By Joseph E. Seagle, Esq.
Happy pre-Fourth of July weekend! It’s also the last Friday of the month and the quarter. Hard to believe we’re halfway through 2023, but here we are. So much has happened in the past 90 days, that it makes our heads spin.
In celebrating Independence Day, our offices will be closed Monday, July 3, and July 4. As such, this newsletter will be much shorter than usual, because I’m starting my four-day weekend a little early.
1 big thing: Work from home forever
More than one-third of U.S. workers don’t leave home to work each day according to Axios.
Why it matters: This appears to be a potentially permanent shift in how and where people work, which will significantly affect demographics and real estate of all kinds.
By the numbers: Over 34% of American workers worked from home on an average day in 2022, up from 22% a decade ago.
Demographics are shifting as people have moved to places with different weather, scenery, and cheaper housing to have a better quality of life, education for children, and often to be closer to other family members.
Working from anywhere means living anywhere since your home is also your office.
This demographic shift, however, doesn’t extend to workers in healthcare, manufacturing, and other “hands-on” industries where physical presence is required.
The demographic geography shift has affected the residential and commercial real estate market, creating housing shortages that drove up values while simultaneously creating an oversaturation of unwanted/unneeded commercial office space vacant of workers who are now at home.
Vacant offices mean no workers in the downtown core eating lunches or shopping in retail stores, causing these commercial spots to go vacant too.
The bottom line: Cities and lenders must face reality and work with large office building owners to shift their uses to residential units with amenities attractive to work-from-home residents. They should also encourage hands-on physical presence businesses to relocate to these now-abandoned spaces.
A failure to deal with the reality of this shift will lead to a hollowing out of downtown cores, much like what happened in the 1960s through the 1980s, which took a generation to turn around.
Our thought bubble: Hoping that the trend goes back to 20%, what it was before the pandemic, and CEOs demanding employees to return to the office are both unrealistic and losing strategies.
2. Catch up fast
A Florida man who is the self-annointed “Wolf of AirBnB,”rented NYC apartments that prohibited short-term rentals. He then listed them online as such. rentals He collected the payments, but didn’t pay the landlord rent, and he stole pandemic relief funds. He’s facing between 46 and 57 months in federal prison. Bloomberg
A real estate investor has sued the Brevard County Sheriff for wrongfully arresting him and his brother as they checked out a home that was going to foreclosure sale the next day. ClickOrlando News 6
Flippers accounted for 9% of home sales in the first quarter of this year. DS News
The housing forecast for the rest of the year: should you buy or sell? REALTOR
3. Pic of the day
As an attorney, I’ve taken the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States four times — each time I was sworn in to practice law in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia. It’s similar to the oath that military members, politicians, judges, and others take before undertaking their duties.
We raise our right hands and swear that we will always put the rights and duties that are enshrined in that document ahead of our personal interests so as to uphold the ideal that is the United States of America.
We’re facing tests of these ideals unlike since the Civil War. We’ve shifted toward favoring autocratic ideals, from both radical ends of the political spectrum, where speech is coerced, censored, and compelled; a free press is vilified; the right to vote is manipulated and restricted; and the right to assembly and petitioning of government is quashed, using governmental police power in the streets and the halls of government.
Our strength comes not from our military might. It comes from our adherence to the ideals outlined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal. Those ideals also include the right to free speech and assembly and all the other human rights enshrined in that document to ensure we are a government of, for, and by the people instead of a monarchy, oligarchy, or autocracy.
While we may not agree with each other, we’ve traditionally respected the right of everyone to express their beliefs freely so long as it doesn’t result in physical violence.
Free expression led to debates and discussions of issues where ideas could be vetted peacefully. Now, however, legislatures are passing laws to prohibit discussions that make us uncomfortable or remind us of a history that wasn’t always us being our best selves. Individuals are also “canceling” those who may not use the right words at the right time, shutting down debate. Finally, the free press — the best check on unfettered power that we have — is regularly attacked from all sides or, worse, simply ignored.
That’s not American. To stop this slide toward authoritarianism and reaffirm our dedication to the ideals of representative democracy, I would encourage us to all read through the Constitution this weekend and renew our personal oath to protect and defend it whenever we see the ideals it embodies being attacked by politicians, autocrats, or even “that guy” on Facebook.
As a final note, I first learned about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence between Saturday morning cartoons in the 1970s. Who knew that School House Rock would launch a legal career into the next century?