, you have this lack of wealth, which means low income, that middle income, black households often have only a small amount of money to put down for a downpayment that limits their choices and limits the size of the house or price they can buy. And then finally, in as we think about credit, and the way we evaluate people’s likelihood of repayment through credit score’s the algorithms that go into developing those scores have been shown to have all kinds of implicit biases, which often work against the interests of black homeowners or black aspiring homeowners. Finally, we did research when I was at Fannie Mae, that showed that there has been partly because of this historical pattern of discrimination, African American households are more likely to say that people like me, can’t get a mortgage. People like me, don’t get to be homeowners, and they sort of take themselves out of the market. And when I was at Fannie Mae in the mid 90s, we ran a big big campaign. To try to bring more people into the market because we knew there were creditworthy borrowers who were simply self self selecting out of the system because of their fear of being discriminated against, or their experience of it.

Jason Hartman 15:12
I’m wondering also, depending on the, you know, the reality of this discrimination, are the lenders discriminate against people or neighborhoods? Because, because for Yeah, if you look at this as a very much a current event, okay, I remember living in Orange County growing up in Los Angeles, 1992, Rodney King riots, okay, if I was a lender, I wouldn’t want to finance anything in a neighborhood that’s going to be burned down and destroyed. And businesses certainly didn’t want to reopen there. So how much of that is the area versus the human? Well, we

Barry Zigas 15:48
have a lot of I mean, it’s both. It’s both issues, lenders have discriminated geographically for decades, and often based on who lived there, nevermind what happened in the neighborhood. So the history of redlining was defined redlining as a term. And a tool was defined by the percentage of non white people living in the community. And that was judged to be a less credit worthy community, a place where you should not lend as much money or even be willing to lend any money at all. So there have been geographic discrimination for decades. And the Community Reinvestment Act and the home mortgage Disclosure Act, which were adopted in the mid 1970s. were designed to combat that geographic discrimination right here. Second level is personal discrimination, which I’ve described comes in a variety of formats. Some of it is over bad treatment. Some of it is lack of access to credit in the community. So lenders don’t market to that part of the population for any number of reasons. And the third is that the way we think about and evaluate credit is laced with embedded bias, about behaviors about history that end up discriminating against African American families and Hispanic families to a similar degree. The question going forward really is how do we make sure that the system fully serves as many households as possible in a way that’s responsible, sustainable, and doesn’t discriminate on the basis of any non relevant financial factors. And that’s the challenge the industry has not yet met,

Jason Hartman 17:17
I want to ask you about these new credit scoring proposals way beyond FIFO, which I’ve talked about on the show over the years that are pretty interesting. But in terms of Oh, the Community Reinvestment Act, I wanted to talk about that a lot of people placed the blame for the mortgage meltdown that preceded the Great Recession. And I really divide that into two things. I think there was a mortgage meltdown. And that was only phase one. Then there was the Wall Street scam going on behind the scenes, that was a whole different thing. I mean, I predicted the mortgage meltdown years before it happened, and people argued with me vociferous Lee, and, you know, said I was crazy, and especially realtors, you know, said I was trying to destroy their business. I mean, you can’t believe the hate I encountered for that. I certainly. I was right. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So but but I did not know about what Wall Street all the shenanigans they were, you know, all the criminal activity they were doing behind the scenes. That was all a surprise to me. And I guess that’s the subject of The Big Short, right. So we But with that, how much of the Community Reinvestment Act is to blame for that mortgage meltdown? I mean, forcing these banks basically shaking them down to give loans to people who just aren’t qualified because they had to, you know, do a form of affirmative action, is that true or false?

Barry Zigas 18:37
And that’s and that’s a lie that ideologues who are unwilling to accept responsibility for the consequences of their economic policies like to promote? Okay, you don’t have to take my word for it. The financial crisis investigations commission reached that conclusion, congressional hearings have reached that conclusion, academics at the Federal Reserve and other places have reached that conclusion. There’s no evidence whatsoever, that the Community Reinvestment Act was a contributing factor to the mortgage meltdown in which

