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How a university-community home-sharing collective is creating a new model for affordable housing in West Philadelphia

The skyrocketing housing prices of the pandemic era have cooled since their peak in June 2022, but still remain far too high for many. Last year, the median…



By Kirsten Kaschock, Ayana Allen-Handy, Barbara Dale, Lauren Lowe, Carol Richardson McCullough, Rachel Wenrick

The skyrocketing housing prices of the pandemic era have cooled since their peak in June 2022, but still remain far too high for many. Last year, the median American home price topped $400,000 for the first time, and the burden on renters is increasing too, with the national average of rent-to-income reaching a two-decade high of 30% in 2023.

Importantly, these impacts are being felt across generations. Many younger adults, saddled with student loan debt, are finding themselves without the savings or monthly earnings to qualify for a mortgage or afford rents. Meanwhile, an increasing number of older single homeowners have too much house to take care of and no feasible way to downsize without leaving their neighborhoods. And across all ages, these challenges are exacerbated in majority-Black neighborhoods, largely due to histories of racial segregation and fewer banking options, and now, gentrification and the quickening pace of institutional investors buying up properties. In historically Black neighborhoods adjacent to universities, these challenges can be compounded by encroaching development that caters to university-affiliated populations and young professionals.

In Philadelphia—the poorest big city in the country and one still reeling from pandemic-era housing market disruptions—the interlocking challenges of high housing costs, displacement pressures, and a lack of aging-in-place options are converging in the historically Black West Philadelphia neighborhood of Mantua, which borders University City (home to Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and other institutions).

This piece highlights a Drexel University and community partnership, Second Story Collective, which is addressing these issues by helping low-income residents at opposite ends of the age spectrum access affordable housing in university-adjacent neighborhoods through an intergenerational community collective of home-sharers that can be replicated nationwide.

From sharing stories to sharing homes

West Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood has a poverty rate nearly twice the city’s (46% compared to 26%), but rental rates and housing prices there have been steadily and steeply increasing for a decade—threatening to displace long-term residents while also creating a barrier for lower-income students to afford rental housing. Like many market disruptions the pandemic exacerbated, this long-simmering tension is reaching a boiling point.

The origins of Second Story Collective’s intergenerational home-sharing model reflect—and are designed to respond to—this tension. In 2014, Drexel’s Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships started Writers Room—a literary arts academic and community-based program co-created by students, faculty, and community members to amplify voices and stories, archive histories, and celebrate diverse perspectives.

Only a few months into this endeavor, Carol Richardson McCullough (a co-author of this piece) told her fellow Writers Room members that her landlord was evicting her family to market the building to Drexel students. It was then that the Writers Room’s students, artists, elders, and activists became acutely aware that they were, in fact, part of one another’s stories. Out of this moment, the idea for Second Story Collective was born.

One Writers Room member (and another co-author), Barbara Dale, introduced us to the Quaker tradition of home-sharing in the City of Brotherly Love, beginning with the history of the first racially integrated housing cooperative, Friends Housing Cooperative, in 1952. Writers Room members then began imagining a project for aging-in-place and intergenerational home access that could, in McCullough’s words, be a new exploration in “neighborhood placement rather than the displacement that has historically accompanied university expansion into neighborhoods.”

Over nine years, Writers Room has grown from a just handful at the first meeting to a lasting group of over 50 members who are diverse across race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexuality, gender, and age, and who continue to participate after graduating or moving out of the neighborhood. In that time, the group has co-developed the Second Story Collective community-university home-sharing model with three primary goals:

  1. Co-create a home-sharing network in which Drexel University students and neighbors live together in intentional communities rooted in storytelling and sharing.
  2. Provide viable affordable rental, housing, and anti-displacement options—with students paying below-market rent that subsidizes the homeowners’ mortgages—while cultivating partnerships with city agencies and nonprofits to help older homeowners repair and retrofit their homes so they can age in place.
  3. Help neighborhood families become homeowners and create new generational wealth by partnering with a developer to produce new homes in Mantua—designed from the foundation up as intergenerational co-housing.

By helping elder members of the community remain in their homes longer and encouraging connection and community-building across generations as part of the rental and homeownership process, the model hopes to demonstrate how alternative affordable housing and rental options can benefit both low-income students and long-term residents.

With research and funding, a collective idea becomes collective action

Research and community leadership were instrumental in moving the Second Story Collective from an idea to an actionable project. Once it became clear through the lived experiences of Writers Room members that displacement and affordable housing were their most pressing issues, they used Drexel’s involvement and their shared knowledge to co-design a research agenda, plan for actionable change, and attract financial resources.

