The government CPI data for August came in slightly under expectations. Nevertheless, a 0.3% month-on-month increase in prices is significant. And a dig into the numbers reveals something wonky. The way the government calculates housing costs drastically understates rising prices and skews overall CPI to the downside.
The “transitory” inflation swamping the country has stubbornly persisted into July. Producer prices posted a second straight 1% month-over-month increase, which brought the full-year number to a record 7.8%. Twelve-month US export prices rose 17.2%, and nearly 22% if the rate of the first seven months of 2021 were annualized. (I find it telling that those prices – which are subject to no after-the-fact data collection adjustments – are rising at a rate that is nearly triple the CPI).
This is not the ideal time to own an apartment building. Millions are struggling to pay rent and despite the extension of the federal eviction moratorium through Jan. 31 in the latest stimulus bill, a lot of people will likely face eviction in the coming months. According to data released in November, 17 million households are behind on rent or mortgage payments.
Of course, this has a trickle-down effect. If renters can’t pay their rent, that makes it difficult for apartment building owners to keep up with their mortgage payments. If they default, who’s on the hook?
Increasingly, the US taxpayer.
Most people remain blissfully ignorant of the economic wounds inflicted on the US economy by the government-imposed economic shutdowns in response to the coronavirus. But every once in a while, the curtain blows back and we catch a glimpse of the damage.
For example, a report released last week by global advisory firm Stout, Risius and Ross estimated that Americans currently owe more than $21.5 billion in past-due rent.
More and more Americans are struggling to pay their rent.
According to a report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, one in four renters are paying more than half their income on housing. This equates to 10.9 million renters.