Jason Hartman 19:05
were lenders promoting mortgages to lenders, less qualified

Barry Zigas 19:08
people. Let’s be clear with the CRA requirement. The CRA requires that lenders serve all parts of their community from which they accept deposits. That’s the basic theory of CRA. It does not require them to make particular kinds of loans. It simply requires them to be able to demonstrate that they’re not denying credit to any part of the areas from which they are drawing deposits. And in fact, loans that were created under so called CRA programs, which were designed to provide broader access performed Far, far better than the subprime loans that were not CRA eligible. And the all day loans that were not CRL it’s because they didn’t serve low and moderate income people or they did it in an abusive and predatory fashion. The CRA is designed to just make sure that lenders do not discriminate geographically in their distribution of credit. And their access to credit. Fannie Mae similarly had housing goals and there are some who argue that the fulfilling of the housing goals which was one of my responsibilities when I was a Fannie Mae and I was partly responsible for developing the housing goals as legislation was another driver of this that’s also been debunked by the Federal by the financial crisis investigations commissioned by the Federal Reserve and others, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did expand their credit criteria, but didn’t no way that was designed to be responsible and prudent. And so even the access products that I was responsible for, we had a hard floor on credit scores, we required investigation into credit, these were fully underwritten loans, the loans that drove the crisis really drove the crisis. Were the so called liar loans and no income No, you know, loans that were designed to enable people to buy homes that was standard underwriting they would not have qualified for and that drove the inflation you described. And that’s what led to the crash. The larger economic crash was then, as you say,

Jason Hartman 21:02
crying talking about a very long term inflation from the 30s. Okay, well,

Barry Zigas 21:06
what housing you know, housing inflates, because there’s always an imbalance between supply and demand. The responsibility of the mortgage finance system is not to provide so much credit that it artificially inflates that bubble beyond the ability of the system to maintain itself and all through the 1990s. In the early 2000s, we had a very stable system, where millions of home new homeowners were created. As the population grew, the homeownership rate grew gradually, incrementally, and the system was very stable. It became disable eyes, actually, when credit moved away from lenders that were accountable for CRA and from the system that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operated, their share of that market declined very, very precipitously in advance of the crisis, and their loans all performed Far, far better than those of the unregulated, you know, so called New innovators who came into the market in the early 2000s. First,

Jason Hartman 22:00
let’s talk about student loans. And would you say it’s a fair comparison to compare the student loan market that really started getting its foothold in the 70s and the inflationary cost of college tuition to Fannie Freddie? Why isn’t that the same thing? Or? I mean, do you think that didn’t happen?

Barry Zigas 22:20
Because I honestly, I don’t know enough about the student loan market to comment on that. I do know that when I was a Fannie Mae, we watched the growth in house prices very, very carefully. And we were very disturbed in the latter part of my term there by what we saw as an increasing disconnection between income growth and house price growth. And if you chart that, on a graph, which Bob Shiller has done, and others have done, you can see a big discontinuous jump, when, in the beginning when these new new kinds of mortgage financing became available through non traditional means, and more and more people were qualified for mortgages that in fact, they weren’t qualified for. And that did help drive a big inflation and house prices. Look, if you tell me, you come to me and say, I want to buy a house for $100,000. And I look at your qualifications and say, based on traditional underwriting, with, you know, the size of your income, your other debt obligations, your history of repaying credit, you can really only qualify for $75,000 loan? Well, you know, I’ve put a cap on the market, that’s very different than if a lender comes to you and says, Jason, how much do you think you can afford to pay for a mortgage and you say, $500 a month, which might be enough to get you I’m making these numbers up to the point of an illustration, $75,000 home, but you really want $100,000 home, if I say to you, no problem, we can find a way to get you that mortgage. That means I have to reduce my standards, and I get to raise the price. And then I sell that premium mortgage to an investor who thinks that I’m actually paying attention to the credit quality. Everybody gets screwed no one that’s exactly

Jason Hartman 23:57
on the brakes. There was nobody was paid to put on the brakes. And that whole system exactly right. That’s why

Barry Zigas 24:04
today we’re facing a big supply problem. And one of the things that’s exacerbated the recovery, housing recovery from the crisis is the lack of affordable supply, partly driven by the capture of so many foreclosed homes by wall street funded corporate landlords, right. converted homes, it used to be available for sale, but that’s

Jason Hartman 24:25
a pretty small, I mean, that’s a lot compared to before, but it’s still a small percentage of the overall market. I mean, it is okay. It’s a lot of homes for them, but it’s not much compared to the market. But

Barry Zigas 24:36
house price growth takes place on the margins, right? It’s in that space of buying and selling right most Americans stay in their homes for being anywhere from seven to 10 years. It’s the it’s a part of the market that’s moving, that really matters. So you had you had supply taken up. You have lenders now in the shock after 2008, much more conservative in their lending to builders and builders much more conservative about what they build and Focusing as a consequence on much higher price stock, there’s a tremendous shortage of affordable new homes to buy for newly forming households. And that’s part of what’s driving the inflation, because mortgage credit is actually much less readily available today than it was in housing.

Jason Hartman 25:15
How did how do we solve the mortgage? How do we solve the shortage of housing problem?

