Macedonia's Housing Crisis
Macedonia’s housing crisis requires swift attention. In 2018, about 21.9% of the country’s population was living below the poverty line. With a population of 2,082,957 in 2018, more than 456,000 people living in Macedonia were experiencing poverty that year. Furthermore, Macedonia saw an unemployment rate of 17.76% in 2019, a rate which is more than double the national average of 7.04%. The collapse of state-run housing development organizations in Macedonia since its independence has led to about 15% of Macedonians living in “illegally constructed buildings.” This means that roughly 320,000 people living in Macedonia lack access to adequate housing.

Invisible Homeless

The unauthorized housing that many people in Macedonia must live in bars thousands from access to important social systems and tools. Since Macedonians require an official home address to obtain a legal ID, the state effectively renders many of them nonexistent. This prevents these people from utilizing such essential services as insurance, social safety nets and immunization services.

Macedonia’s housing crisis is also a health crisis. Without adequate housing, hundreds of thousands of Macedonians are at risk of injury and disease due to hazardous living conditions. In 2018, fewer than a third of Macedonians had thermal insulation systems in their places of residence. Inadequate heating and insulation in buildings have forced thousands of people living in Macedonia to use homemade fires to keep warm since they cannot afford the expensive heating bills otherwise necessary to heat their homes. In the capital city of Skopje, roughly “two-thirds of households use firewood as their primary source of heating,” according to the Financial Times. Without proper air circulation, this can lead to severe chronic health conditions such as heart and lung disease due to inhalation of the hazardous particles which such fires produce.

Habitat for Humanity and Roma SOS

While Macedonia’s housing crisis is a daunting problem, some are doing significant work to improve housing in impoverished Macedonian communities. Despite being an attractive country for foreign investment due to its low tax rates and free economic zones, Macedonia still has one of the lowest foreign investment rates among European countries. This can make it harder for the government to provide solutions.

A Macedonian-based organization called Roma SOS is working to improve the living conditions of those experiencing the most need in Macedonia. The organization is currently working with Habitat for Humanity to provide impoverished Macedonians with zero-interest loans for legalizing and renovating their homes. While Habitat for Humanity provides the funding for these loans, Roma SOS helps residents in navigating the legal process of receiving approval for their loans.

Since 2004, Habitat for Humanity has worked to improve affordable housing for the people of Macedonia, and in 2019 it served 4,245 individuals “through market development.” Habitat for Humanity has further worked to provide individuals in Macedonia with housing that is not only affordable but also energy efficient. Since beginning this project in 2010, it has worked to restructure more than 60 buildings to improve energy efficiency, which has saved Macedonia more than 7,910 MWh of energy usage annually. The loans that Habitat for Humanity provides are essential for giving impoverished people in Macedonia access to better housing. With these loans, Habitat for Humanity has made heating safer and more affordable for more than 1,000 families living in Macedonia.

On the Path to EU Membership

Macedonia’s government also appears to be taking steps towards increased funding for improved housing. Macedonia has recently signed a deal with Greece and is currently on its way to becoming a member of the E.U. By joining the E.U., Macedonia would see an increase in foreign investment and would be able to apply for crisis aid packages to help improve housing in its impoverished communities.

The country’s housing situation may look bleak, but there is significant work occurring to address Macedonia’s housing crisis by improving the country’s economic situation. Several organizations, both outside of Macedonia and within it, are providing poor Macedonian populations access to safe, legal housing. With Macedonia moving towards E.U. membership and its accompanying economic support, there is hope for thousands of people in Macedonia whose living conditions formerly seemed hopeless.

– Marshall Kirk
Photo: Pixabay

The post Tackling Macedonia’s Housing Crisis appeared first on The Borgen Project.

Original Source: borgenproject.org

nyse trader maskReuters / Lucas Jackson

US stocks edged higher on Tuesday as investors looked for signs of progress on government stimulus and US-China trade talks.
The S&P 500 hit a record high in intraday trading before paring gains. 
Housing starts jumped by 22.6% in July, more than economists expected, showing continued strength in the housing-market recovery.
Democrats and Republicans remain deadlocked in negotiations on the next stimulus bill, while the Trump administration on Monday imposed new restrictions on Huawei.
Read more on Business Insider.

US stocks edged higher on Tuesday as  positive housing data outweighed stalled negotiations for further government stimulus. 

