In this week's issue, Ben Hallman looks at the housing market in Phoenix, where he sees a worrying phenomenon: investment funds are crowding out ordinary people. We meet Megan and Danny Gilbertson, a recently married young couple with good credit and steady jobs, encouraged by recent reports of a recovering housing market. But after a year of searching, as Ben puts it, "the Gilbertsons have discovered that homes are scarce, competition is fierce and much of the buying is dominated by funds financed by Wall Street and other out-of-town investors." Like millions of ordinary buyers, they have struggled to take advantage of the opportunities created by an otherwise tumultuous national housing crisis, finding themselves outbid by deep-pocketed investors willing to pay cash.
Investors see things differently. "We are taking housing stock, renovating it, and getting it back out there for renters," said one investment company executive, Eric Elder. "We are helping bring the fabric of communities back together."
In this in-depth piece, Ben takes us inside the tumultuous economic hurdles that accompany our slowly recovering housing market, not only from an economic perspective, but through the eyes of people trying to buy homes, put down roots, and improve their lives.
Elsewhere in the issue, Sam Stein considers the sequestration's considerable effects on families and communities, despite spurious claims by many politicians that the consequences have been exaggerated. The sequestration's cuts have resulted in fewer meals for seniors, less financial aid for scientific research, poorer natural disaster preparedness and more expensive treatments for cancer patients. But Sam's particular focus here is Head Start, the organization providing educational services to low-income families.
Many Head Start centers across the country have closed, and Sam tells the story of how this has affected one Kansas family, the Reynolds. Rhonda Reynolds learns that the program has been canceled when her four-year-old daughter's teachers drive to their home to share the news in person. The little girl, Bella, received her crucial early education -- from letters and numbers to manners and basic social skills -- from Head Start. And the benefits went beyond formal education. As Rhonda Reynolds explained, Head Start gave Bella support at one of the most trying times in her young life -- the death of her father. Bella's Head Start teachers, Rhonda said, "were on top of that. They were there for her when she needed them."
Finally, in honor of the release of Yoko Ono's new book Acorn, we've put together a list of inspiring quotes and advice from the book.
This story appears in Issue 58 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, July 19.