What Los Angeles can learn from Detroit about addressing homelessness
Aug 16, 2023
Episode 984

What Los Angeles can learn from Detroit about addressing homelessness

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It's all about affordable housing.

Detroit has one of the nation’s highest poverty rates. Yet, it doesn’t have the same level of homelessness that Los Angeles has. So what gives? We’ll get into the almost-too-obvious reason: a lot more housing. Also, we’ll check in on one of Kai’s favorite topics — bonds — and explain what yields can tell us about today’s economy. And, a silver lining in the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s World Cup loss.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Got a question for the hosts? Leave us a voicemail at 508-U-B-SMART or email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org.

Make Me Smart August 16 , 2023 Transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Nova Safo 

Wow Okay, I’m ready. I’m ready.

Kai Ryssdal 

Alright, let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s do it. Let’s do it. Hi everybody I’m Kai Ryssdal, welcome back to Make Me Smart where we make the day make sense. It is, what is today? The 16th of August. It’s a Wednesday. Nova Safo is here because Kimberly is off running around the Himalayas. Hi Nova.

Nova Safo 

Himalayas. Wow. Yeah, it’s good to be with you is stepping in for Kimberly. Although I wish I was stepping in with her for her in the Himalayas.

Kai Ryssdal

No joke, no joke.

Nova Safo

But I’ll take. Yeah, hanging out with you is very, very nice. Second prize.

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, you’re too kind. You’re too. Why, why are you in LA by the way? Because we should say you’re usually up in Fresno. What brought you down? What brought you down to the big city?

Nova Safo 

Yeah, I was I headed to San Francisco last week. So I needed to drop off the pups with the parents in LA. And I came back and stuck around. I was off on a reporting trip last week. So it’s part of the logistics of having to travel for work.

Kai Ryssdal 

Fair enough. Let’s get the plug in here actually. If you did not hear the Marketplace Morning Report, the last couple of days, I can’t remember exactly, Monday and Tuesday. Nova did a story from Fresno on Monday, in San Francisco on Tuesday, the varying fortunes of downtown’s in the state of California. And they were great. I learned a ton, which is always good. And it was they were really well done and well edited and well produced. So we’ll put them on the show page. They’re also on the Marketplace homepage. But the Marketplace homepage can be tricky to find stuff on. So we’ll put them on our show page. Because they were really good

Nova Safo 

Alright, well I do appreciate that. Thank you, sir. You bet.

Kai Ryssdal 

You bet. Alright, so let’s we’ll do news. We’ll do some smiles and then we shall move merrily along. What do you have Nova?

Nova Safo 

Oh, I go first? Fabulous. So I got a story from the Los Angeles Times reporter Noah Bierman, just to give a plug out to the reporter there. And it was really fascinating to me, because it compared homelessness in Los Angeles with homelessness in Detroit, Michigan, of all places. Detroit has per capita a lot more poverty than LA does. And yet per capita, LA has a lot more homeless. Yeah, even though it has fewer poor people, per capita, you know, the rates are lower. So then the question was why? And the answer was deceptively simple, according to this article, and that is simply put, Detroit has a lot more affordable homes. So even if you’re not making that much money, you can still get a roof over your head. And there have been studies showing this to be the case. And I don’t know why we’re not doing it yet. It is, apparently and repeatedly shown to be pretty simple, affordable housing, and also just getting people under a roof will do the trick. Yeah, it’s, it’s a fascinating article, and I highly recommend everybody go check it out in the LA Times website. It really is just remarkable to see the difference between how folks there can live on with rent as low as $750 a month for a three-bedroom home. It’s not a great home. Oh, you know, I mean, you got leaky roofs, etc. But a roof is a roof. permanent address is a permanent address, and it solves a lot of problems.

Kai Ryssdal 

Well, that’s the thing about housing, right is that when you don’t have housing, there are all kinds of ancillary problems that come to you, the individual, also your family and also society. And so it is in our collective best interest to get the housing challenge fixed. We are, absolutely as this article points out, not doing it here in the city of Los Angeles. Yeah.

Nova Safo 

And the other thing, you know that this took me down a rabbit hole this article I gotta say, and I found this study from the University of California, San Francisco released this year, it showed that the median income, six months prior to homelessness was 960 bucks a month. They did this study that really went out there and actually talked to talk to folks who are unhoused and they also found that the people who became homeless had as little as 10 days notice, the median date number of days was 10 for leaseholders. And they said that if they had a monthly rent subsidy of 300 to 500 bucks, that’s it, they would have been able to prevent homelessness for that particular family. And that’s so little compared to how much we spend and how much it costs society to pay for folks. And, and the other costs, like health care costs, policing costs, community costs involved once because people become homeless. So just preventing it for so little on the dollar for what it costs once the people become homeless. Big difference, and it’s really worth the return on investment.

