GATEWAY PERSPECTIVES: Focus on the Positive

Richard Haggerty | January 18, 2022

HGAR Chief Executive Officer Richard Haggerty

As we begin 2022, I have to admit it does seem a bit like “Groundhog Day.” After having high hopes for the new year as 2021 was winding down, we were confronted with yet another COVID variant, Omicron, and everyone is saying, here we go again. We also have the drum beat of negative news, which frankly is rarely news and is more often partisan opinion. Given all this noise, it is easy to be overwhelmed by waves of pessimism as we look at the new year.

So, what are we to do as we enter the early weeks of 2022? I suggest we make a commitment to focus on the positive and always keep things in perspective. I know it sounds simpler than it really is—but it shouldn’t be.

First, let’s look at COVID. We are all COVID fatigued, for very good reason. Some schools are open one week and closed the next, and parents and kids are scrambling their daily schedules yet again. However, the Omicron variant, while more contagious, has been far milder than the previous variants and the new infection rates are plateauing. The vaccines are working. There are fewer people going to the hospital. We are learning to live with COVID, and the effects on our daily lives are nothing like we experienced in the early days of 2019.

Second, let’s look at the real estate market in the greater New York City and lower Hudson Valley. 2021 was one of the strongest markets in memory, surpassing 2020, which was fueled by what some call “the great COVID migration.” However, that migration in large part happened right here in New York, with some folks speeding up their decisions to leave the city for more space and a back yard, and others taking advantage of good value in the city to buy while it lasted. What has happened since is that Manhattan and the boroughs, as well as the Hudson River Valley, have experienced more than a year of strong activity. Those headlines back in 2019 shouting, “Everyone is leaving New York, never to return,” were patently false.

Next, let’s take a deep look at that narrative now making the rounds that we have runaway inflation, which will lead to rate hikes which will cripple the market. We have had an extended period of low inflation for three decades. For a good chunk of 2019 the world economy came to halt because of the pandemic. Turning the economy off like that, and then turning it back on, is going to result in some bumps in the road and some supply chain issues. I’m not trying to minimize inflationary pressures on the economy, but I do think we need to put them in context, and while interest rates may rise, most pundits predict a gradual rise that still falls within the range of what has been an extended period of low interest rates.

I’m writing this article on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of someone who faced overwhelming challenges with courage and honesty, and an opportunity for focus on some of the inequities in our society which seem to be falling off the radar. One of my favorite MLK quotes is “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

We cannot let the forces of darkness and hate overwhelm us. We made strides in 2019 and 2020 in bringing a new focus on racial inequality which has plagued this country for way too long. It seems to me that momentum is waning. People of color were disproportionately affected by COVID and continue to be affected by housing affordability issues. We need to keep past President Crystal Hawkins-Syska’s commitment of the “American Promise” in promoting housing opportunity for all a priority.

So, let us all commit for 2022 to focus on the positive and maintain perspective, to drive out the darkness and embrace the light, to continue our focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and to promote housing opportunities for all.

Richard Haggerty
HGAR CEO