On the research side, Writers Room has partnered with Drexel’s Justice-oriented Youth (JoY) Education Lab and the Mantua Civic Association since 2018 on AmeriCorps-funded community-driven participatory action research to investigate the potential for cooperative living to combat displacement. Utilizing census data, the research team found that the displacement of Black residents is happening at faster and higher rates than initially hypothesized, with a 73% increase in the Mantua’s white population over the past 10 years. Further analysis of a sample block group in Mantua revealed rental rates rose over 44%, with a 74% increase in rent-burdened households (those paying more than 30% of their income on rent) and a 454% increase in extremely rent-burdened household (those paying more than 50% of their income on rent).

Building off these findings and community input, Writers Room has received several new sources of funding. In 2021 and 2022, the Barra Foundation and Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development provided funding to test the aging-in-place model in two homes and generate a proof of concept for project expansion and replication in other university-adjacent neighborhoods in Philadelphia and beyond. In 2022, the research team received a National Science Foundation planning grant to further develop a scalable model. And most recently, Writers Room received funding from the Mellon Foundation to help create a living-learning agreement between home-sharers in the Village Square on Haverford—a mixed-use development on a series of currently vacant lots. The development will include 18 for-sale homes that will provide intergenerational co-housing to help neighborhood families become homeowners while providing more affordable options for students. Ground-breaking for the first phase is scheduled for this spring, with expected completion of the 18 houses in 2024.

Writers Room is currently in the process of working with the Mantua Civic Association and the Urban League of Philadelphia to identify program participants, and will prioritize selling to long-term neighborhood residents. Additional selection criteria and the application process will be determined with community input.

Creating the potential for tangible, replicable affordable housing results in university-adjacent neighborhoods

Addressing the interlocking challenges of high housing costs, displacement, and lack of aging-in-place options—not only in Philadelphia, but nationwide—requires a creative, place-based approach that leverages and strengthens connections between individuals, groups, and organizations within the community and across sectors. Second Story Collective offers other university-adjacent communities an alternative housing strategy and an example of how anchor institutions can center the arts to bridge differences and enact real change.

As stated by Charles Lomax of Lomax Real Estate Partners, lead developer of the Village Square: “This is an opportunity to change the narrative of university-adjacent development from one of displacement of long-term residents to engagement and community-building.”

Photo: Courtesy of Writers Room

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February Employment Situation

By Paul Gomme and Peter Rupert The establishment data from the BLS showed a 275,000 increase in payroll employment for February, outpacing the 230,000…



By Paul Gomme and Peter Rupert

The establishment data from the BLS showed a 275,000 increase in payroll employment for February, outpacing the 230,000 average over the previous 12 months. The payroll data for January and December were revised down by a total of 167,000. The private sector added 223,000 new jobs, the largest gain since May of last year.

Temporary help services employment continues a steep decline after a sharp post-pandemic rise.

Average hours of work increased from 34.2 to 34.3. The increase, along with the 223,000 private employment increase led to a hefty increase in total hours of 5.6% at an annualized rate, also the largest increase since May of last year.

The establishment report, once again, beat “expectations;” the WSJ survey of economists was 198,000. Other than the downward revisions, mentioned above, another bit of negative news was a smallish increase in wage growth, from $34.52 to $34.57.

The household survey shows that the labor force increased 150,000, a drop in employment of 184,000 and an increase in the number of unemployed persons of 334,000. The labor force participation rate held steady at 62.5, the employment to population ratio decreased from 60.2 to 60.1 and the unemployment rate increased from 3.66 to 3.86. Remember that the unemployment rate is the number of unemployed relative to the labor force (the number employed plus the number unemployed). Consequently, the unemployment rate can go up if the number of unemployed rises holding fixed the labor force, or if the labor force shrinks holding the number unemployed unchanged. An increase in the unemployment rate is not necessarily a bad thing: it may reflect a strong labor market drawing “marginally attached” individuals from outside the labor force. Indeed, there was a 96,000 decline in those workers.

Earlier in the week, the BLS announced JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) data for January. There isn’t much to report here as the job openings changed little at 8.9 million, the number of hires and total separations were little changed at 5.7 million and 5.3 million, respectively.

As has been the case for the last couple of years, the number of job openings remains higher than the number of unemployed persons.

Also earlier in the week the BLS announced that productivity increased 3.2% in the 4th quarter with output rising 3.5% and hours of work rising 0.3%.

The bottom line is that the labor market continues its surprisingly (to some) strong performance, once again proving stronger than many had expected. This strength makes it difficult to justify any interest rate cuts soon, particularly given the recent inflation spike.

