The Vanishing Middle Class  


Joined: 9 months ago
Posts: 28
06/05/2019 2:34 pm  

I just finished reading a book about people living in vans instead of houses or apartments. It is called: “Nomadland by Jessica Bruder”. The book describes the hardships people are having and their efforts to keep from becoming homeless. Locations that have very expensive housing markets are now so pricey individuals with incomes from $100,000 to as high as $150,000 are unable or unwilling to buy or rent a home. The hardest places affected are those with an abundance of tech jobs; especially New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. Jeanne mentioned Boston should be mentioned also.

Many Millennials are moving to where the tech jobs are and unable to find a place to live they can afford. Retirees are another segment of the population losing their ability to live under a roof. Many seniors didn’t save enough for retirement and are needing to sell their homes. In many instances seniors living in tight housing markets are unable to find a buyer before their home is repossessed and find themselves in a desperate situation. People in the most need for a quick solution are tending to buy used vans that are stealth enough to be parked on the streets and not recognized as living quarters. Some people have just gotten fed-up with the high costs of mortgages and rents, insurance, taxes, and maintenance and feel they could live a better life traveling around the country in an RV and not owning a home. Some elders find themselves needing to continue working and find jobs being camp hosts or filling orders at Amazon warehouses around the country. Amazon pays low wages for brutal work conditions. However, Amazon is planning on using robotics, drones and self-driving electric trucks for filling and delivering orders in the future. There go the warehouse and delivery jobs.

Different cities are handling the housing crisis in different ways. Some places have stepped up the impounding of vehicles parked in the same place for over 72 hrs. Other places have set aside some lots for live-in parking, but the homeless crisis is getting much worse. Other places are banning the homeless from living in vehicles. Major efforts and solutions are needed desperately to handle this coming crisis.

Living Behind the Wheel - By Amy Pollard

Seattle passed a ruling saying a homeless man’s truck is his home because he lives in it:

Judge rules Seattle homeless man’s truck is a home | The Seattle Times

The homeless crises gained prominence during the housing crises that began in 2007. Since then the problem has only become much worse. With the political situation in this country and the economy both in very precarious positions we could be in a housing crisis much worse than we have seen before. The disparity between the cost of living and wages has become so great many more people will be losing the ability to live under a roof.

Vehicle Residency’? Number of Americans Living in Cars Jumps 46%

The Number Of Americans Living In Their Vehicles "Explodes" As The Middle Class Collapses

Jeanne gave me some insight as to what has been happening in Boston along these lines:

“I want to add that Boston belongs in your initial list of costs too high for middle class earners. 

Also under the elderly section, there are now four year wait lists in the Boston area for group housing that is affordable - i.e.,$1500 to  $2000 a month for a one room studio apartment is the rate for housing that provides dining for elderly who are too frail to food shop and cook for themselves but still healthy enough to live somewhat independently.”

Thanks Jeanne!

Tiger-n-Owl, Laura F., Jeanne Mayell and 3 people liked
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 184
07/05/2019 11:09 am  

NWDoug, I have friends who have good jobs but live in overpriced housing markets (like San Diego) where they pay more for a studio apartment than my wife and I paid to buy our small town Midwest Victorian. Elizabeth Warren was talking about this twenty years ago. I was a fan of her when she was "just" a college professor sounding the alarm about a vanishing middle class (Her 2003 book, "The Two Income Trap" is still relevant).

I'm so thankful that I am retired with a pension (which is becoming more and more uncommon) and we own our house outright. 

Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 518
07/05/2019 4:02 pm  

I live in San Diego. We are "homeowners", but I have it in my head that should my husband pass away before me, I'd have to sell the house asap (at least I'd make decent profit), and then leave CA altogether, probably end up living in a double-wide or tiny house somewhere I don't like and don't know anybody...

We're hoping to invest in income properties in the next few years, as a way to cushion our future retirement, because there are no pensions in our future, social security is always on the chopping block, and so we don't have to work til we're both dead.

I have mentioned the idea of RV living to my husband if needed. He can't envision it, I think mostly because there are no hybrid RVs and gas is so expensive, and if you do that in San Diego, you can't park it anywhere for more than 72 hours unless you are renting space in a RV park, which are rapidly disappearing.  On the bright side, San Diego just enacted a law that allows people to sleep in their vehicles without fear of arrest or fines,and you are allowed to do that in unpaid parking street spots, but again, you have to "keep moving along", so if your car breaks down, you're up the creek.

Another alternative I'm looking at and discussing with old-friend-age-peers is the idea of communal living somewhere affordable. Where if we pool resources we can buy a large house and share costs, responsibilities, and also companionship. Kind of a "back to the future" living arrangement like we all had post-college years. I think that while there are challenges, it makes sense in the long run. If you think about it, it would certainly improve quality of life as we get older, less chance of getting sent off to a nursing home, too.  Science has shown that friendship in old age helps lengthen lifespan and improves overall health.

The oligarchs have soundly defeated the middle class, I doubt it will ever come back. It's clear we're all going to have to look after each other more.

Joined: 9 months ago
Posts: 28
07/05/2019 4:16 pm  

Hi Paul W,

What is bothering me right now is the fact the number of homeless people is increasing so much faster  than it was earlier. What would it be like to live in America as a member of the non-existent middle class where you aren't able to afford a roof over your head even if you do have a job?