Barry Zigas 25:21
Well, one step at a time. It’s nothing you can do overnight. But number one, we have to get back to standard to much more open and responsible credit policies at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as at FHA. Number one, right now, it’s much harder to get a mortgage from those places than it was in 2001, when the markets were very stable. Number two, we need to encourage through zoning through building codes, and other means the construction of new housing. I just

Jason Hartman 25:48
want to be clear before you move on to that supply part. You’re saying that the mortgage market has overcorrected there being too tight with mortgages, right.

Barry Zigas 25:56
Yeah. Okay. I agree. And Urban Institute has done plenty of studies about this tracks this every month. And you can see, you know, the comparison of total mortgage risk now versus total mortgage risk, you know, before the crisis, and there’s a huge difference. So, some people might say, well, that’s very prudent because I want the taxpayers protected through the mortgage system. And I don’t want anybody to be at risk, but a system that is so tied up on guaranteeing success on every borrower or means that many borrowers are excluded. But to get back to supply, we have a real supply problem the United States, some of which is based on zoning and code restrictions at the local level, some of which is based on the inability of builders to get credit, and some of which is just on the type of homes builders are choosing to buy in a tight market, they look for the highest profit margin, those are not entry level, smaller homes that that newly emerging households can afford to buy.

Jason Hartman 26:49
So it sounds like your basic answer is we need to be more liberal on zoning laws and allow an easier process to entitle land to build and construct more homes and also be more liberal on the mortgage lending, because we it’s just tightened up too much. Right, be more liberal.

Barry Zigas 27:08
I’d say in broad terms. That’s exactly right. Obviously, every jurisdiction is different. There’s still some cities that are suffering, the after effects of the 2008 crash, where real estate has not recovered its value, and their homes are very affordable. But consumers can’t get credit for them because of a variety of appraisal issues, lack of credit providers, and a surplus of property in a market which has seen population decline, but still has

Jason Hartman 27:33
lots of housing. It sounds like you’re talking about Detroit,

Barry Zigas 27:36
Detroit, Toledo. A lot of the Midwestern Rust Belt cities suffer from this problem is it’s the reverse of what we see in places like San Francisco, Phoenix, San Jose, a rapidly growing MSA. Yeah,

Jason Hartman 27:49
so San Francisco, what’s going on? there? Are people leaving the city, you know, you can’t socially distance in these high density areas and to make it twice as bad. Those are the areas that have been largely affected by the race riots.

Barry Zigas 28:04
Well, you know, I, I’d be cautious about drawing conclusions about San Francisco. First of all, San Francisco itself, while we did have some civil unrest was really quite modest and contained and hasn’t had as I anything, and I can see any long term effect, the biggest impact San Francisco is suffering from is simply had this rapid growth of employment, high income employment from the technology firms, and no corresponding increase in the construction of housing or at least not well matched. And so there’s been a tremendous supply demand imbalance here in the city. That’s number one. Number two, I don’t think we yet know what the consequences of COVID is going to be for the city. There’s some indication that at the very high end, condo prices have softened, high end rentals have softened, landlords are under a lot of pressure. And of course, as unemployment continues, you know, more and more tenants. And more and more landlords, as a consequence, are going to be under a lot of financial pressure, particularly at the end of this month when the supplemental unemployment benefits expire. So we’re, I think, at the edge of seeing some really serious consequences from COVID and the unemployment crisis. But we have actually been cushioned. And this is a good thing by the federal efforts that were enacted earlier this year, especially in terms of the extra unemployment benefits, which have been the means by which many people have been able to keep paying their rents, and many landlords have been able to keep going. But the eviction moratoria that were put in place early in the crisis is starting to expire both nationally and locally. And I think we are going to see a big wave of evictions, The Washington Post reported earlier this week, that 110 million renter households in United States, as many as 20% of them 20 million households are at risk of eviction over the next 60 to 90 days.

Jason Hartman 29:47
Right. Right. And I would argue that the biggest segmentation in that market Well, you said the high end condo market and so forth, but I would say it’s it’s the properties in high density areas with elevators, and mass transit, where you find it impossible to socially distance, New York being the worst of these areas, but even, you know, of course San Francisco’s affected. I mean, you’ve got some special things there financial district tech, etc. But you know, even downtown Seattle, downtown San Diego, LA, you know, any of these areas where people have got to live in a high rise mass transit environment where they can’t take stairs? And you know, elevators are have got to be the biggest danger zone that a mass transit, right? Well, I

Barry Zigas 30:34
think it’s very risky to make these broad generalizations in every location. I live in San Francisco, I live in the heart of the mission. I’m in a two storey building, no elevator, the whole this whole area, much of San Francisco is actually a low density. I know. Yes. Yeah. So that’s not the big issue. Now in a city like New York, which is very different. situation there. That’s number one. Number two, remember, the sheltering in place for many people has simply meant their work has shifted from an office to their home that’s raised lots of other issues, childcare. But people are still able to work. The people who are most affected by this are folks who, regardless of what their housing situation is, have to go to work and higher risk environments, whether it’s your sanitation workers, or it’s your municipal transit employees or your farm workers or your packing plant workers. And you know, the big outbreaks in the Midwest among the packing plants are not in places with high density housing, they’re in places with high density employment, where it’s very hard to create protection. So I think we’re seeing a very variegated picture, one of which we don’t fully understand the implications. There’s no question that the drive to reopen the economy is putting millions and millions of people at risk. And we’re seeing the consequences of that now. So we have not figured out an answer to this. And I don’t think it resides in just the real estate sector or just the employment sector. It’s a complex of issues and it’s a public health problem that has to be addressed like a public health problem.