The S&P 500 hit an intraday record Tuesday morning, climbing to a fresh high of 3,393.52 before paring gains. It’s the first time the index has reached a record since the coronavirus pandemic roiled global markets in March. See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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See Also:

MORGAN STANLEY: Buy these 9 top-rated stocks right now for market-beating returns of 15%-plus over the next 3 monthsA White House report claims that roughly 81% of coronavirus job losses are likely temporaryUS weekly jobless claims fall below 1 million for the first time since March

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Our House, in the Middle of Our Street

The U.S. housing market is staging a recovery as buyers shake off high unemployment and a rising number of coronavirus infections. Sales of previously owned homes rose 20.7% in June from the prior month, according to the National Association of Realtors, the biggest monthly increase on record going back to 1968. The surge follows other recent bullish indicators such as rising new-home sales, robust home-builder activity and a flood of mortgage applications. Record-low mortgage rates and pent-up demand are driving sales: Apartment renters are seeking more space, young families are moving to the suburbs, and wealthy city dwellers are looking for second homes, Nicole Friedman reports.

WHAT TO WATCH TODAY

U.S. jobless claims for the week ending July 18 are expected to hold steady at 1.3 million. (8:30 a.m. ET)

The Conference Board’s leading economic index for June is expected to rise 2.1% from the prior month. (10 a.m. ET)

The European Union’s preliminary consumer confidence index for July is out at 10 a.m. ET.

The Kansas City Fed’s manufacturing survey for July is out at 11 a.m. ET.

TOP STORIES

Crisis Mode

Small businesses are bracing for a prolonged crisis while short on cash and customers. Hopes for a quick economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic have been dashed, and companies are exhausting rescue funds. Many are shutting down or slashing jobs again, Ruth Simon, Amara Omeokwe and Gwynn Guilford report.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. reported a 97% decline in revenue as the global pandemic damps visitation to the gambling hubs of Las Vegas and Macau, Katherine Sayre reports.

“I’ve never felt more gloomy than I do today about what’s happening in Las Vegas short term.” —Sands CEO Robert Goldstein

Whirlpool said it recovered significantly in June and improved its guidance for the year, signaling damage from the coronavirus pandemic might be lighter than the appliance maker expected. Chief Executive Marc Bitzer said consumers stuck at home are upgrading kitchen appliances, especially in the U.S. where home-improvement stores have largely remained open, Austen Hufford reports.

Unilever is sort of a microcosm for shifting demand. The consumer-goods giant said underlying sales—a closely watched figure that strips out currency movements and deals—declined 0.3% in the second quarter. But that result masks huge volatility: “Although it looks like we are flat on topline, we had record growth and record declines just one click below that,” said CFO Graeme Pitkethly. Food service and out-of-home ice cream businesses, for example, were hit by lockdowns while demand for hand and home-hygiene products grew double digits.

Given all the ups and downs, what’s happening with the recovery? It seems like it stalled. Data from Facteus, which tracks transactions by 15 million debit and credit card holders, suggest consumer spending has stabilized with new patterns of winners and losers largely locked in place. Some retail has more than recovered from prepandemic levels but entertainment and travel are still depressed. And since late June, consumer outlays appear somewhere between steady and decelerating.

A leveling off in activity is feeding through to broader economic measures. IHS Markit aggregates data that go into gross domestic product to create its own monthly GDP measure. Hard numbers and forecasts show the sharp drop and a quick but only partial rebound in output through June. Since then, though, high-frequency data suggest a slowdown in activity, and IHS Markit’s forecast now reflects that. 

The Ten-Dollar Founding Father

Despite a worse pandemic response, the U.S. economy has fared better than Europe’s in part because of its greater fiscal firepower. The European debt deal this week is all about eliminating that institutional gap. Leaders of the EU agreed to finance a €750 billion ($860.64 billion) package with bonds that are the obligation of the EU itself, rather than its individual members. The breakthrough is widely compared to the infant United States’ assumption of states’ debts at the prodding of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Importantly, the European Central Bank can buy EU bonds with newly created money just as the Federal Reserve buys Treasurys. That all but eliminates any risk of default. In short, the EU is beginning to acquire economic institutions that may one day rival the U.S.’s in their flexibility and firepower, Greg Ip writes.

Will Americans get a second stimulus check? President Trump said he wants to send a second round of direct payments, House Democrats passed a bill that would send Americans $1,200 each, and Republican leaders in the Senate now see additional checks as a part of any deal with Democrats. Whatever lawmakers ultimately agree upon would be part of a much broader package that could include different types of aid, such as expanded unemployment insurance, Andrew Duehren reports.

Korea in Recession

South Korea’s economy fell into a recession in the second quarter of the year as the global coronavirus pandemic took a heavy toll on the export-reliant country. Gross domestic product posted its worst performance since the first quarter of 1998, at the height of the Asian financial crisis, Kwanwoo Jun reports.

WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING

The Paycheck Protection Program helped save jobs. “We estimate that the PPP boosted employment at eligible firms by 2% to 4.5%, with a preferred central tendency estimate of approximately 3.25%. Our estimates imply that the PPP increased aggregate U.S. employment by 1.4 million to 3.2 million jobs through the first week of June 2020, with a preferred central tendency estimate of about 2.3 million workers,” MIT’s David Autor and co-authors from the Federal Reserve and ADP write in a new paper.