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Mortgage rates fall as labor market normalizes

Jobless claims show an expanding economy. We will only be in a recession once jobless claims exceed 323,000 on a four-week moving average.



Everyone was waiting to see if this week’s jobs report would send mortgage rates higher, which is what happened last month. Instead, the 10-year yield had a muted response after the headline number beat estimates, but we have negative job revisions from previous months. The Federal Reserve’s fear of wage growth spiraling out of control hasn’t materialized for over two years now and the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.9%. For now, we can say the labor market isn’t tight anymore, but it’s also not breaking.

The key labor data line in this expansion is the weekly jobless claims report. Jobless claims show an expanding economy that has not lost jobs yet. We will only be in a recession once jobless claims exceed 323,000 on a four-week moving average.

From the Fed: In the week ended March 2, initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits were flat, at 217,000. The four-week moving average declined slightly by 750, to 212,250

Below is an explanation of how we got here with the labor market, which all started during COVID-19.

1. I wrote the COVID-19 recovery model on April 7, 2020, and retired it on Dec. 9, 2020. By that time, the upfront recovery phase was done, and I needed to model out when we would get the jobs lost back.

2. Early in the labor market recovery, when we saw weaker job reports, I doubled and tripled down on my assertion that job openings would get to 10 million in this recovery. Job openings rose as high as to 12 million and are currently over 9 million. Even with the massive miss on a job report in May 2021, I didn’t waver.

Currently, the jobs openings, quit percentage and hires data are below pre-COVID-19 levels, which means the labor market isn’t as tight as it once was, and this is why the employment cost index has been slowing data to move along the quits percentage.  


3. I wrote that we should get back all the jobs lost to COVID-19 by September of 2022. At the time this would be a speedy labor market recovery, and it happened on schedule, too

Total employment data

4. This is the key one for right now: If COVID-19 hadn’t happened, we would have between 157 million and 159 million jobs today, which would have been in line with the job growth rate in February 2020. Today, we are at 157,808,000. This is important because job growth should be cooling down now. We are more in line with where the labor market should be when averaging 140K-165K monthly. So for now, the fact that we aren’t trending between 140K-165K means we still have a bit more recovery kick left before we get down to those levels. 

From BLS: Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 275,000 in February, and the unemployment rate increased to 3.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains occurred in health care, in government, in food services and drinking places, in social assistance, and in transportation and warehousing.

Here are the jobs that were created and lost in the previous month:


In this jobs report, the unemployment rate for education levels looks like this:

  • Less than a high school diploma: 6.1%
  • High school graduate and no college: 4.2%
  • Some college or associate degree: 3.1%
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher: 2.2%

Today’s report has continued the trend of the labor data beating my expectations, only because I am looking for the jobs data to slow down to a level of 140K-165K, which hasn’t happened yet. I wouldn’t categorize the labor market as being tight anymore because of the quits ratio and the hires data in the job openings report. This also shows itself in the employment cost index as well. These are key data lines for the Fed and the reason we are going to see three rate cuts this year.

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Inside The Most Ridiculous Jobs Report In History: Record 1.2 Million Immigrant Jobs Added In One Month

Inside The Most Ridiculous Jobs Report In History: Record 1.2 Million Immigrant Jobs Added In One Month

Last month we though that the January…



Inside The Most Ridiculous Jobs Report In History: Record 1.2 Million Immigrant Jobs Added In One Month

Last month we though that the January jobs report was the "most ridiculous in recent history" but, boy, were we wrong because this morning the Biden department of goalseeked propaganda (aka BLS) published the February jobs report, and holy crap was that something else. Even Goebbels would blush. 

What happened? Let's take a closer look.

On the surface, it was (almost) another blockbuster jobs report, certainly one which nobody expected, or rather just one bank out of 76 expected. Starting at the top, the BLS reported that in February the US unexpectedly added 275K jobs, with just one research analyst (from Dai-Ichi Research) expecting a higher number.

Some context: after last month's record 4-sigma beat, today's print was "only" 3 sigma higher than estimates. Needless to say, two multiple sigma beats in a row used to only happen in the USSR... and now in the US, apparently.

Before we go any further, a quick note on what last month we said was "the most ridiculous jobs report in recent history": it appears the BLS read our comments and decided to stop beclowing itself. It did that by slashing last month's ridiculous print by over a third, and revising what was originally reported as a massive 353K beat to just 229K,  a 124K revision, which was the biggest one-month negative revision in two years!

Of course, that does not mean that this month's jobs print won't be revised lower: it will be, and not just that month but every other month until the November election because that's the only tool left in the Biden admin's box: pretend the economic and jobs are strong, then revise them sharply lower the next month, something we pointed out first last summer and which has not failed to disappoint once.

