Word 

Everybody in America knows that the burgeoning housing balloon of some years ago was punctured sometime in 2007-2008, not yet to recover, and that the country's job market is also suffering.

So it is encouraging to hear a bit of good news from the other side of the coin. Such was brought to the Memphis Rotary Club on Tuesday by H.E. Bolton Jr., chairman, president, and CEO of Mid-America Apartment Communities, a luncheon speaker who brought with him a set of facts that contrasted positively with the dreary statistics of decline that we're long since used to hearing.

Part of Bolton's message was that the ill wind that's blown through much of the economy has brought some good to companies, like his own, that build, operate, and maintain rental properties.

Some of his revelations: Even as the housing market has collapsed — hoist by the petard of its own overinflation, financial and otherwise — the rental market has expanded. And the nation's demographics also favor such a trend. The groups that increasingly dominate the search for new domiciles in the decade to come, according to Bolton, will be the very groups, baby boomers and the Gen Y types from 20 to 35, who would ordinarily be interested in rentals rather than ownership of large homesteads.

The combination of factors has reduced the percentage of homeowners from a balloon-era high of nearly 70 percent to the more usual — and sustainable — 65 percent, Bolton said.

At the moment, the demand for rental properties exceeds supply, he said — a fact that augurs for a coming renaissance in his part of the market. And where Memphis is concerned, the news is especially good. Bolton said his surveys show an ongoing bump upward in the job market here, and, since "job growth swells demand," the likelihood of new construction of apartments here is more promising than it has been. And that, of course, could mean even more jobs and the creation of a spiral that goes up instead of down.

Good to hear. Bring it!

Owning Up

We're glad to learn that, under the pressure of a stoutly contested presidential primary battle on the Republican side, putative GOP nominee Mitt Romney has been induced to reveal his tax filing for 2010 and an estimate for 2011. In all of his prior public and private life, Romney had never before opened his ledger like that.

Much of what we've learned so far is what we already knew. Romney's work as a venture capitalist has made him much richer than the rest of us, and he pays taxes at a much lower rate. Meanwhile, Romney has returned the favor, forcing his current GOP rival, Newt Gingrich, to begin to reveal the details of what Romney, rightly, calls "influence peddling" on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

All of this reminds us that Tennessee's own current chief executive, Governor Bill Haslam, resisted entreaties during his 2010 campaign to be forthcoming about his own tax returns and continues to decline doing so. Come on, Governor! Inquiring citizens want — and deserve — to know.

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