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Oil Bust

Investment in the U.S. shale sector will drop by half this year, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday, as access to capital and investor confidence dry up. American shale drillers helped the U.S. produce more than 13 million barrels of oil a day earlier in 2020—before the coronavirus pandemic forced governments world-wide to impose lockdowns and travel bans on their citizens. Now, the IEA expects the largest drop in global energy investment in history, with worldwide spending on oil and gas decreasing by a third and the financing of all energy projects declining by 20%, David Hodari reports.

That’s bad news for the economy. The energy sector helped lead the U.S. out of the last recession before falling oil prices caused a pullback in investment in 2015 and 2016. That doesn’t look likely to repeat as the country tries to emerge from a sharp, coronavirus-induced downturn.

WHAT TO WATCH TODAY

The Richmond Fed’s manufacturing survey for May is out at 10 a.m. ET.

The Federal Reserve’s beige book is out at 2 p.m. ET.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard speaks at 12:30 p.m. ET and Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic speaks at 3 p.m. ET.

TOP STORIES

More Signs the Economy Is Stabilizing

U.S. consumer confidence held roughly steady in May as households worried about the present but grew a little more optimistic about future economic conditions.

Purchases of newly built single-family homes increased—a little—in April, a stronger-than-expected result during a period marked by stay-at-home orders and economic uncertainty.

And the Dallas Fed said: “The contraction seen in the Texas manufacturing sector seems to have peaked in April, as the pace of decline slowed notably in May.” Even so, the bank’s latest manufacturing survey showed production contracting for the second straight month.

In a nutshell: “The free fall started to stabilize in May, but the economy is in a really deep hole,” said Naroff Economics president Joel Naroff.

Back-to-Work Bonus

The Trump administration is examining proposals to provide cash incentives to encourage unemployed Americans to return to work. Larry Kudlow, the director of the White House National Economic Council, told Fox News the-back to-work bonus is “something we’re looking at very carefully.” Mr. Kudlow was asked about a proposal by Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) to provide a temporary $450-a-week bonus for unemployed workers returning to work, on top of their wages, Andrew Restuccia reports.

Republicans joined with Democrats in March to pass an economic-aid bill that included enhanced unemployment payments of $600 a week through July. Since, federal outlays for unemployment insurance have skyrocketed, totaling $79.7 billion over the past five weeks, according to figures tracked by the WSJ’s Anthony DeBarros.

Underscoring what is likely to be a long, difficult road for the labor market, Boeing will this week announce about 2,500 voluntary layoffs in the first phase of broader cuts triggered by the coronavirus-driven collapse of global air travel. And Amtrak is preparing to cut up to 20% of its workforce. Ridership and ticket revenue at the company have fallen by 95% since the pandemic began, Chief Executive Bill Flynn told Amtrak workers.

Lucky Seven

China set a reference rate for the yuan at its weakest point in 12 years, a signal that Beijing sees the benefits of a weaker currency as it grapples with an economic slowdown and rising tensions with Washington. The People’s Bank of China set a daily midpoint for the yuan at 7.1293 per dollar, the lowest level since February 2008. The central bank lets the onshore yuan trade in a band around this fix. The currency also trades in less tightly controlled offshore markets. The yuan broke below 7 per dollar in August, prompting President Trump to accuse Beijing of manipulating its currency, Joanne Chiu reports.

Cheers (Drink to That)

As the summer season approaches, consumers might end up paying more for their beer and soft drinks. The reason? The cost of the bubbles in the drinks is going up. Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of ethanol, which by federal mandate is mixed into gasoline to help it burn more cleanly. But fewer people are driving because of the Covid-19 lockdowns, and demand for gasoline has plunged, prompting ethanol plants to shut down. That has put pressure on the source for roughly 40% of all industrial carbon dioxide produced nationwide—a key ingredient for soft drinks and beers. Carbon-dioxide production this year has fallen by roughly 30% from last year’s levels, Vipal Monga reports.

WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING

U.S. workers have lost power. “The evidence in this paper suggests that the American economy has become more ruthless, as declining unionization, increasingly demanding and empowered shareholders, decreasing real minimum wages, reduced worker protections, and the increases in outsourcing domestically and abroad have disempowered workers–with profound consequences for the labor market and the broader economy. We argue that the reduction in workers’ ability to lay claim to rents within firms could explain the entirety of the change in the distribution of income between labor and capital in the United States in recent decades, and could also explain the rise in corporate valuations, profitability, and measured markups, as well as some of the decline in the [non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment],” Harvard’s Anna Stansbury and Lawrence Summers write.

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