To be fair, not every aspect of the jobs report was stellar (after all, the BLS had to give it some vague credibility). Take the unemployment rate, after flatlining between 3.4% and 3.8% for two years - and thus denying expectations from Sahm's Rule that a recession may have already started - in February the unemployment rate unexpectedly jumped to 3.9%, the highest since February 2022 (with Black unemployment spiking by 0.3% to 5.6%, an indicator which the Biden admin will quickly slam as widespread economic racism or something).

And then there were average hourly earnings, which after surging 0.6% MoM in January (since revised to 0.5%) and spooking markets that wage growth is so hot, the Fed will have no choice but to delay cuts, in February the number tumbled to just 0.1%, the lowest in two years...

... for one simple reason: last month's average wage surge had nothing to do with actual wages, and everything to do with the BLS estimate of hours worked (which is the denominator in the average wage calculation) which last month tumbled to just 34.1 (we were led to believe) the lowest since the covid pandemic...

... but has since been revised higher while the February print rose even more, to 34.3, hence why the latest average wage data was once again a product not of wages going up, but of how long Americans worked in any weekly period, in this case higher from 34.1 to 34.3, an increase which has a major impact on the average calculation.

While the above data points were examples of some latent weakness in the latest report, perhaps meant to give it a sheen of veracity, it was everything else in the report that was a problem starting with the BLS's latest choice of seasonal adjustments (after last month's wholesale revision), which have gone from merely laughable to full clownshow, as the following comparison between the monthly change in BLS and ADP payrolls shows. The trend is clear: the Biden admin numbers are now clearly rising even as the impartial ADP (which directly logs employment numbers at the company level and is far more accurate), shows an accelerating slowdown.

But it's more than just the Biden admin hanging its "success" on seasonal adjustments: when one digs deeper inside the jobs report, all sorts of ugly things emerge... such as the growing unprecedented divergence between the Establishment (payrolls) survey and much more accurate Household (actual employment) survey. To wit, while in January the BLS claims 275K payrolls were added, the Household survey found that the number of actually employed workers dropped for the third straight month (and 4 in the past 5), this time by 184K (from 161.152K to 160.968K).

This means that while the Payrolls series hits new all time highs every month since December 2020 (when according to the BLS the US had its last month of payrolls losses), the level of Employment has not budged in the past year. Worse, as shown in the chart below, such a gaping divergence has opened between the two series in the past 4 years, that the number of Employed workers would need to soar by 9 million (!) to catch up to what Payrolls claims is the employment situation.

There's more: shifting from a quantitative to a qualitative assessment, reveals just how ugly the composition of "new jobs" has been. Consider this: the BLS reports that in February 2024, the US had 132.9 million full-time jobs and 27.9 million part-time jobs. Well, that's great... until you look back one year and find that in February 2023 the US had 133.2 million full-time jobs, or more than it does one year later! And yes, all the job growth since then has been in part-time jobs, which have increased by 921K since February 2023 (from 27.020 million to 27.941 million).

Here is a summary of the labor composition in the past year: all the new jobs have been part-time jobs!

But wait there's even more, because now that the primary season is over and we enter the heart of election season and political talking points will be thrown around left and right, especially in the context of the immigration crisis created intentionally by the Biden administration which is hoping to import millions of new Democratic voters (maybe the US can hold the presidential election in Honduras or Guatemala, after all it is their citizens that will be illegally casting the key votes in November), what we find is that in February, the number of native-born workers tumbled again, sliding by a massive 560K to just 129.807 million. Add to this the December data, and we get a near-record 2.4 million plunge in native-born workers in just the past 3 months (only the covid crash was worse)!

The offset? A record 1.2 million foreign-born (read immigrants, both legal and illegal but mostly illegal) workers added in February!

Said otherwise, not only has all job creation in the past 6 years has been exclusively for foreign-born workers...

Source: St Louis Fed FRED Native Born and Foreign Born

... but there has been zero job-creation for native born workers since June 2018!

This is a huge issue - especially at a time of an illegal alien flood at the southwest border...

... and is about to become a huge political scandal, because once the inevitable recession finally hits, there will be millions of furious unemployed Americans demanding a more accurate explanation for what happened - i.e., the illegal immigration floodgates that were opened by the Biden admin.

Which is also why Biden's handlers will do everything in their power to insure there is no official recession before November... and why after the election is over, all economic hell will finally break loose. Until then, however, expect the jobs numbers to get even more ridiculous.

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/08/2024 - 13:30

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