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May 6, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Town Hall

  |   Video
  • Nearly half of Arizona’s households are just one financial disaster away from falling into extreme poverty. For people of color, it’s nearly 70 percent. The latest Arizona Town Hall deals with what to do about the state’s vulnerable population, people who are on the brink of financial disaster, yet are not currently poor enough to be covered by our safety net. Two Town Hall participants, attorney J. Scott Rhodes and Catherine Chiang of Arizona Public Service Company, will discuss the report.
  • J. Scott Rhodes - Attorney
  • Catherine Chiang - Arizona Public Service Company
Category: Government   |   Keywords: government, town, hall, arizona, report, financial, poverty,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Nearly half of Arizona's households are just one financial disaster from falling into extreme poverty. For people of color, it's nearly 70%. The latest Arizona town hall focuses on those who live with no savings but still aren't poor enough to be covered by safety nets. Here to discuss the report are two town hall participants, attorney Scott Rhodes and Catherine Chiang of APS. Good to have you both here. Thank you so much for joining us. Before we get started let's define the first term, what is a town hall?

Scott Rhodes: This was our 104th town hall that we just held over more than 50 years. Twice a year we bring together leaders from around the state A. very diverse group of leaders from all walks of life. From tribal leaders, to local leaders, to state leaders, business leaders, community leaders, members of city council. They're there are usually between 110 and 150 people and we take on the toughest issues facing the state at that particular time.

Ted Simons: This was taking on Arizona's vulnerable populations. One of the quotes from the report -- Arizona's most challenged residents are struggling now more than ever. Valid statement?

Catherine Chiang: I think it has a lot -- I think that statement has a lot of validity for Arizona. The voice -- The collective voice of the town hall with various leaders and professionals and a whole bunch of different fields, had statistics and facts, and different points of view that brought -- That were startling. I found that they were startling to me.

Ted Simons: What -- Give me an example. What seemed to move you the most? Or something that surprised you the most?

Scott Rhodes: One of the things that stood out, the background report, one of the statistics was 46% of Arizona households are vulnerable. The way we defined that was being basically one crisis away from falling into where you need help from the safety net, from the social welfare system. So if you're walking down the street, pretty much one out of every two people you see is vulnerable in one way statistically. And that can range from risk of losing a job, or reduction of hours, to things that are more serious. It can be people who are elderly might not have transportation to get to a doctor's appointment, so we look the at really a huge problem in terms of its breadth, but over 2 1/2 days we focused very hard on what does it mean to be vulnerable and more importantly, what might we be able to do as a state to help people who are vulnerable.

Ted Simons: What were some of the thoughts on what the state can do to help these people?

Catherine Chiang: The report was just released last night and the common thread throughout all the recommendations had to do -- Were surrounding around communication, collaboration, and transparency. So I know that one of the town hall participants has actively taken on predatory lending and has reached out to the Arizona community action association to begin putting together a plan on how to restrict predatory lending in their -- In that community.

Ted Simons: I noticed liquid asset poverty was mentioned in the report. 61% with subprime credit. Is it worse -- Is that worse here than other parts of the country?

Scott Rhodes: As many things, it does tend to be a little bit worse in Arizona. We -- I think we get used to being ranked pretty low, and that is one of the areas. And it accounts for a fair amount of the vulnerability. I think one of the things that the participants learned in this town hall was the extent to which income, while important, is not as important for -- To be resilient against vulnerability as having an asset basis.

Ted Simons: The report, 57% of Arizona workers have less than $25,000, total in savings.

Scott Rhodes: Correct.

Ted Simons: That's a big concern.

Scott Rhodes: It’s a distressing number. When statistically it's shown when people fall into and need the safety net which can be either governmental programs or nongovernmental programs, once they reach that point of crisis, the chances of success decline dramatically, and the cost to society increases dramatically.

Ted Simons: Again, with the recommendations, give us more in the way of specifics or what you think, what you just heard from being at the town hall, what were some of the stronger suggestions on how to maybe get rid of some of these system barriers or at least get around them somehow?

Catherine Chiang: I think going back to the collaboration, to remove some of the system barriers that currently exist, the Arizona community action association is working really hard at evaluating some of the recommendations made by the town hall and I believe Cynthia is going to address what can we do as an organization to take on some of these recommendations.

Ted Simons: Do you have -- Are there any ideas right now what folks can do as corporations, as entities, organized entities to address this situation?

Catherine Chiang: I think the report was just released last night, so for me it's hard to make that comment, but I do know that every business and organization should be mindful and again, collaborate, coordinate, and make sure that everything that they're doing is transparent. So in order to help this population.