Kai Ryssdal 

Note to two producers listening to this podcast, we should do a thing on homelessness. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how we slice it, because it’s a huge topic. But we should think about that we should just throw that into the future story ideas hopper. Yeah, but good stuff. No, I’m glad you brought that one. Okay, so I’ve got to one’s personal pet peeve, but also an issue of national security. And the other one is just really geeky on bond rates. And I’ll go with the geeky first, I am obliged to point out that money is, even with the Federal Reserve slowing its rate hiking cycle, money is getting ever more expensive in this economy, the U.S 10 year Treasury today closed at 4.258%, which does not sound like a lot, but it is the highest the tenure has been the tenure, of course, is the benchmark highest the tenure has been in 2008. It has ramifications in oh look, the housing market because of mortgage rates. It’s got ramifications in automobiles and energy. And anything that is capital intensive, where you have to borrow money to get your product or your investment taken care of. It is a big, big challenge in this economy, not least of which for the government in the United States, which now has to pay more to borrow money to cover all the debts that we’re collectively running up. So keep your eye on the bond market, even though the Fed is pausing. The markets are now saying you know what, we need to make money more expensive in this economy, because maybe the economy is growing too fast. Maybe 5% growth from the Atlanta Fed the other day that we talked about on Marketplace yesterday, is a little bit too much. And people are worried about it. So keep your eye on the tenure.

Nova Safo 

Yeah. Hi, you scared the dickens out of me with this story, by the way? Look, it’s real. It’s scary. Because when you when you say things like June 2008, something not being as bad as, that immediately convinced my heart sank, you know? No, thank you very much. No, comparing to June 2008. That’s really scary. And it also makes me wonder what’s going to how that’s gonna affect the housing market. You know, people look just trying to just getting back in and all of a sudden they can’t a

Kai Ryssdal 

30 year fixed is now 7.16%. Yeah, think about that for a minute. That’s just that is not great. That is not great. And look, I don’t care if the Fed starts cutting tomorrow, mortgage rates are not going to come down as quickly as the Fed will cut and the Feds not going to start cutting tomorrow. So they’re gonna be up there for a while, which means housing affordability is going to be a problem, which means people who have existing mortgages at say, 3%, right. They’re not going to move. I’m not moving out of my house with a 3% mortgage taken of 7.1% mortgage. That’s not happening, you know.

Nova Safo 

Yeah. So goes back to prove that old, you know, warning that we’ve been hearing a lot over the last year, you raise rates that fast, something can break. And so very scary. Right.

Kai Ryssdal 

Exactly. All right. So a point of personal privilege, and and a pet peeve of mine, and I’ve talked about this before, but I do need to note it again. So on Monday, a guy by the name of Mike Gilday, retired from his job, which ordinarily I would not mark except that Mike Gilday is a four star admiral in the United States Navy. And on Monday, he stepped down as the Chief of Naval Operations, the chief uniformed officer in the naval service, and also a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A replacement has been nominated, her name and this would be the first woman on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the first woman to be the senior uniformed officer in the United States Navy is Lisa Franchetti. She’s a four-star admiral obviously, because that’s what you got to be to get that job. She cannot take that job because the senior senator from Alabama who used to be a football coach until two and a half three years ago named Tommy Tuberville has decided that he is not going to let any military promotions go through because he doesn’t like the Pentagon’s policy on reproductive rights. I just have to note it here. And I have to note that it’s deeply irresponsible and damaging to national security and very short sighted and it makes us look in the eyes of our military allies around the world, stupid.

Nova Safo 

How do you really feel?

Kai Ryssdal 

That’s how I really feel like. This one, this one this, I try not to opine so brusquely on this podcast because I probably shouldn’t. But this one I’ll take because it’s it’s this matters to me and I just can’t.

Nova Safo 

And I have a civilian question for you, Kai. If the President is the Chief Commander in Chief, why does he, why does he need Congress’s approval to appoint the leaders of the military service?

Kai Ryssdal 

Because commissioned officers in the military from from ensign, which is, you know, where I entered my naval service to through Lieutenant all the way up to the top ranks, they have to be confirmed by the United States Senate. That is by statute, right. So all officer promotions are subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. And usually it happens in great big batches. When I got promoted from Lieutenant Junior Grade to Lieutenant. There were probably 5,000 of us who were on the same piece of paper that went to the Senate. And the Senate without anybody realizing what was going on, no Senate was looking at the name of 5000 lieutenants during grade. They just did the whole unanimous consent thing and it passed in a wink. Tuberville now, is taking advantage of the unanimous consent thing in the Senate, which is to say that the way the Senate works on routine matters is that if nobody objects, things sail through, but if even one senator objects, things come to a screeching halt. And Tuberville has now done that for 300ish, senior military officers more than just Joint Chiefs of Staff, by the way, it’s down to fleet commanders and army commanders. It’s a big deal. But, but the Senate has to sign off on has to advise and consent to commission officer promotions, not just in the Navy, but in all branches of the armed services.

Nova Safo 

Is there a case to be made to get rid of that, though? Because if they’re just you know, rubber stamping anyway, it’s if it’s routine…?

Kai Ryssdal 

So look, at the lower levels. So first of all, it won’t ever happen, right? The senate of the United States is not going to give up any of its power. At the lower levels. It makes some sense, but I think you want at the senior level where you have military officers going out and making military to military contacts with our allies, speaking on behalf of the Pentagon and the armed forces and in some ways of the nation when they are thrust into the limelight. And the most recent example is well, not most reasonable, and one that comes to mind is Norman Schwarzkopf in in the first Gulf War and ’91, ’92, ‘93. Right. He was the face of the American military.

