Should the Democrats and Republicans have swapped convention cities? Let’s look at what home prices, construction permits, vacancies and foreclosures tell us.

Last week the Republicans met in Tampa; this week the Democrats meet in Charlotte. Both are good places to talk about jobs and the economy: in both these metro areas July unemployment was above the national rate of 8.3% (9.4% in Tampa and 10.0% in Charlotte). But the two cities are light years apart in how they weathered the housing crisis.

Charlotte’s post-bubble price drop of 16% was milder than the national average, and local construction has rebounded, ranking Charlotte 7th among the 100 largest metros in construction activity in 2012. In contrast, Tampa suffered a peak-to-trough price decline of 42% and even today faces foreclosure and vacancy rates that are among the worst in the country – thanks in part to Florida’s slow foreclosure process. Today, Tampa has half the construction activity that Charlotte does, with almost twice the vacancies and more than twice the foreclosures.

To add insult to injury: even though other hard-hit housing markets like Phoenix and Miami have recently seen prices jump by well over 10% in the last year, equally-suffering Tampa hasn’t gotten the same boost. The July Trulia Price Monitor reported that asking prices in Tampa rose just 1.2% year over year – slightly behind Charlotte’s 1.5%. On every important local housing measure, Charlotte is in better shape than Tampa:

Local Housing Indicators and Rank Among 100 Largest Metros



% annual change in asking prices,

mix-adjusted, July 2012 (Trulia)

1.5% (41st)

1.2% (43rd)

Construction permits, per 1,000 units,

January-July 2012 (Census)

9.7 (7th)

3.9 (39th)

% cumulative change in home prices,

peak-to-trough (FHFA)

-16% (43rd)

-42% (86th)

% housing units vacant,

August 2012 (U.S. Postal Service)

2.7% (41st)

5.1% (87th)

Homes in foreclosure, per 1,000 units,

July 2012 (RealtyTrac)

11.6 (54th)

24.5 (89th)

Ranking is more favorable for higher price changes, more construction, fewer vacancies, and fewer foreclosures.

Through this lens, Charlotte and Tampa look like odd choices for the parties’ respective conventions. Last week at the Republican convention, Romney and Ryan both referred to how Americans are suffering the housing crisis without proposing specific policies. But if you’re going to hold a political convention in hard-hit Tampa in 2012, you should really have some fresh new ideas about housing.

The Democrats, in contrast, seem to be gearing up to talk about housing policy at their convention. Recently, the administration and other Democrats have pushed, though without much success, for principal reduction, expanded refinancing, and other housing-related policies in the face of strong criticism over earlier housing efforts. But they chose Charlotte – where the housing market isn’t in enough pain to be a particularly compelling setting to rally people around housing policies.

If the Democrats do, in fact, get more specific about housing this week than the Republicans did last week, then they should have switched host cities. Tampa needs housing policy a lot more than Charlotte does.

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