Jason Hartman 32:03
Would you say that we should continue to lockdowns? It sounds like it would be your pain? Well, I

Barry Zigas 32:08
think the CDC and others have put out the guidelines, what’s been so disappointing is how many of the guidelines have been ignored in certain places. And places have reopened, even when they haven’t met the benchmarks for the for the reopening in places that have been more cautious. That doesn’t mean go back into lockdown, it means more slowly open up, I think we’re seeing a true flattening of the curve. We’re seeing different results here in California, some parts of the status and a big increase. The counties here around San Francisco, which have remained pretty tightly locked down, have actually not seen big increases, we’ve seen some but not big increase.

Jason Hartman 32:44
But the good news is, though, in all these stats is that even in areas that have reopened, there have been more infections, but at a much lower mortality rate. I mean, it really is getting a lot better, in that it seems that this is as the mutation occurs, it seems to be more infectious actually, but less severe. And, you know, again, we’re early in this. So they, you know, this doctor, I’m

Barry Zigas 33:12
not a health expert. And what I read is a couple of factors leading to that one of which is, as you say, Well, it seems more infectious, it is seems to become less deadly, but but there’s some evidence that that’s partly because the infections are taking place among a younger population, which we’ve always known is less resilient, has lower mortality. And second, we’ve learned much more about how to manage. Now, hospital treatments are better as fully treated patients. But on the other hand, if I said to you, I’ll tell you what, Jason, how’d you like to sign up for a program? You know, where 125 to 200,000 Americans will die in the space of nine months. Does that sound like a good bet? Yeah, I mean, all of us will say, of course, that’s not exactly the situation we’re in.

Jason Hartman 33:53
Yeah. Well, you always have to ask yourself compared to what and you know, I mean, when I was a kid, parents had chicken pox parties. So no, I don’t know if there’s, there’s all kinds of different people said this. Oh, it’s just like the flu and nobody wants that. I know. I don’t think that for a moment I’ve had I’ve I’ve debunked that theory many times on the show. It’s

Barry Zigas 34:13
not deadly. You know, compare it more to polio. Yeah. Right, which was deadly and predates me. But I have friends who are slightly older than me who suffered from polio.

Jason Hartman 34:23
a friend’s mom

Barry Zigas 34:24
had polio. Yeah, yeah. And it was it was a similar effort. I remember the campaign and what you remember the March of Dimes originally was about raising money from individuals to pay for pay for research to create a vaccine for polio, which we did. And we’ve eradicated polio. So I think we have a lot of a lot of issues that have to be resolved. In this crisis. Your question about what’s the impact on real estate going to be? I think we don’t know. I think it’s an unfolding story. And I think it’ll be very different depending on the locations. And I think we haven’t yet seen how this is going to affect the shape of work or retail. You know, I mean, my In reading about all these malls that aren’t going to come back, that’s going to completely change the face of retail that has big employment implications, and employment implications of housing implications. And I think those echo effects are really going to start rippling through the system. And they will have less to do with our standards for lending and much more to do with how we treat income policy in this country and how we deal with income and wealth inequality in this country. And see how it’s been exacerbated and highlighted by this public health crisis.

Jason Hartman 35:29
Look at I mean, Jeff Bezos is just be Yeah, I mean, all the super rich are just getting richer and richer and richer. In this crisis. It’s on I saw a chart on that. Maybe two weeks ago, it was mind boggling. And I think we’re only seeing the start of it. I mean, this wealth is just being so concentrated at the top top top.

Barry Zigas 35:49
traded wealth is a is is we know historically, is a very negative trend for a vibrant and open democracy, no question about it to be concerned about going forward. And I agree, but how do we solve that problem?

Jason Hartman 36:04
For another podcast? Yeah, definitely. Well, hey, thanks for joining us. Barry. Did you want to give it our website?

Barry Zigas 36:09
My website is www dot zycus. associates, all spelled out.com. And the Consumer Federation of America’s website is www consumer. fed.org.

Jason Hartman 36:20
All right, excellent. Barry, thanks for joining us. Thanks so much, Jason.

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