Scott Rhodes: One of the things that stood out to me about these participants at this town hall was the effort they put into coming up with recommendations. This town hall report has a lot of recommendations in it, and more importantly, they organized their recommendations by who will do them, and how much will they cost. So, for example, there are some governmental actions that are recommended. But those are divided by those that are going to require extra funding and those that won't. And then it goes from there to the business communities, to the local communities, and very importantly, individuals. Because this problem is so big. There's no one solution to it all. It will take all of us to fix it.

Ted Simons: And that’s a good point. How do you convince organizations, people in the community, that an unseen vulnerability is such a big problem?

Catherine Chiang: I don't know that it is an unseen vulnerability. I think it's how we acknowledge vulnerability. I think that's one of the threads that ran throughout the town hall. It's not so much that this is -- This person because they're homeless is vulnerable, it is my neighbor, my brother, my sister, my parents who are elderly, those people are vulnerable and so as a collective group, we really work to make sure -- We dove in, I think, very well to address this.

Ted Simons: Again, the idea of unseen vulnerability, not so much the homeless person or the person that's obvious, there are problems there, but the person, maybe with $20,000, in savings, they're employed, their safety nets -- They're not eligible for those nets. They're vulnerable.

Scott Rhodes: They are. That was a good point because this town hall was very interested in recognizing that the vulnerability might not be obvious, it might not be obvious to the people who are vulnerable. And we also have in our society some attributes that make it perhaps difficult to recognize or to express that you're vulnerable and reach out for help. So there was a lot of discussion about not only that problem, but also the other side of it, which is vulnerable people add a lot to our culture. They have a lot to offer us. They have stories to tell. They have often times stories of resilience, stories of not letting themselves slip into crisis. And we might all learn from that. That was also an important part of the town hall.

Catherine Chiang: I agree.

Ted Simons: Very good. It's good to have you both here. Thank you so much for joining us.

Killer Heat

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  • We are on the brink of summer, and the return of killer heat. Last year, 139 people died of heat-related causes in Arizona. Arizona Department of Health Services director Will Humble will talk about the killer heat, along with Arizona State University researcher David Hondula, who has a new report that studied the correlation between hospital room admissions and higher temperatures.
  • Will Humble - Director, Arizona Department of Health Services
  • David Hondula - Researcher, Arizona State University
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: environment, killer, heat, high, temperatures, hospitals, arizona,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: 139 heat-related the deaths were reported last year in Arizona. With summer just about here we discuss the dangers of high heat with Arizona department of health services director Will Humble, along with ASU researcher David Hondula, who recently studied the correlation between hospital room admissions and higher temperatures. Good to have you both here. Thank you for joining us. This heat-related deaths business, 118 deaths per year usually, men seven out of 10, what's going on with men and heat-related deaths?

Will Humble: It's been that way for probably 20 years. Every year that we look at the data for heat-related deaths it's between two-thirds and three-quarters of them are men. Mostly in the 40 to 65 demographic, and up. But it's consistent every year, which is different from the rest of the country. You look at the rest of the country when they have heat-related deaths in places like Chicago, you don't see that gender bias the way we do here.

Ted Simons: Is it because we're just basically numbskulls, or -- I read somewhere that as men age, their ability to recognize they are dehydrated diminishes. Is that true?

Will Humble: That's one of the things we talked about before the show in the green room. One thing that may actually be going on is that men and women are both getting dehydrated and getting heat-related illnesses, but women go to the emergency department and get -- Seek care in time. Where men sort of -- Might be tending to say, well, I'll be OK. And it turns out they're not.

Ted Simons: You studied what happened in Australia regarding certain areas of cities in which heat deaths or heat-related illnesses seem to spike. Talk to us about that.

David Hondula: The first part of the story is that heat-related deaths are just the tip of the iceberg, the top of the pyramid for the total burden of heat on health. Here in Arizona when we look at hospitalizations versus death, we see about times more hospitalizations every year than we do for deaths. The same is true in Brisbane as well. In Brisbane we found that there is a relationship between temperature and hospitalizations, for every 10 degrees C, that’s about 18 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature goes up in the summer, hospital admissions increased by 7%. But that risk is not uniform across all of greater Brisbane. There's certain pockets within the city, and they're sparsely spread across BRiSBON where the risk is highest.

Ted Simons: Low-income areas I would imagine?

David Hondula: It turned out not to be low-income areas, but areas where there weren't a lot of high income earners. This seemed to tell a story that air conditioning is a luxury in BRiSBON that perhaps few can afford, and it's only in the places where air conditioning availability is high that we saw lower risk.

Ted Simons: I want to get back to that, but back now the idea of us numbskulls in the heat, what are the signs that it's getting to be a bit much, go get water, get into shade?

