Census Bureau reports moving rate at lowest in 60 years

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By The Staff

In any given year, a little more than 10 percent of our country’s population packs up its belongings and moves.  Most don’t go far: Two-thirds just re-locate to another area in the same county, and another fifth stay in the same state.

In today’s economy, however, even our restless nature is taking a break.  The U.S. Census Bureau confirmed that last month, when it reported our country’s moving rate in 2008 was the lowest since the agency began tracking it in 1948.

Here in Kentucky, as in virtually every other state, this effect can be found in the declining sale of homes, which remain on the open market for 10 months on average whether new or old.  According to the Kentucky Association of Realtors, sales statewide were down more than 18 percent in 2008 when compared to 2007.

One thing in our favor is that home prices have not taken the same plunge; they were off less than one percent for the year, while housing markets along the coasts and cities like Phoenix saw double-digit declines.

Our foreclosure rate is also in far better shape.  In April, this affected one in 2,100 Kentucky households, versus the national rate of one in 374.  In other words, our homeowners have been much better able to make their monthly mortgage payments than others nationally.

A study earlier this month by the Center for Housing Policy offered more good news when it found that Lexington and Louisville provide some of the least expensive housing and rental markets among the country’s 210 largest metropolitan areas.  The cities were ranked in the lower half for both.

In an effort to help home sales and qualified first-time buyers, Congress approved a tax-credit program in February as part of the federal stimulus package for the states.  The credit is worth up to $8,000 for those first-time buyers if the home is bought from the start of this year through Dec. 1.

A month ago, Governor Beshear announced another boost for first-time buyers making a purchase before December.  The First Home Advantage Program will provide them with a low-cost loan worth up to $4,500 to help with the down payment and any closing costs; the loan can then be paid off over a 10-year period.  To qualify, the home buyers have to do such things as obtain their mortgage through a lender approved by the Kentucky Housing Corporation and have good credit.

These programs will go a long way in helping people make what will be one of the largest purchases of their lifetime.  They dovetail with other programs designed to help many Kentuckians simply find a permanent place to live.

In that regard, Kentucky will receive $52 million from the federal stimulus plan over the next two years to help our housing authorities make needed renovations and additions.  Another $18.6 million will be used to prevent homelessness, which unfortunately has become much more prevalent.

Proof of that came in January, when a national study found that Kentucky’s homeless population jumped 60 percent from 2005 to 2007, a rate faster than any other state’s while homelessness declined nationally by 10 percent.

Several years ago, the state re-dedicated itself to combating this problem over the next decade.  One area drawing our attention is substance abuse, because those who can break this cycle are less likely to find themselves out on the streets.  The legislature addressed that more specifically earlier this year, when my colleagues and I adopted a law that will provide more treatment for those arrested on non-violent drug-related charges.

It may be a difficult time for our country, but programs like these and the generosity of our churches and civic organizations are hopefully easing the hardship for Kentuckians in need.

As always, if you have any comments or concerns about these or any other programs involving state government, please let me know.  My address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.

You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For the deaf or hard of hearing, the number is 800-896-0305.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Representative Rick Rand