CIN Alert for January 12, 2012: 2011 Year in Review
At each year end a favorite task for many editors is a look back at top stories of the “old” year” and in the early days of the new year sharing some highlights with readers. The choice of news items to highlight is usually sharpened as events throughout the past year put things in perspective, as to importance or “passing fad” items. Here are some of the hot issues of 2011 as your CIN editors saw them at the time.
How did we do in our trend-spotting? Send us your thoughts – and candidates for top stories of 2011. And what do you think the top stories of 2012 will be – let us know!
To start a look back at 2011: If you were keeping a scorecard on fiscal and housing issues during 2011, you would have needed extra paper and pencils (or in today’s world, lots of changes on those Excel spreadsheets).
The year was certainly filled with housing and economic news, including many twists and turns, as the US and global economies continued to struggle in an attempt to rise from the nagging Great Recession. (Still a top story for most of us in 2012).
The impact trickled down to virtually every household, every wage earner and every business during the year, and your CIN editors continued to provide timely information on a variety of important related subjects. Like Dave Letterman of late night fame and others, we have a Top 10 list of 2011 news and trends we will share with you over the coming issues of the newsletter.
Here is our choice for the top two trends of 2011 as we look back at our CIN Alert archives.
Hot Topic #1 – Is the American Dream Becoming a Nightmare?
As we brought the news in the issue of July 18, 2011. The day was perfect for early June: a bright blue sky, temperatures in the mid 80‘s and about 120 friends and family gathered around a village gazebo in the Southeast as Mike and Meredith tied the knot. There was just one thing wrong: the couple, who had dated for five years, recently learned that their plan to buy their own home a few months after they were married may be unraveling due to a proposed rule change by the federal government.
“The end of the American Dream as we know it may be near for millions of working families” said John Taylor, President & CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC). “At a time when our economy is fragile and our housing values have plummeted along come the regulatory agencies with a solution that will limit access to mortgages for millions of families. If regulators move forward with the current plan, it will block homeownership for millions of Americans, who will find themselves being punished for the mere fact that they are not wealthy.”
The plan which John Taylor referred to was a proposal regarding the definition of a Qualified Residential Mortgage which would require 20% down payments to get a loan. For young people like Mike and Meredith, with a modest income and minimal savings, there is no way they could come up with the $60,000 needed for the $300,000 home they’ve had their eyes on.
These are the type of critically important issues CIN editors explore every day in our Housing Section. For as long as our nation has existed the dream of homeownership has been a primary motivating force for individuals and families. Thanks to far-sighted public sector programs – such as the GI Bill for returning WWII veterans, federal tax deductibility for mortgage interest, and FHA or other government guarantees of mortgages – the rate of homeownership has now passed the 70 % mark in the United States.
In theory, everyone today who earns a salary should be able to buy a home of his or her own. However the impact of the recession combined with the proposed down payment rule change could place first time homeownership in jeopardy for millions of families. CIN stays abreast of this and many other housing-related issues with fresh new material and updates posted every day.
Hot Topic #2: How’s Business Down on Main Street?
In the issue dated August 1, 2011 we brought you news of small business. Sharon had always dreamed of owning her own small furniture store. Her parents had owned and operated a hardware store downtown for three decades, and she had plenty of retail experience, good and bad, helping them out as she grew up. However, upon graduation from high school, Sharon decided to major in education, eventually landing a teaching job at a nearby high school.
Even though she had a successful 12-year run as an English teacher, her desire to own a store never completely went away. It was at the high school’s graduation awards ceremony four years ago when one of the parents told her they were looking to sell the small furniture store they operated in a community about 15 miles away.
Sharon had been able to save up some money while teaching, plus as an only child, she had received a significant portion of her parent’s estate. She viewed this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. If she could cobble together the needed funds, she would buy the store, tidy up the building and focus on selling the type of furniture the big stores often ignored.
Three years later, her Main Street business is doing quite well, even in the midst of the economic recession. Meanwhile, Rod’s carpet shop across the street shut its doors for good last year, and Larry, the jeweler next door, is barely getting by. These are tough times, to be sure, but Sharon is a very hands-on owner, with extensive knowledge about every aspect of the business.
Is her success story the exception rather than the rule? Maybe not. According to a recent study, women owned small businesses are faring better than those owned by men. Findings indicate that, this past quarter, women-owned small businesses seem to be rebounding faster out of the recession than those owned by men.
CIN presented this article prominently in our Small Business Section — the place where such news, information, research and perspective can be shared to benefit local communities and our precious hometowns.
What developments and issues will be in focus as we enter the year 2012? None of us know for sure, but you can be certain that CIN will be here to present pertinent news, commentary and trends for you 24/7!
What were your top stories for 2011? Please let us know – and while you are thinking about it, what might the 2012 top stories be? What trends are you watching?