Will Humble: So the first thing I say is, by the time you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated. So people think I'm -- Once I'm thirsty I'll drink water. In the summertime in Phoenix, you're already on the downward slope to heat-related illness. So the key is to not be thirsty. Drink enough water so you don't get thirsty and then you can stay in that equilibrium where you'll be OK. It's really about -- If you know you're going to be outside during the heat of the day, camel up before you go out there. And just make sure that you're deliberate about drinking lots of water. If you do that, and if you're in generally good health, not on a lot of medications you'll probably be OK. We're trying to make -- I don't want people to get afraid of the Arizona heat. We want people to stay physically active and go out and get exercise, you just need to be smart about it.

Ted Simons: In BRiSBON, what as far as what you studied there, these different areas, it sounds like urban heat islands were a factor, you mentioned lack of air conditioning. How do they address that there?

David Hondula: That's a great question. We were talking about this before we came on. The different types of interventions that might be appropriate for different populations or in our BRiSBON studies case, different places. The strategy you might use for someone in a certain occupation, or someone likely to have been involved in outdoor activities like hiking, that would call for a different intervention strategy, encouragement to drink water, be smart about your behavior, than perhaps someone who lives in a neighborhood where they don't have access to air conditioning or they're unwilling or reluctant to use it for economic reasons. In that case you might maybe consider some subsidy program, maybe consider some sort of vegetation program that could help to reduce temperatures in those areas. I think we're continuing to learn that the more specific you can be for the most at-risk people the better.

Ted Simons: Does that make sense for Arizona?

Will Humble: It's a perfect public health intervention. That's exactly what we try to do in public health. Target your interventions for your high-risk populations, tailor them those to the needs of that population and then you have the best chance of being successful.

Ted Simons: I know you said camel up and try to -- If you know you're thirsty, you know you've gone too far. What are the symptoms after you're thirsty, some of the serious stuff?

Will Humble: Dizziness, vomiting or nausea, if your skin starts to really get red, that's a sign of serious heat-related illness. The final thing is when you get that sun stroke phase, you actually get pale and your skin gets dry. Any of those things, if they happen, are serious medical conditions you need to get to the emergency department. The real key is to be smart before you get to that stage. Take breaks, drink plenty of water, just be smart throughout the Arizona summer.

Ted Simons: As far as what's happening in Australia, you mentioned subsidies for maybe seniors or folks on fixed incomes. Are they looking at these ideas? Are they incorporating these ideas?

David Hondula: Those discussions happen, but a lot of it depends on the political climate in certain places. The types of programs you might be able to institute with respect to extreme weather and climate. So the climate in Australia and BRiSBON right now is not favorable for these sorts of programs for perhaps it will change in the future.

Ted Simons: Don't Brits, in Britain and U.K., they do the same thing for cold weather.

David Hondula: Cold is a big health hazard in Britain, and there are subsidy programs to help residents in certain parts of the U.K. afford their heating bills.

Ted Simons: So what can we do here in Arizona? I know donating water is always big when the temperatures get high.

Will Humble: Yes. One of the things we're doing as an agency at the department of health services we have a water donation drive that we’re doing right now. We ask all of our employees to bring in water and that allows us to participate in the community, get those resources out to the city of Phoenix now that the -- At the heat relief stations. That's one approach you can help those vulnerable populations like the homeless to get access to water. In terms of the general population, it's just using that common sense to make sure that as you're going to be outside if you're going to be active, if you have an outdoor occupation, to really stay in tune with your body and stay hydrated.

Ted Simons: My last question, how do you stay active? I like to golf. I like to work in the yard. I don't want to sit around watching TV all summer because I'm in the air conditioning. How do you stay active and not put yourself at risk? You just basically carry around a big water jug?

Will Humble: That can work, right? If you get out early enough in the morning when it's still cool that's one strategy. If you want to go out later when the sun is not beating down that's another strategy. Staying hydrated throughout the day is another one. Another strategy is to go to the gym instead of working out outside. If you normally run in the winter, maybe use the treadmill. Find alternative strategies. There's a lot of things you can do inside the house for physical activity. There's lots of – There’s different approaches for different people. Staying hydrated is always at that course the base of the pyramid.

Ted Simons: And water, what about Gatorade, water?

Will Humble: Water is like one-hundredth of a cent out of your tap.

Ted Simons: Is Gatorade good for you.

Will Humble: Well it depends. And there's a lot of sugar in some of them.

Ted Simons: That’s true. Before you go, real quick, please do you want to add something?

David Hondula: Taking breaks as we discussed before the show. It's really important, the cumulative exposure can be particularly dangerous, any opportunity you have to take a break, whether it's getting into air conditioning or on the golf course finding yourself under a tree for a few moments, these measures can make a big difference.

Ted Simons: Finding myself under a tree on the golf course always happens! The easiest thing I can find is a tree. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

Will Humble & David Hondula: Thanks.

