If I were a panhandler, most days I’d hop on the subway and exit at the station that’s the closest to Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive.
The wealthier people in Beverly Hills, as well as the tourists who visit there, would be my best targets, I’d figure. After all, there’s a reason they call it the Golden Triangle.
I wouldn’t be alone. There’d be hundreds, maybe thousands, like me. And it wouldn’t take us long to figure that at the end of the day, we may as well sleep in a nice doorway or a park nearby and save the commute time.
Of course, all of that’s assuming that a subway stop is built at the Golden Triangle. So it’s little surprise that some business owners in that area are starting to push back on the prospect that a subway stop will be located near them. They don’t want the planned Subway to the Sea to send them a gusher of folks from Skid Row. (See the article in this week's edition: "Subway to the Sea? Don’t Stop at Rodeo Drive").
You can call them elitist and say I’m being politically incorrect, which I am, but the business owners there have a point. Many of them have spent good time, effort and money building up equity in their shops and businesses. They’ve created an exclusive district with a special reputation that, granted, is elitist, but it also draws tourists from around the world. It wouldn’t take long to destroy that delicate reputation.
On the other hand, if the proposed subway does not have a stop near the Golden Triangle, then the subway would have far less utility for many of the rest of us. Business people who work downtown, the Miracle Mile, etc., would love to take a subway to Beverly Hills to meet for a nice lunch at the Montage or Spago.
You can almost hear it now. “No stop anywhere near the Golden Triangle? Don’t even bother to build the subway, then.”
This is a conflict that’s likely to roll on for a while.
• • •
I opined in May that house prices probably won’t go up for a while because the price cycle got delayed, thanks to federal stimulus programs that artificially buoyed prices.
But something I failed to account for back then: The government beginning in October will reduce the mortgage amount it will back. That’s likely to hold prices down even more.
In an emergency, Congress three years ago boosted the mortgage amount that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration could guarantee to just under $730,000. But that was a temporary measure, and the time expires in less than three months. The guarantees will drop down and max out at $625,000 in the L.A. area. (Other areas will have generally lower amounts.)
So beginning in October if you need a mortgage for an amount greater than $625,000 – not at all unusual in Los Angeles – you’ll probably have to get a jumbo loan. That’ll have an interest rate that’s now about 50 basis points higher than a government guaranteed loan. That figures out to about a 10 percent greater interest cost.
What’s more, jumbo loans are harder to get. They may require down payments of 20 percent or more.
If these lower guarantee levels stand, the result will likely be lower house prices. “Sellers are going to have to reduce their prices if borrowing costs rise,” a loan officer in Petaluma was quoted as saying in a Wall Street Journal article last week.
Average sale prices in Los Angeles have been stuck in the $320,000-$360,000 range for two years, as you can see on page 24 of this issue. If you look at the accompanying chart of local house prices on that page, you’ll see the line is about as flat as the career of the prosecutor in the Casey Anthony case.
It wouldn’t be surprising if that line went down in future months.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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