Nova Safo

Stormin Norman.

Kai Ryssdal

He was, Stormin Norman right. He was nominated by the President to that job as as commander of Central Command, and he was confirmed by the Senate, the Senate gave the legislative okay to that one. And so thus he had the backing as it were, of the Congress of the United States. So yeah, I think that matters. I think that’s relevant.

Nova Safo 

I see your point like, because they’re kind of representing the country that there should be right kind of political there. They should get to go through the political gauntlet.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, exactly. All right, Charleton, and let us move on from the substance, shall we into something more relaxed? All right, yes. Go first again.

Nova Safo 

Oh, well, thanks, sir. Go ahead. You know, I love this article from The Atlantic. It’s written by a not a disinterested party in the subject matter by Steven Waldman, who’s the president and co-founder of Report for America. And he makes an interesting case for local news, and perhaps even public or private funding of local news talking about return on investment, that, in fact, for a meager salary of a local news reporter, which, you know, say an average of $60,000 a year, which is, as he says, generous by industry standards, you could have a return multiples of that in terms of, you know, finding out government overspending wrongdoing, companies that get fined because of their bad behavior and the money that comes into government coffers. From that, that there’s multiple examples, example after example, that can really make a huge difference and that the, you know, reporters are worth their weight in gold, as they say. And one really interesting example, He gives us a study. It’s a journal article, written by academics at the University of Notre Dame University of Illinois and elsewhere. And it found it looked at Bond offerings at communities with and without local news. I mean, this is such an, you know, you wouldn’t even think about this. From 1996 to 2015, it found that borrowing costs were about $650,000 an issue on average more when it was a community that was less covered or didn’t have local news.

Kai Ryssdal 

That’s interesting. That’s so interesting. I kind of love that.

Nova Safo 

So think about how much money having local news reporters saves communities or brings in it really pays for itself and then some I love the article, and I love that argument.

Kai Ryssdal 

That’s great. Yeah, that’s great. We’ll put it on the show page. Yeah. So here’s mine I’m a soccer fan as listeners to this podcast know. I’m, I’m a high school and college soccer referee. And so I’ve been watching of course, and getting up stupidly early la time to watch the Women’s World Cup. I got up this morning I watched Australia and England and and it’s too bad that Australia lost but I do want to just point out and this is this is it’s a little off topic, but whatever. So Australia lost. Also spoiler alert. Sorry, if you taped that and you haven’t watched it. But also Internet, so whatever. I just so so look, there is no bigger backer of the United States women’s national team than myself. Yeah, I’m a huge fan of women’s soccer and all soccer in general. But I would submit that it’s not a terrible thing that the U.S women’s national team went out earlyish in this tournament or earlier in the tournament. And here’s why. It gave room for other countries to show what they have done and developed. And the case in point is Australia, which took that country, the tournament is being held in Australia and New Zealand, the Australian women’s team took that country by storm. And they are incredibly popular now, that sport has risen in in interest, they were watching it more than Australian rules football down there. I just think it’s really cool that other countries, Spain, Colombia, the Colombian team is amazing. Had a great run after the Americans left. I think the Americans had they kept on going this tournament. And look, I wish they had but they didn’t. And I think if they had kept on going, some of these other teams would not have had the breathing room to show what they can do. And so it’s not about the decline of the American team, in contrast to all the commentary that’s out there. It’s actually about the rise of the breast if I could steal a phrase from Fareed Zakaria and I think that’s great. And I think it’s good for women soccer.

Nova Safo 

I love that it’s positive attitude. And you know what, there? Yeah, and also do you think it added more suspense to the tournament? Because you know, the big heavy favorite wasn’t there.

Kai Ryssdal

Oh for sure. Absolutely. made it a better tournament? You bet. Yeah. That’s good point. Yeah, totally believe it.

Nova Safo 

I love it. I feel like we’ve heard more about it than we would have otherwise to be honest.

Kai Ryssdal 

Absolutely, totally would have. Alright, we’re done. back tomorrow. You’re back right?

Nova Safo 

I am, through the rest of the week.

 

Kai Ryssdal 

I should know this. All right. Yes. Send us your comments, your questions. 508-U-B-SMART is how you can do that with us. Write to us at makemesmart@marketplace.org. We read them all, we listen to them all. And some of them get on the pod.

Nova Safo 

I can’t wait to read those.

Kai Ryssdal 

Alright, we don’t. Courtney does, Marissa does, and Bridget maybe. Make Me Smart is produced by Courtney Bergsieker, Ellen Rolfes writes our newsletter. Today’s program was engineered by Charlton Thorp. Our intern is Niloufar Shahbandi.

Nova Safo 

Ben Tolliday and Daniel Ramirez composed our theme music. Our senior producer is Marissa Cabrera. Bridget Bodnar is the director of podcasts and Francesca Levy is the Executive Director of Digital. There it is.

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