On today's program: Amid unemployment rates stuck in the double digits and economic recession, housing prices in Pittsburgh are rebounding; Black women activists from decades ago continue to influence today’s demands for justice and equality; and confusing messages about the coronavirus in Pennsylvania make some question what’s safe.
Credit tighter for borrowers as mortgage industry deals with coronavirus fallout
(00:00 — 6:49)
In the first several weeks of the pandemic, residents were told to shelter at home and work from home if at all possible. Now, people are selling and buying homes and the Pittsburgh real estate market is heating up.
Howard Hanna Mortgage Services wrote a record number of new mortgages in June, while realtor.com says home prices in Pittsburgh are now higher than in January of this year. This surge in the market comes as the Mortgage Bankers Association is reporting a decrease in mortgage credit availability, based on Ellie Mae data.
Joel Kan, associate vice president of Economic and Industry Forecasting at the Mortgage Bankers Association, says that lending standards are tightening as demand for mortgages is rising. Credit is available for “your standard borrower who has a solid employment situation, they have pretty high credit scores, and they have all their documentation in place,” he says. “For those who might be having a little bit of trouble getting a mortgage, these are typically lower credit scores with higher loan-to-value ratios.”
With the number of COVID-19 cases in the region rising, Kan says that lenders are not immune from the same economic uncertainty that many would-be borrowers currently face.
“It’s still hard for lenders—for anyone, really—to predict what’s going to happen six months from now. I think when it comes to the underwriting process, lenders are seeking a little bit more transparency from the borrower, as far as what they might expect in the near future."
Though buying a home at this time might be a risk for both the borrower and the lender, Kan expects the industry to have a profitable 2020. “The housing inventory is tight. We actually have a very low supply of homes for sale,” he says. “So our forecast is still for a healthy year for the mortgage industry.”
The lasting legacy of Black women activists
(6:51 — 14:11)
Protests across the city and the country this summer have brought new urgency to generations-old demands for equality and justice. For years, Black women activists have been an integral part of protests against racism, sexism, and classism, even when faced with threats and resistance.
“You know they really did place their lives on the line,” says Keisha Blain, an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh.
Blain says that Black women activists continue to deliver the message of racial disparities, and that today’s activists face similar challenges to those who came before them.
“I think the way people received Black women then is certainly in some ways similar to the way that Black women are received today; which is that Black activists—Black people in the community—certainly were open to the messages that these women were presenting and they were supportive. But these women faced a lot of criticism. Many people shunned them. Many people did not appreciate what they had to say.”
Blain wrote about the long history of Black women activists for The Atlantic. You can find her story here.
Muddled messages about pandemic safety leave some confused
(14:13 — 18:03)
The lack of a clear federal response to the coronavirus pandemic has left local elected officials to come up with their own rules and guidelines, which at times can contradict each other. As businesses open back up, mixed messages have made what’s permissible and safe feel more like a matter of interpretation.
As WHYY’s Nina Feldman reports, that forces individuals to make harder decisions, more often than we’re generally equipped to handle.
The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.