Real Estate Update

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  • Although home sales are currently lower right now than at this time last year, recovery may be around the corner. Mike Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business, will discuss his latest report.
  • Mike Orr - Director, Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: business, economy, real estate, update, sales, homes,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons: The Phoenix housing market is experiencing a seasonal bounce, but what does it mean for the rest of 2014 Mike Orr is the director of the center for real estate theory and practice at ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business. It's good to see you again. Seasonal bounce. What's going on here?

Mike Orr: Well, prices bounced up a little bit in march. Having taken a dip in January and February, then back up to the same level we saw in December. But the main thing I'm seeing this year is the number of sales is quite a bit down. In fact it's been the slowest start to the year in the last 16 with one exception, 2008 was even slower. So a lot of people disappointed by the amount of activity going on, and it's really just demand is now dissipated because the investors have moved out of town, gone elsewhere.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, in your report investor demand looks like it's dropped off. What's going on there?

Mike Orr: Prices got to the point where there's not many bargains left, there's plenty of bargains in other parts of the state where foreclosures are still active. Our foreclosures have come to an end now. Most of the homes for sale are selling for close to normal list price, which is too high for most investors.

Ted Simons: Indeed. I think in your report, August or July of 2012 investors bought 40% of homes now it's only 17%.

Mike Orr: That's right. 17 and dropping. And it's probably going to get below 15, which I would consider normal.

Ted Simons: What's hot right now? Sounds like big-time luxury homes.

Mike Orr: The multimillion dollar homes are selling very well. Of course they don't sell in large numbers, but compared with the last few years, we've seen more sales this quarter than any year since 2007. And you can see a correlation between how well the stock market does and how well the high end of the housing market does. On top of that, it's very easy to get a loan for a lot of money if you've got a lot of money in the first place. So the banks are falling over themselves trying to come up with jumbo loans for the people who have got plenty of money to pay it back.

Ted Simons: Is it still as difficult for the others who aren't qualified?

Mike Orr: for the regular folk? Qualifying can be very hard. Everybody got burned by the housing crisis, and banks still have fairly tough guidelines for credit scores, income ratios, all of these things still fairly strict. I'm seeing them gradually loosen them up. That's why I think demand will come back from this point, because the lenders can't carry on with the current low rate of mortgages they need more borrowers. So last year typically you had to have 700 as a FiCO score to qualify, I think it's going to come down to the 600s. And more people will be able to qualify for loans and buy homes.

Ted Simons: Will demand increase when the first wave of folks who got hot and walked away from homes, got penalized, with that seven-year waiting period?

Mike Orr: Foreclosures were low in 2007, 2008 was a big year for foreclosures. 2009-10, even bigger. We got this wave of people who have been through foreclosure and it's seven years behind them, but that starts next year. I say seven years because if we're talking about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they have this wait period. If you've had a foreclosure in the last seven years, don't bother applying. They do have some exceptions. There are certain people who can get by on certain exceptions, but for the majority of people, their wait comes to an end in 2015, next year will be busier.

Ted Simons: Next year you see an uptick?

Mike Orr: I think for the follow four years we'll have 21% of the homeowners in Maricopa County went through a foreclosure since 2008. So that's 21% of people who will then be eligible to buy a home again. That's a big wait.

Ted Simons: If they want to buy a home. And that goes into this idea that you write about regarding demand being down due to household formation or lack thereof. Talk about that.

Mike Orr: Across the whole country we've got remarkably low levels of household formation. And that's where people are basically sharing with parents, sharing with their friends, not going out and having -- Starting a family as young as they used to. So people are not creating new households until later in life. We have less demand for housing than we've traditionally had.

Ted Simons: Is that going to be a new normal?

Mike Orr: It could be. It's generational, I think. The millenials are putting these things off longer than the baby boomers and GEN X, so at some point I imagine they'll have kids and get married. But it's just later in life for them. So if you like, there's a sort much pent-up demand for housing. But I think they'll probably want a different type of house. They tend to have a preference for urban life rather than suburban life. So I think that's good news for people who are redeveloping in the urban centers of the community.

Ted Simons: And so what does all this news mean to the rental market?

Mike Orr: The rental market is hot right now. If you're not buying a home, and you're still living here, you're renting. And we've got a lot of people who are looking for rentals, rentals are actually in fairly short supply. And a lot of people -- A lot of investors seeing an opportunity are creating more rental buildings. We have the -- This quarter just finished, had the largest number of multifamily unit permits of any quarter I've seen with one exception, it's the second busiest quarter. So definitely a lot of multifamily buildings being created.

Ted Simons: Yet the new home starts not so hot.

Mike Orr: No. Everyone is looking at rentals, reacting to the demand. But these things come in cycles. What's hot now will be cold in the future.

Ted Simons: Basically hang on through the summer, wait until the end of the year, maybe this time next year?

Mike Orr: I think next year will be somewhat busier than this year, but I think it's probably the 2015-2020 is when we really get back into our stride.

Ted Simons: All right. Good stuff. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Mike Orr: Thank you.